de Botton, Alain;
On Love (orig UK title: Essays in Love)
Grove Press 1993/1994
topics: | philosophy | gender | romance | sex
"Few things can be as antithetical to sex as thought", says Alain de Botton at one point in this book, the main point of which is to philosophize about romance. That's a formidable challenge, but de-Botton manages to carry it off.
A steamy love story unfolds as the author is ruminating on various views on beauty from Kant to Proust, computations of probability that two people might meet on an aircraft, Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and so forth.
In 1822, Stendhal wrote the tract, "On Love", in which he analyzes romantic passion and particularly the process by which positive feelings about a person get accentuated - what he calls "crystallization" - a term from a visit to a salt mine. This is the model for de Botton's more modern, and more fulfilled excursions into romance (Stendahl's was an unrequited love, see below).
To establish the philosophic underpinnings of the book, it is written in numbered paragraphs, though no one ever needs to refer to any of them.
In the story, Alain (written in the first person) falls in love with Chloe, and the feeling gets stronger, and then it fades.
Particularly interesting is the chapter on "Marxism" - this is based on a joke from Groucho Marx, where he tells a club:
"Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member." The point is that a lover feels that if X is willing to accept him, X must not be good enough! Unlike Stendahl's unrequited love, which remains forever desirable (angelic), a love that is returned is forever susceptible to the "marxist" trap! I remember being struck with the book and typing in a whole lot of excerpts - I am passing these on more or less as is here! I had numbered the chapters for my own convenience. Interestingly, the copy of my book, (I had bought it used from Frugal Media) had a hotel receipt inserted around p. 120. I was thinking that I was possibly eavesdropping (after some years) into a romantic interlude but then I noticed on a corner: Number of persons: 1. We read about love, it seems, only when we are alone.
The longing for a destiny is nowhere stronger than in our romantic life. All too often forced to share our bed with those who cannot fathom our soul, can we not be forgiven if we believe ourselves fated to stumble one day upon the man or woman of our dreams? p3.1 [after one falls in love, one feels that one was "destined" to do so. This is how, despite vast odds against such a thing occurring by chance, people "find" each other.] By the time I had collected my luggage and passed through customs, I had fallen in love with Chloe. p6.7 [She was sitting next to him on the Paris-London flight] we found ourselves calling one another every day -- sometimes as many as 5 times a day -- not to say anything in particular, simply because both of us felt that we has never spoken like this to anyone before, that all the rest had been compromise and self-deception, that only now were we finally able to understand and be understood. 7.8 Not normally superstitious, Chloe and I seized upon a host of details, however trivial, as confirmation of what intuitively we already felt - that we had been destined for one another. 7.9 But the probabilities of such a meeting are very small - calculations... [Error in probability figures. Coach classes with 26x7 rows + 3x3 middles = 191 pax. No of neighbouring pairs = 4x26 + 6 = 110 div by 191x190 /2 = 18145 - they divide inexplicably by 17847 - 661(prime)x3x3x3] [PHILOSOPHER'S approach vs the MYSTIC approach:. Philo: Occam's razor - reason behind events must be pared down so they are not multiplied beyond strict causal necessity. If Chloe and AdB get adjacent seats, it's because the airlines assigned them thus, Mystic: because of some alignment in Mars etc. This is not the minimal causal expln, of course. A mirror falls off the wall and breaks. Why has this happened? What does it mean? Philo: minor earth tremble / gravity; Mystic: filled w meaning - ominous sign, 7 years of bad luck, divine retribution for a 1000 sins, etc. ] we are led to temper the full horror of contingency by suggesting that certain things happen to us because they have to, thereby giving he mess of life a sustaining purposiveness and direction. 11.18 Through romantic fatalism we avoid the unthinkable thought that the need to love is always prior to our love for anyone in particular...My mistake had been to confuse a destiny to love with a destiny to love a given person. It was the error of thinking that Chloe, rather than love, was inevitable... But my fatalistic interpretation...was at least proof of one thing: that I was in love with Chloe. The moment when I would feel our meeting was, in the end, only an accident, a probability of 1/5840, would also be the moment when I would have ceased to feel the absolute necessity of a life with her - and thereby ceased to love her. 13.21
1. "Seeing through people is so easy, and it gets you nowhere" remarked Elias Canetti.... May we not threfore fall in love partly out of a momentary will to suspend seeing through others? If cynicism and love lie at the opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall into love to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? [idealizing the lover as perfect. ] We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves 17 The illogicality and childishness of [the desire to idealize] does not outweigh [one's] need to believe. 17 The appearance of a beloved is only the second stage of a prior [but largely unconscious] need to love someone - our hunger for love molding their features, our desire crystallizing around them. 18.13 We can only ever fall in love without knowing whom we have fallen in love with. The initial movement is essentially founded on ignorance. 19.15
[the first date - how he analyzes every sign - every accidental touch, every gesture, the "subtexts"] The telephone becomes an instrument of torture... it coiled me into the passive role - the traditional feminine receiver to Chloe's masculine call. 23 desire made me into a romantic paranoiac, reading meaning into everything.
