Random thoughts

On love, maturity, emotions, living in the present, problems, grief and stoicism

Here are some more thoughts from Alain de Botton’s book On Love.

First of all, on falling in love:

Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally ‘together,’ when subjectively we feel dispersed and confused. We would not love if there were no lack within us, but we are offended by the discovery of a similar lack in the other. Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem.

On maturity and emotions:

We could define maturity as the ability to give everyone what they deserve when they deserve it, to separate the emotions that belong to, and should be restricted to, oneself from those that should at once be expressed to their initiators, rather than passed on to later and more innocent arrivals.

On (not) living in the present. He asks, ‘Had there not been many times when the pleasures of the present had been rudely passed over in the name of the future …?’ and talks about ‘anticipation in the morning, anxiety in the actuality, and pleasant memories in the evening’, only to conclude that ‘the inability to live in the present lies in the fear of leaving the sheltered position of anticipation or memory, and so of admitting that this is the only life that one is ever likely … to live’.

On problems: ‘One can think problems into existence‘.

On grief: ‘Bewildered and exhausted by grief, I suffocated on question marks: “Why me? Why this? Why now?“‘

On mature love:

… mature love is marked by an active awareness of the good and bad within each person, it is full of temperance, it resists idealization, it is free of jealousy, masochism, or obsession, it is a form of friendship with a sexual dimension, it is pleasant, peaceful, and reciprocated ….

On stoicism:

At the heart of stoicism lay the desire to disappoint oneself before someone else had the chance to do so. Stoicism was a crude defense against the dangers of the affections of others, dangers that would take more endurance than a life in the desert to be able to face. In calling for a monastic existence free of emotional turmoil, stoicism was simply trying to deny the legitimacy of certain potentially painful yet fundamental human needs. However brave, the stoic was in the end a coward at the point of perhaps the highest reality, at the moment of love.

There is much to ponder in these quotes.

Fiction

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryJoyce’s debut as a novelist tells the story of Harold Fry, a pensioner who, leaving the house one morning in order to post a letter to an old friend, ends up travelling all across England from Kingsbridge in the Southwest to Berwick in the Northeast. This is a book about an old man beginning to come to terms with his life, with mistakes made in the past and the ruins of a marriage that had been dead and loveless for a long time:

… for years they had been in a place where language had no significance.

There was no bridging the gap that lies between two human beings.

However, all this is slowly changing, for Harold’s pilgrimage leads to an awakening, as he becomes more fully aware of the world around him and develops a deep sense of compassion for the people he meets:

It was hard to understand a little and then walk away.

This is a gentle book with deep, yet unobtrusively expressed spiritual truths.

There were times, he saw, when not knowing was the biggest truth, and you had to stay with that.

Not knowing, or better yet, not understanding, indeed so often is the biggest truth and one that we need to learn to stay with, difficult though that can be.