Essays in Love
It's amazing how this 21-year-old boy could write about love with such insight and clarity. But, as he himself says somewhere, his former girlfriend often accused him of the dangers of thinking too much. Perhaps this is some kind of explanation for the explosive flow of detailed observations and episodic reflections on the relationship between both individual needs and the more philosophical abstractions in those essays which parallel is very concrete and personal.
As he writes in Chapter 24 "Love Lessons": "We must assume that there are certain lessons to be learned from love, or else we will be happy to repeat our mistakes indefinitely". This is no understatement. Botton went on to write several non-fiction books about how impulsive humans can be, both in intimate relationships and in our work and careers, and how disappointed we are when things don't work out the way we thought they would in our romantic vision. We haven't been able to control our primitive impulses, and often we haven't learned a thing.
Chapter 6. "Marxism" (Groucho Marx)
§1. "We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone who is as ideal as we are corrupt. But what if such a being should one day turn around and love us back? We can only be shocked. How could they be as divine as we had hoped if they had the bad taste to approve of someone like us? If, in order to love, we must believe that the beloved surpasses us in some way, does not a cruel paradox arise when we witness this return of life? If he is really so wonderful, how could he love someone like me? [paraphrasing Groucho Marx].
The Course of Love
My book club is reading this "novel" by Alain de Botton in which he explores, more or less philosophically, how mature responsibilities and "love" develop between couples. How we are usually trapped by a traditional romantic view of love. And how, at the beginning of a close relationship, we simply don't know how to deal with affection and attachment, beyond the experiences we've learned from our parents, past boyfriends, culture and some DNA stuff. Of course, not all of our needs can be met by a single other person or partner, but we still have to manage our needs. And we still have our liabilities.
Complicated...., :-) but one of Alain de Botton's obvious conclusions is that, paradoxically, we're not really ready for a deep relationship until we've had the experience - and that's often too late. But philosophically speaking, according to David Hume, we still have to act as if we know what we're doing, as if we have something to believe in, even if we don't. We try to be "true to our feelings", to our intuitions, to be logical and try to be wise; and we reason, argue and guess, but only as well as we can or should. But we still lack real knowledge. And most of the time that's just good enough. But not always....
This novel is a kind of sequel to his earlier novel "Essays in Love", but I think this one is more "formal" and I miss a bit of the youthful and playful naive writing that was in the first one. This book is more logical, reasoned, static, 'paragraphed' and conclusive, but it is an interesting read.