[they have dinner] - Would you like some wine? I asked her. - I don't know, would you like wine? - I really don't mind, if you feel like it. - It's as you please, whatever you want. - Either way is fine with me. - I agree. - So should we have it or not? - Well, I don't think I'll have any. [C] - You're right, I don't feel like any either. - Let's not have wine then. - Great, so we'll just stick with the water. 34 [and how he alters himself to suit her image of a desirable person, how he lies about his own tastes. Seduction is a form of acting, a move from spontaneous behaviour toward behaviour shaped by an audience. 41 [IDEA: but then it becomes part of his character, maybe he starts to enjoy art...] [After dinner, he's going to drop her home. He needs to use a bathroom. Goes up to her flat, and is decisively coming out afterwards, saying goodbyes at the door, when Chloe ] arrested my flight by the ends of my scarf. She drew me back into the apartment, placed both arms around me and, looking me firmly in the eye with a grin she had previously reserved for the idea of chocolate, whispered "We're not children, you know." [IDEA: why is it that the male and the female in this situation are not interchangeable? What is it about femininity that gives her the final say?]
few things can be as antithetical to sex as thought. 45 It was the sweetest kiss, everything one dreams a kiss might be. There was a light grazing, tender tentative forays that secreted the unique flavour of our skins, this before the pressure increased, before our lips parted then rejoined, mouths breathlessly articulating desire, my lips leaving Chloe's for a moment in order to run along her cheeks, her temples, her ears. She pressed her body closer to mine; our legs intertwined, dizzy, we collapesed onto the sofa, laughing, clutcing at one another. 45 #2 I felt a disproportion between the intimacy that contact with her sexual organs implied and the largely unknown dimensions of the rest of her life. 46 After all the ambiguity, the kiss had come so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that my mind refused to cede control of events to the body. "Wait," said Chloe as I unbuttoned her blouse, "I'm going to draw the curtains... why don't we move into the bedroom? We'll have more space." ... There was a curious awkwardness while Chloe cleared the surface of the bed; the eagerness of our bodies only a minute before had given way to a heavy silence that indicated how uncomfortably close we were to our own nakedness. 46-7 when C and I undressed one another and, by the light of the small bedside lamp, saw each other's naked bodies for the first time, we attempted to be as unself-conscious about them as Adam or Eve before the Fall. I slipped my hands under C's skirt and she unbuttoned my trousers with an air of breezy normality, as though it were no surprise... We had entered the phase where the mind must cede control to the body, where there shd be no room for judgment, nothing but desire. #7 [overlooking the clumsiness of removing underwear, buttons] 9. the myth of passionate love making suggests it should be free of minor impediments such as getting bracelets caught, or cramps in one's leg ... The business of untangling hair or limbs forces an embarrassing degree of reason where only appetite should dwell. 48 The philosopher in the bedroom is as ludicrous a figure as the philosopher in the nightclub. 48 Humans have a unique ability to split into two and both act and stand back to watch themselves acting -- and it is out of this division that reflexivity emerges. the sickness... lies in an inability ever to fuse together the separation of viewer and viewed... It is like the cartoon character who quite happily runs off a cliff and does not fall until the moment when he becomes conscious that there is not ground beneath him -- at which point he shoots down to his death... 49 #12 a nineteenth-century pious young virgin, on the day of her warning, is warned by her mother, "Tonight, it will seem your husband has gone mad, but you will find he has recovered by morning." 49 #13 while it seemed as though Chloe and I were simply following our desire, there was a complex process of regulation and adjustment in play. The discrepancy between the technical and rational efforts to achieve simultaneity and the physical abandonment embodied in orgasm might have appeared ironic, but only from the modern perspective that lovemaking should have been a matter solely for the body -- and hence for nature. 51 #17 the sexologist calls in vain for the orgasm to reaffirm humanity's connection to a now deoderized[sic] wilderness, but is unable to induce it save through frustrated bureaucratic syntax. [The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort, an enduring document of pleasure fascism, soberly and with some grammatical brio advises its readers that: ... for preparation as well orgasm, the flat of the hand on the vulva with the middle finger between the lips, and its tip moving in and out of the vagina, while the ball of the palm presses hard just above the pubis, is probably the best method. ]
When we look at someone [an angel] from a position of unrequited love and imagine the pleasures that being in heaven with with them might bring us, we are prone to overlook one important danger; how soon their attractions might pale if they began to love us back. We fall in love because we want to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked -- how can they be as wonderful as we'd hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us? 53 #1 I surveyed [her] room in privacy, the lover as voyeur, the lover as the anthropologist of the beloved, enchanted by her every cultural manifestation. By a form of transference, I fell in love with everything she owned, it all seemed so perfect, tasteful, different ... The object became fetishized, both displaced symbol and erotic substitute ... 54 The bedroom was another chamber of wonders, full of jars, lotions, potions, perfumes, the shrine of her body, my visit a watery pilgrimage... she took a certain pride in mocking the romantic, in being unsentimental, matter-of-fact, stoic; yet at heart she was the complete opposite -- idealistic, dreamy, giving, and deeply attached to everything she liked verbally to dismiss as mushy. 