But first, Happy 51st Birthday to Simon Pegg!
On this most serendipitously auspicious long weekend (Lunar New Year was on Friday, Valentine’s Day is today, and President’s Day is tomorrow), I’d like to direct your attention to Alain de Botton‘s book The Course of Love. It’s a very short book and I’ve only just started it, but these passages resonated with me on psychological, intellectual, and emotional levels.
“He never felt anything remotely like this before. The sensation overwhelms him from the first. It isn’t dependent on words, which they will never exchange. It is as if he has in some way always known her, as if she holds out an answer to his very existence and, especially, to a zone of confused pain inside him” (4).
“He will need to learn that love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm” (7).
“…cynics are merely idealists with unusually high standards” (12).
“Love reaches a pitch at those moments when our beloved turns out to understand, more clearly than others have ever been able to, and perhaps even better than we do ourselves, the chaotic, embarrassing, and shameful parts of us. That someone else gets who we are and both sympathizes with us and forgives us for what they see underpins our whole capacity to trust and to give. Love is a dividend of gratitude of our lover’s insight into our own confused and troubled psyche” (22).
“There is, in the early period of love, a measure of sheer relief at being able, at last, to reveal so much of what needed to be kept hidden for the sake of propriety. We can admit to not being as respectable or as sober, as even-keeled, or as ‘normal’ as society believes. We can be childish, imaginative, wild, hopeful, cynical, fragile, and multiple; all of this our lover can understand and accept us for” (23).
“He proposes with such confidence and certainty because he believes himself to be a really rather straightforward person to live alongside–another tricky circumstantial result of having been on his own for a very long time. The single state has a habit of promoting a mistaken self-image of normalcy. Rabih’s tendency to tidy obsessively when he feels chaotic inside, his habit of using work to ward off his anxieties, the difficulty he has inarticulating what’s on his mind when he’s worried, his fury when he can’t find a favorite T-shirt–these eccentricities are all neatly obscured so long as there is no one else around to see him, let alone create a mess, request that he come home and eat his dinner, comment skeptically on his habit of cleaning the TV remote control, or ask him to explain what he’s fretting about. Without witnesses, he can operate under the benign illusion that he may just, with the right person, prove no particular challenge to be around” (42).
“He entertains a confused wish to help her without, however, understanding that help can be a challenging gift to deliver to those who are most in need of it. He interprets her damaged aspects in the most obvious and most lyrical way: as a chance for him to play a useful role” (43).
Platonic love, romantic love, familial love — they’re not interchangeable, but they ultimately posit the same premise, which is that you won’t be abandoned or ignored because you made a mistake or did something wrong. The degree of obligation in expressing and practicing gestures of these iterations of love vary between people. When it works, marvelous. When it’s dysfunctional, comes with untenable prerequisites, or morphs over time without a chance for both people to acknowledge and agree on whether or not the alterations matter (too much), then you’re left wondering if life wouldn’t be easie and simpler with only yourself to delight or disappoint. But could it be more satisfying? Ne pense pas.
Find more musings on Alain de Botton here.
On that note, here are a few songs from the heart:
Pic creds: giphy, goodreads