Monday, January 30, 2006

Alain de Botton

Choice in matters of love..

A philosopher writes a novel...

The Honourable Reader might not excuse me for the irretrievable damage made to books with my indulgence in folding the lower exterior corner of any page that deserves further attention, producing in the process a dog-ear of beagle-esque proportions. But it constitutes an habit that allows a non-pencil carrying reader to mark any possible future quotation without interrupting the full flight of deep plot-reading.

In Alain de Botton's "Essays In Love" with its Tractatus-like wittgensteinish structure, with numbered paragraphs within numbered chapters named in arid philosophical terms - 1. Romantic Fatalism; 2. Idealization; 3. The Subtext of Seduction; 4. Authenticity; 5. Mind and Body; 6. Marxism; 7. False Notes; 8. Love or Liberalism; 9. Beauty; 10. Speaking Love; 11. What Do You See In Her? 12. Skepticism and Faith; 13. Intimacy; 14. “I”-Confirmation; 15. Intermittences of the Heart; 16. The Fear of Happiness; 17. Contractions; 18. Romantic Terrorism; 19. Beyond Good an Evil; 20. Psycho-Fatalism; 21. Suicide; 22. The Jesus Complex; 23. Ellipsis; 24. Love Lessons - what dog-eared quote was left for ulterior consumption?

To use a Bible-like system, I could say - Essays 15.8 : "Watching her (...) I found myself falling victim of romantic nostalgia. Romantic nostalgia descends when we are faced with those who might have been our lovers, but whom chance has decreed we will never know. The possibility of an alternative love life is a reminder that the life we are leading is only one of a myriad of possible lives: and it is perhaps the impossibility of leading them all that plunges us into sadness. There is a longing for a return to a time without the need for choices, free of the sadness at the inevitable loss that all choice [however wonderful] has entailed."

The whole discussion about Choice vs Destiny comes to mind all over again, which could be easily (and wrongly) construed as the essence of the Rationality vs Romance dilemma. One does not need to be a philosopher nor a novelist to avoid the pitfalls of paying too much attention to "Essays 15.8"...…

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