55 [after Chloe pays special attention to him at breakfast] [it] struck me as both unexpected and most complicated -- that C had begun to feel for me a little of what I had long felt for her. Objectively, it was not unusual, but in falling in love with her, I had somehow completely overlooked the possibility of reciprocation. It was not nec unwelcome; I simply had not taken it into account. I had counted more on loving than on being loved... I could not now prevent a sense of uneasiness amounting to the muffled thought: What have I done to deserve this? 56 Few things can be at once so exhilarating and so terrifying as to recog that one is the subject of another's love... receiving affection may feel like being given a great honor without quite knowing what one has done to earn it. 56 #9 [in 56.10-57.11, they have a fight; he must have strawberry jam - he must go and buy it, letting the breakfast go cold. C goes into the bedroom, slamming the door. This is almost identical to the scene in "Art of Travel" when he has a fight with M when she gives him the larger dessert.] [Why was he such a monster? Because of "Marxism": Groucho Marx sent the following wire to a Hollywood club he had joined: "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member." Woody Allen, in his role as Alvy Singer: Soon after the opening credits of Annie Hall (1977): "I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life in terms of my relationships with women. (Allen, 1983: 4) This "key joke" functions here as a self-diagnostic tool enabling our hero - as well as the viewer - to conceptualize a particular neurotic pattern in the life of a person who allows his feelings of unworthiness to prevent him from wanting any woman who would want him. [Origins of the Groucho joke, from his biog by son Arthur Marx: [The actor, Georgie] Jessel has always been able to make Father laugh, and as a favor to him, he joined the Hollywood chapter of the Friar's Club a couple of years ago. But Father doesn't like club life, and, after a few months, he dropped out. The Friars were disappointed over losing him, and wanted to know why he was resigning. They weren't satisfied with his original explanation - that he just didn't have time to participate in the club's activities. He must have another, more valid reason, they felt. "I do have another reason," he wrote back promptly. "I didn't want to tell you, but since you've forced the issue, I just don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." (A. Marx, 1954: 45)]
There is a long and gloomy tradition in western thought arguing that love can ultimately only be thought of as an unreciprocated, admiring, Marxist exercise. The whole of troubadour poetry of 12th c. Provence was based on coital delay, the poet repeating his plaints to a woman who repeatedly declines bis desperate offers. Four centuries later, Montaigne had the same idea of what made love grow: In love, there is nothing but a frantic desire for what flees from us. Anatole France: It is not customary to love what one has. Stendhal believed love could be brought about only on the basis of fear of losing the loved one. Denis de Rougemont argued, "The most serious obstruction is the one most suited for intensifying passion." Roland Barthes limited desire to longing for what was by definition unattainable. 64.26 According to this view, lovers cannot do anything save oscillate between the twin poles of yearning for and annoyance with. Love has no middle ground. Marxist moments arise when it becomes elear that love is reciprocated. May be caused by self-hatred (i am not good enough), or by self-love (how lovable i must be).
Greek myth: in the beginning all humans were hermaphrodites, with double backs and flanks, four hands, four legs, and two faces turned in opposite directions on the same head. These hermaphrodites were so powerful and their pride so overweening that Zeus was forced to cut them in two, a male and a female half. From that day, each man and each woman has yearned to rejoin the half from which he/she were severed. [Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium: feels a familiarity with the lover based on this - she is the "long-lost" other half"] 66.1 Utopian societies are not based on difference; philosophers assume these are based on like-mindedness and unity. "It's amazing, I was about to say / think / do/tell you the same thing..." But this may be because it is easier to discover the familiar than the new. We base our fall into love on ignorance. .4 In the mature view of love, it arises after one has spent some time with the other, got to know their tastes in art and literature and dinner menus, but then perhaps "love is born precisely before we know", and increased knowledge may be as much a hurdle as an inducement. .5 10. [Realization of separate identities]: baudelaire wrote a prose poem about a man who thinks he is in love, and then they go to a glamorous cafe, and outside the windows an impoverished working-class family has gathered, looking in at the dazzling interior. The man feels pity and shame looking at their eyes filled with wonder, and turns to her, expecting to see similar thoughts reflected there, "but the woman with whose soul he was prepared to unite snaps that these wretches and their wide gaping eyes are unbearable to her and asks him to tell the owner to have them moved on straightaway." 70 14. Why did Chloe insist on leaving the pasta to boil for those fatal extra minutes? 18. Whereas I had known her to be accommodating and generous, [to her parents she was bossy.] As a child she had been a mini autocrat who the parents had nicknamed Miss Pompadosso after a heroine in a children's book. Chloe's mother jokes about her "bullying all her boyfriends into submission" - and I was forced to add a whole section of her reality prior to my arrival, my vision of her colliding with that imposed by the family narrative.
3. Chloe has bought new shoes: "Well, do you like them, then?" repeated Chloe. "Frankly, I don't." "Why not?" I just don't like that kind of shoe. It looks like a pelican. Really? But it's elegant. No, it's not. Yes it is, look at the heel, and the bow. They're great. You'll be pressed to find anyone to agree with you on that one. That's because you don't know anything about fashion. Maybe, but I know a horrible shoe when I see one. It's not horrible. Face it, Chloe, it is quite horrible. You're just jealous I bought a new pair of shoes. I'm just telling you what I feel. I really don't thinkt they're suitable for the party tonight. That's great. That's why I bloody bought them. So wear them. How can I now? Well, why shouldn't you? Because a minute ago you told me I looked like a pelican in them. You do. So you want me to go to a party looking like a pelican. Not particularly, that's why I'm telling you they're awful. Well, why can't you keep your opinions to yourself? Because I care about you. Someone has to let you know when you've bought a disgusting pair of shoes. But why does it matter so much what I think anyway? Because I want you to like them. I bought them hoping you'd like them. Why does everything I do always have to be wrong? Come on, don't throw that one at me. You know that isn't true. Yes it is, you don't even like my shoes. But I like almost everything else. So why can't you just forget about the shoes? Because you deserve better. 78
