- Alain de Botton Essays...

I. Essays In Love

by Alain de Botton

February, 2020

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].