1. Does beauty give rise to love, or does love give rise to beauty? 2. Marsilio Ficino [1433-1499] defined love as "the desire for beauty" 3. To listen to Chloe, she was... monstrously ugly. [Looked at Elle / Vogue models]. Without acknowledging it as such, Chloe was resolutely attached to a Platonic concept of beauty, an aesthetic she shared with the editors of Vogue. Beauty = balanced relation between parts. Everything we consider beautiful, said Plato, partakes in the essential Form of beauty and must hence exhibit universal characteristics. 4. Leon Battista Alberti, sculptor [1409-72], in his book On Sculpture: a beautiful body had certain fixed proportions sculptors should know about; and worked these out by dividing the body into 600 units. "Harmony of all the parts, in whatsoever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished, or altered, but for the worse." 5. Beauty (unlike mathematical formulae) is something that one can never convince someone about. 6. I was forced to reject the Platonic idea of an objective criterion, siding with Kant: aesthetic judgments were ones "whose determining ground can be no other than subjective." [Critique of Judgment] 8. Stendhal famously defined beauty as "the promise of happiness" "La beauté n'est que la promesse du bonheur." ch.1, de l'Amour (1822) 9. Kantian: He likes the gap between her two front teeth: The platonic teeth represent a common, shared, (universal) ideal, the Kantian teeth (with the gap) are what he subjectively likes! 10. A face that launches a thousand ships is not always architecturally formal... There is a certain tyranny about perfection, a certain exhaustion about it even, something that denies the viewer a role in its creation and tha asserts itself with all the dogmatism of an unambiguous statement. True beauty... flirts dangerously with ugliness, it takes risks with itself, it does not side comfortably with mathematical rules of propoertion, it draws its appeal from precisely those areas that will also lend themselves to ugliness. Nothing can be beautiful that does not take a calculated risk with ugliness. 11. Proust: classically beautiful women should be left to men without imagination. Because Chloe's face had evidence in it for both beauty and ugliness, my imagination was given a role in holding on to the precarious thread of beauty. In its ambiguity, Chloe's face can be compared to Wittgenstein's duck-rabbit (figure 1.3)
12. Chinese culture traditionally gives scant regard to love. Psychological anthropologist L.K. Hsu: Unlike western cultures which are "individual-centered" and place great emphasis on emotions, Chinese culture is "situation-centered" and concentrates on groups rather than couples and their love. 100 [IDEA: My personal prejudice is that this is almost certainly a myth borne out of ignorance; I am sure in Chinese culture as in all others, the best narratives would be those with love.] 14. The woman saint Teresa of Avila [1515-1582] described experiencing the love of God (what may be called today a "sublimated orgasm") through the visit of an angel, a boy who was: ... very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angels who seem to be all afire... In his hands I saw a golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails... The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God. 16. On her last birthday she was taken out by an aunt and she would keep going to the bathroom to cry because the only person who would invite her out was this aunt, who kept saying that she didn't understand how a nice girl like her didn't have a man... 22. At the end of the meal, they brought in a small plate of complimentary marshmallows - how it happened I don't know but I took Chloe's hand, and told her that I had something very important to tell her, that I marshmallowed her. She seemed to understand perfectly, answering that it was the sweetest thing anyone had ever told her.
5. For a moment, I fantasized I might transform myself into a carton of yogurt so as to undergo the same process of being gently and thoughtfully accommodated by her into a shopping bag between a tin of tuna and a bottle of olive oil. ... It was only the incongruously unsentimental atmosphere of the supermarket ['Liver Promotion Week'] that alerted me to how far I might have been sliding into romantic pathology. 9. Love reveals its insanity by its refusal to acknowledge the inherent normality of the loved one. 11. Shortly after her brother died, when Chloe was 8, she began to question everything, going through a deeply philosophical stage. One of her great obsessions, to which allusions were still made in her family, concerned thoughts familiar to readers of Descartes and Berkeley. Chloe would put her hand over her eyes and tell her family her brother was still alive becasue she could see him in her mind in the same way she could see them. Why did they tell him he was dead if she could see him in her own mind? [SOLIPSISM: the belief that nothing really exists except oneself. ... There are no actual solipsists (then again there might be hundreds of silent ones - solipsism rather undercuts the incentive to publish). The ultimate position in this direction must surely be to deny the existence of anything outside your own mind. ] 18. "Can't we turn off this impossible yodelling?" said the angel all of a sudden. "What impossible yodeling?" "You know, the music." "It's Bach." "I know, but it sounds so silly. I can't concentrate on Cosmo." Is it really _her I love, I thought to myself.
1. By contrast with the history of love, the history of philosphy shows a relentless concern with the discrepancy between appearance and reality. "I think I see a tree outside," the philosopher mutters, "but is it not possible that this is just an optical illusion behind my own retina?" "I think I see my wife," mutters the philosopher, more hopefully, "but is it not possible that she too is just an optical illusion?" 2. Philosophers tend to limit epistemological doubts to the existence of tables, chairs, the courtyards of Cambridge colleges, and the occasional unwanted wife. But to extend these questions to things that matter to us, to love for instance, is to raise the frightening possibility that the loved one is but an inner fantasy, with little connection to any objective reality. 3. At the start of Western philosophical thinking, the progress from ignorance to knowledge finds itself likened by Plato to a glorious journey from a dark cave into bright sunlight. Men are born unable to perceive reality, Plato tells us, much like cave dwellers who mistake shadows thrown up on the walls for the objects themselves... 4. It takes another 23 centuries or so until the Socratic assumption abt the benefits of following this path from illusion to knowlege is challenged from a moral, rather than a simply epistemological standpoint. Everyone from Aristotle to Kant had criticized Plato on the _way to reach the truth, but no one had seriously questioned the _value of the undertaking. In his Beyond Good and Evil  Friedrich Nietzsche finally took the bull by the horns and asked, What in us really wants 'truth'? ... We asked the value of this will. Suppose we want ttruth: why not rather untruth? and uncertainty? even ignorance? ... The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement... the question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-breeding; and our fundamental tendency is to assert that the falsest judgements... are the most indispensable to us... that to renounce false judgements would be to renounce life, would be to deny life. 5. From a religious p.o.v., the value of truth had been called into q many centuries before. Pascal [1623-63, hunchback Jansenist, Pens\'ees] had talked of a choice between the horror of a universe without God, and the blissful - but infinitely more remote -- alternative that God did exist. Even though the odds were in favor of God's not existing, Pascal argued that our faith in God could still be justified because the joys of the slimmer probability so far outweighed the horrors of the [alternative]. And so it should perhaps be with love. Lovers cannot remain philosophers for long; they should give way to the religious impulse, which is to believe and have faith, as opp to doubt and inquire. They should prefer the risk of being wrong and in love to being _in doubt and without love_.
7. We have a need to rename one another... [beyond] the name given to us by parents at birth and formalized by passports and civil registers. Chloe becomes _Tidge [why they never understood], and because I had once amused her with talk of the affliction of German intellectuals, I became known as _Weltschmerz. The importance of these names lie not in the particular name ... but in the fact that we had chosen to relabel one another in the first place. I am naming you to label the difference between who you are to me and who hyou are to others; you may be called X at the office, but in my bed, you will always be "My Carrot"... [BUT these names also carry a second meaning, in the text, such as Tidge, or Carrot, that lies somewhere in between completely arbitrariness, and complete textuality (if the latter can be said to exist).] 10. Returning from a formal dinner, while they are lying in bed and Chloe is masturbating him, he would ask her the same formal questions a bearded journalist had asked her at the dinner, and she would reply in the same formal tone. Then suddenly, I would ask her in the haughtiest tone, "Madam, what may I ask are you doing with my honorable member?" _"My good sir," she would reply, "_the member's honorable behaviour is none of your business." Or Chloe would leap out of bed and say, "Sir, please leave my bed immediately, you must have the wrong idea of me, we hardly know one another._" 122 13. What is an experience? Something that breaks a polite routine and for a brief period allows us to witness things wiht the heightened sensitivity afforded to us by novelty, danger, or beauty. To experience something is to fully open one's eyes in a way that habit prevents us from doing, and if two people open their eyes in the same way at the same time, then we can expect them to be drawn together by it. 123
2. Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying; in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved. 128 12. Stehdahl: We lack a character without others. [IDEA: This is true in two senses: a. extrinsic: without others, there is no one to identify our character; and b. without others, there is no reference with which to define our own character, just as without some other colours, one cannot define red. ] But do not others, by definition (because mirrors can never be smooth), distort us? 13. We become a little of what others think we are. We could think of ourselves as an amoeba, whose outer walls are flexible, and adapt to the environment. A serious person will draw out the serious side of me. If someone thinks I am shy, I will probably end up shy; if someone thinks me funny, I am likely to keep cracking jokes. 14. Chloe has lunch with his parents, is extraordinarily non-talkative, a reminder that labelling by others is not a violently obvious process. [IDEA: this may be too circular. Our perceptions of what the other is, forms our self notion. so the other is really not a mirror - we are the mirror ourselves...] 17. Chloe draws some pics of herself as an amoeba in the office (mostly straight, recilinear), vs with "I": mostly curved ("because I am wiggly around you - I feel more complicated than I am in the office." [AM: When we see these two images, there's something about the top and bottom that seems to be preserved, and that little wiggle on the right near the foot becomes a more scraggly thing, and so also the lower part of the top. How do we know to decompose even such amorphous figures in this way? ] [Moral: In love, we need a person with whom one can feel more wiggly, one with whom we can take off all masks and reveal our inner selves, one who understands us, considers our warts "angelic", that is, the lover. ]
[They go to Chloe's friend Alice's for dinner. Before going, C predicts that A will fall in love with her. Indeed "I did fall a little in love with her". 7. MULTI-LOVE: Our love for [our partner] necessarily prevents us (unless we live in a polygamous society) from starting other romantic liaisons. But why should this constrain us if we truly loved them? Why should we feel this as a loss? Perhaps the answer lies in the uncomfortable thought that in resolving our need to love, we may not always succeed in resolving our need to long. 143 8. [With Alice] I found myself falling victim to 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 the impossibility of leading them all that plunges us into sadness. 9. Though I loved Chloe, the sight of these women occasionally filled me with regret. Standing on a train platform or in line at the bank, I would catch signt of a given face, perhaps overhear a snatch of conversation... and feel momentary sadness at being unable to know the rest of the story... 10. [He desists from talking more with Alice] 11. "So did you fall in love with her?" C asked in the car. "Of course not." 29. [Thinking of past lovers] When one is with a current lover, there is a particular cruelty in the thought of one's indifference toward past loves. There is something appalling in the idea that the person for who you would sacrifice anything today, you might in a few months cross the road to avoid. I realized that if my love for C constituted the essence of my self at the moment, then the definitive end of my love would mean nothing less than the death of a part of me. 153
10. longing for a future that never comes is only the flip side of longing for a time that is always past. Is not the past always better simply because it is past? I recalled that as a child every holiday grew perfect only when it was over, for then the anxiety of the present would have been reduced to a few containable memories. [NOTE: grew - process, not an accomplishment, does not normally license "grew... when..."] [Memory of skiing holiday would not contain the anxiety one had felt at the top] - the memory of the event was composed of only the objective conditions (top of a mountain, brilliant day), and would hence be free of everything that had made the actual moment hell. [Cognitively; brain reinforces the positive] 11. ANTICIPATION - "tense paradox": I would spend all day looking forward to a meal with her, would come away from it with the best impressions, but find myself faced with a present that had never equaled its anticipation in memory. [See also his "art of travel"] 14. [We argued because] we loved one another too much -- or, to risk confusing things, because we hated loving one another to the extent we did. _I hate you because I love you = I hate having no choice but to risk loving you like this_
1. It was hard for me to imagine an untruth lasting 3.2 seconds fitted into a series of eight 0.8 second contractions, the first and the last two 3.2s of which were genuine... I had begun to notice that C had begun to simulate all or part of her orgasms. 165 7. Passing an unfortunate woman in the street one day, C had asked me, "Would you have loved me if I'd had an enormous birthmark on my face like her?" The yearning is that the answer be "yes" -- an answer that would place love above the mundande surfaces of the body, or more particularly, its cruel unchangeable ones. I will love you not just for your wit and talent and beauty, but simply because you are you, with no strings attached... not for the color of your eyes or the length o your legs or the size of your checkbook... 13. [C went off with Will for a coffee, and then she is not back home all night. Says she was with Paula. In the morning they meet for breakfast, and she has brought the cereal he likes, as if she's guilty. But he wants to believe.] I felt a burst of confidence and relief, like a man waking from a nightmare. I got up from the table and put my arms around the beloved's thick white pullover, caressing her shoulders through the wool, then bending down to kiss her neck, nibbling at her ear, feeling the familiar perfume of her skin and the brush of her hair against my face. "Don't, not now," said the angel. [But he persists]. "I said once already, not now!" 14. The pattern of the kiss had been formed during their first night together. She had placed her head beside his and, fascinated at this soft juncture between mind and body, he had begun running his lips along the curve of her neck. It had made her shudder and smile, she had played with his hand and shut her eyes. It had become a routine... Don't, not now. ==> Hate is the hidden script in the letter of love, its foundations are shared with the opposite. The woman seduced by her partner's way of kissing her neck, turning the pages of the book, of telling a joke is irritated at precisely these junctures. 171 17. The games they played: "Out of ten how much do you give me today" - three, six, -12, +20 : they sour. - "I really don't know" - "Why not?" - "I'm tired." - "Just tell me." - "I can't". - "Come on, out of ten. Six? Three? Minus Twelve? Plus Twenty?" - "I don't know." - "Have a guess." - "For Christ's sake, I don't know, leave me alone, damn it!" 173
2. Love may be born at first sight, but it does not die with corresponding rapidity. 6. TERRORISM: When political dialogue has failed to resolve a grievance, the injured party may in desperation resort to terrorist activity, extracting by force the concession it has been unable to seduce peacefully from its opposite number. Political terrorism is born out of deadlocked situations, behaviour that combines a party's need to act with an awareness [conscious or semiconscious] that that action will not go any way toward achieving the desired end -- and will if anything only alienate the other party further. The negativity of terrorism betrays all the signs of childish rage at one's own impotence in the face of a more powerful adversary. 178 7. [Bombay blasts of Dawood in 1993] [Discusses the May 1972 attack by 3 members of the Japanese Red Army w:Lod Airport Massacre] Did not help the cause, in fact may have hardened public opinion. Yet the action found its justification elsewhere, in the need to vent frustration in a cause where dialogue had ceased to produce results. 178 10. They have a fight over who has the key to the hotel room, she has, but she accuses him: - "You've just locked us out." - "I haven't locked us out. I shut the door thinking you had the key, because the key wasn't where I'd left it. - "Well, that's really silly of you, because I don't have it either, so we're locked out -- thanks to _you." When the key falls from her pocket, he goes into a TERRORIST SULK. 181 11. At the basis of all sulks lies a wrong that might have been addressed and disappeared at once, but that instead is taken up by the injured and stored for later and more painful detonation. Delays in explanations give grievances a weight that they would lack if the matter had been addressed as soon as it had arisen. To display anger shortly after an offense occurs is the most generous thing one may do, for it saves the sulke from the burgeoning of guilt and the need to talk the sulker down from his or her battlement. 181 15. Unable to explain the full extent of my anger with her [an anger that had nothing to do with the key], I had grown unreasonable. ... Because of the danger of communicating my real grievance: that C had ceased to love me. 182 17. [His sulk is successful] Ordinary terrorists have a distinct advantage over romantic terrorists - their demands [however outrageous] do not include the most outrageous demand of all, the demand to be loved. I knew that the love that C was displaying had not been given spontaneously.
2. [On the plane back, she is looking with her watery eyes at the seat ahead of her] - Are you all right There was a silence, as though she had not heard. Then she spoke. - You're too good for me. - What? - I said, "You're too good for me." - What? Why? - Because you are - What are you saying this for, Chloe? - I don't know - If anything, I'd put it the other way around. You're always the one ready to make the effort when there's a problem. You're just more self-deprecating about your... - Shush stop, don't, said C, turning her head away from me - Why? - Because I have been seeing Will. - You've what? - I've been seeing Will. OK. - What? What does seeing mean? Seeing_ Will? - For God's sake. I've been to bed with Will. - Would madam like a beverage or a light snack? inquired the stewardess. 186 12. [Moral choices are individual] In the bedroom we are followers of Hobbes and Bentham, not Plato and Kant. We make moral judgments on the basis of preference, not transcendental values. As Hobbes puts it in the Element of Law Every man calleth that which pleaseth and is delightful to him, _good, and that _evil which displeaseth him: insomuch that while every man differeth from another in constitution, they differ also from one another concerning the common distinction of good and evil. Nor is there any such thing as agathon haplos, that is to say, simply good... 193 He feels C is evil. 17. Love me! [why?] Because I love you... 195
1. Whenever anything bad happens to us, we look beyond everyday causal explanations. "Why me? Why this? Why now?" 10. Graphs showing the hero narrative in "romantic fatalism" - hero's evaluation is constantly going up; vs the tragic hero narrative "psycho-fatalism" - there are rapid swings in evaluation, sometimes very +ve, sometimes, -ve. 13. [Psychoanalysis suggests a world full of "meaning"] The psycho-fatalist's spell subtly replaced and then with _in order that. I did not simply love C and then she left me. I loved C in order that_ she leave me. The painful tale of loving her appeared as a palimpsest, beneath which another story had been written. Gk: palin (again) + psEn (scrape, rub smooth)
[Snow is falling. Will and C are off to Calif. He is taking all the aspirins, sleeping pils, he has + whisky... and committing suicide] 8. As I observed [the orange bubbles frothing from my mouth] I was struck by the incoherence of suicide, namely that I did not want to choose between being alive or dead. I simply wished to show C that I could not, metaphorically speaking, live without her. The irony was that death would be too literal an act to grant me the chance to see the metaphor read. I would be deprived by the inability of the dead to look at the living looking at the dead. 209 9. ... my stomach contracted out the effervescent poison. To have killed myself would have been to forget that I would be too dead to derive any pleasure from the melodrama of my own extinction. 209
1. In the midst of agony... certain sufferers take the misery as evidence [however perverse] that they are special. Why else would ehty have been chosen to undergo such titanic torment other than to serve as proof that they are different, and hence presumably better, than those who do not suffer. [DIFFERENCE ==> must be better; without being diff, certainly can't be better!] 12. The Jesus C lay at the opp end of the spectrum from Marxism. Marxism prevented me from becoming a member of ay club that would have me. JC still left me outside the club gates, but because it was the result of ample self-love, declared I was not accepted only because I was so special. [ ==> all cynics finally take this stance perhaps - I am special, so I will not join in your merrymaking]
9. There was a gradual re-conquering of the self, new habits and a Chloe-less identiy built up. To return from "us" back to "I" involved an almost complete reinvention of myself. It took a long time... I had to live with my sofa for months before the image of her lying on it in her dressing gown was replaced by other images, of a friend reading a book on it, or of my coat lying across it. 219 [All objects ==> associations. New ones wipe out the old... like language]
2. What does wisdom counsel us to do? It tells us to aim for tranquility and inner peace, a life free from anxiety, fear, idolatry, and harmful passions. Wisdom teqaches us that our first impulses may not always be true and that our appetites will lead us astray if we do not train true reason to separate vain from genuine needs. 3. But what does wisdom say about love? Is it something that shd be given up completely, like coffee or cigarettes, or is it allowed on occasions, like a glass of wine or a chocolate? Is love directly opposed to everything that wisdom stands for? Do sages also lose their heads, or only overgrown children? 4. thinkers: distinguish the rash love of a Romeo and J from Socrates' contemplative worship of the Good. 5. mature vs immature love: Mature: marked by awareness of what is good and bad in each person. Full of temperance, resists idealization, is free of jealousy, masochism, or obsession - a form of friendship with a sexual dimension, pleasant, peaceful, and reciprocated [and perhaps that's why most people who have known desire would refuse its painlessness the title of _love] Immature love: chaotic lurching between idealization and disappointment, an unstable state where feelings of ecstasy and beatitude combine with impressions of drowning and fatal nausea, where the sense that one has finally found the _answer comes together with the feeling that one has never been so lost. The logical climax of immature [because it accepts no compromise] love comes in death, symbolic or real; the climax of mature love in marriage, and the attempt to avoid death via routine [the sunday papers, trouser presses, remote-controlled appliances]. 11. [The plight of Flaubert's tragic heroine, Emma Bovary] a young woman living in the French provinces, married to an adoring husband whom she loathed because she had come to associate love with suffering. Consequently, she began to have adulterous affairs with unsuitable men, cowards who treated her cruelly and could not be depended upon to fulfill her romantic longings. Emma Bovary was ill because she could not stop hoping that these men would change and love her properly -- when it was obvious that Rodolphe and Le'on considered her as nothing more than an amusing distraction. 226 12. Emma walks into the office of psychoanalyst Peggy Nearly: what would happen scene. [STYLE: Often does not introduce the protagonist; more so towards the end] 15. But sitting at a dinner party one evening, lost in Rachel's eyes while she outlined the course of her office life for me, I was shocked to realize how easily I might abandon stoic philosophy in order to repeat all the mistakes I had lived through with C. 229 19. [Rachel accepts his invitation to go for dinner the following week,] and the very thought of her began sending tremors through the region the poets have called the heart, tremors that I knew could have meant one thing only -- that I had once more began to fall. [END OF BOOK]
[background:] Stendhal's genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books (Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex), and contrasts with his obsession with sexual conquests. He seems to have preferred the desire to the consummation. One of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic passion that was based on his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living at Milan. In Stendhal's 1822 classic On Love [de l'Amour] he describes "crystallization": What I call 'crystallization' is the operation of the mind that draws from all that presents itself the discovery that the loved object has some new perfections. compares the "birth of love", in which the love object is crystallized in the mind, as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy, the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love: Stendhal's depiction of "crystallization" in the process of falling in love. sketch by Stendhal showing the four steps on the journey to crystallization: 1. Admiration, 2. Acknowlegment, 3. Hope, 4. Delight. [image from wikipedia:Crystallization (love) ] This journey or crystallization process (shown above) was detailed by Stendhal on the back of a playing card while speaking to Madame Gherardi, during a trip to the Salzburg salt mine. "When we are in Bologna, we are entirely indifferent; we are not concerned to admire in any particular way the person with whom we shall perhaps one day be madly in love with; even less is our imagination inclined to overrate their worth. In a word, in Bologna "crystallization" has not yet begun. When the journey begins, love departs. One leaves Bologna, climbs the Apennines, and takes the road to Rome. The departure, according to Stendhal, has nothing to do with one's will; it is an instinctive moment. This transformative process actuates in terms of four steps along a journey: 1. Admiration - one marvels at the qualities of the loved one. 2. Acknowledgement - one acknowledges the pleasantness of having gained the loved one's interest. 3. Hope - one envisions gaining the love of the loved one. 4. Delight - one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the person whose love one hopes to win. --- from http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/29/stendhal-on-love-crystallization/ Stendhal sets out to bridge “the deeply sensitive and coolly analytical,” beginning with a taxonomy of the four main types of love: There are four different kinds of love: 1. Passionate Love. This was the love of the Portuguese nun, that of Heloïce for Abelard, of the captain of Vésel, and of the gendarme of Cento. 2. Mannered Love, which flourished in Paris about 1760, and which is to be found in the memoirs and novels of the period; for example those of Crébillon, Lauzun, Duclos, Marmontel, Chamfort, and Mme d’Epinay… A stylized painting, this, where the rosy hues extend into the shadows, where there is no place for anything at all unpleasant – for that would be a breach of etiquette, of good taste, of delicacy, and so forth. A man of breeding will know in advance all the rituals he must meet and observe in the various stages of this kind of love, which often achieves greater refinement than real love, since there is nothing passionate or unpredictable about it, and it is always witty. It is a cold, pretty miniature as against an oil painting by one of the Carrachi; and while passionate love carries us away against our real interests, mannered love as invariably respects those interests. Admittedly, if you take away vanity, there is very little left of mannered love, and the poor weakened invalid can hardly drag itself along. 3. Physical Love. You are hunting; you come across a handsome young peasant girl who takes to her heels through the woods. Everyone knows the love that springs from this kind of pleasure, and however desiccated and miserable you may be, this is where your Love-life begins at sixteen. 4. Vanity-Love. The great majority of men, especially in France, both desire and possess a fashionable woman, much in the way one might own a fine horse – as a luxury befitting a young man. Vanity, a little flattered and a little piqued, leads to enthusiasm. Sometimes there is physical love, but not always; often even physical pleasure is lacking. ‘A duchess is never more than thirty in the eyes of a bourgeois,’ said the Duchesse de Chaulnes, and the courtiers of that just king Louis of Holland cheerfully recall even now a pretty woman from The Hague who was quite unable to resist the charms of anyone who happened to be a duke or a prince. But true to hierarchical principles, as soon as a prince came to court she would send her duke packing. She was rather like an emblem of seniority in the diplomatic corps! The happiest version of this insipid relationship is where physical pleasure grows with habit. Then memories produce a semblance of love; there is the pricking at your pride and the sadness in satisfaction; the atmosphere of romantic fiction catches you by the throat, and you believe yourself lovesick and melancholy, for vanity will always pretend to be grand passion. One thing is certain though: whichever kind of love produces the pleasures, they only become vivid, and their recollection compelling, from the moment of inspiration. In love, unlike most other passions, the recollection of what you have had and lost is always better than what you can hope for in the future. Occasionally in vanity-love, habit, or despair of finding something better, results in a friendship of the least attractive sort, which will even boast of its stability, and so on. Although physical pleasure, being natural, is known to all, it is only of secondary importance to sensitive, passionate people. If such people are derided in drawing rooms or made unhappy by the intrigues of the worldly, they possess in compensation a knowledge of pleasures utterly inaccessible to those moved only by vanity or money. Some virtuous and sensitive women are almost unaware of the idea of physical pleasure; they have so rarely, if I may hazard an expression, exposed themselves to it, and in fact the raptures of passionate love have practically effaced the memory of bodily delights. There are some men who are the victims and instruments of a hellish pride, a pride like that of Alfieri. These men, who are cruel perhaps because like Nero they are always afraid, judge everyone after their own pattern, and can achieve physical pleasure only when they indulge their pride by practicing cruelties upon the companion of their pleasures. … Only in this way can they find a sense of security. Instead of defining four kinds of love, one might well admit eight or ten distinctions. There are perhaps as many different ways of feeling as there are of seeing, but differences of terminology do not affect the arguments which follow. Every variety of love mentioned henceforth is born, lives, dies, or attains immortality in accordance with the same laws.
Iris Benaroia at bookslut, January 2004 On Love was written in 1993, when the author was only 24. "Seduction is a form of acting, a move from spontaneous behaviour to behaviour shaped by an audience." How flaws we would normally perceive in others, is disregarded. "How hard it [is] to keep a level head, when Cupid [is] such a biased interpreter?" And how heartbreaking then, that when love dissolves, or is "translated," the lover stands as aloof as a stranger before us. And isn't it sort of bittersweet funny -- after time has elapsed, of course -- when you think back to the complicit charade? Samir Raafat in the Egyptian Mail, July 17, 1997: ... his father Gilbert de Botton is a successful investment banker who runs the London-based international capital fund GAM (Global Asset Management) Kirkus Review: In this dazzlingly original first novel, Alain de Botton tells of a young man smitten by a woman on a Paris-London flight. On Love plots the course of their affair from the initial delirium of infatuation to the depths of suicidal despair, as the beloved, inexplicably, begins to drift away. "A tour de force pleasure of a first novel".
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