One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy.
There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.
There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.
The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.
The price we have paid for expecting to be so much more than our ancestors is a perpetual anxiety that we are far from being all we might be.
The most boring and unproductive question one can ask of any religion is whether or not it is true.
We don’t need to be constantly reasonable in order to have good relationships; all we need to have mastered is the occasional capacity to acknowledge with good grace that we may, in one or two areas, be somewhat insane.
One’s doing well if age improves even slightly one’s capacity to hold on to that vital truism: “This too shall pass.
The media insists on taking what someone didn’t mean to say as being far closer to the truth than what they did.
The materialistic view of happiness of our age starkly revealed in our understanding of the word “luxury.
The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.
Don’t despair: despair suggests you are in total control and know what is coming. You don’t – surrender to events with hope.
One kind of good book should leave you asking: how did the author know that about me?
In a secularising world, art has replaced religion as a touchstone of our reverence and devotion.
If one felt successful, there’d be so little incentive to be successful.
We study biology, physics, movements of glaciers… Where are the classes on envy, feeling wronged, despair, bitterness…
Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone – and finding that that’s ok with them.
You have to be quite heavily invested in someone to do them the honour of telling them you’re annoyed with them.
Everyone endeavours to eliminate through the other individual his own weaknesses, defects, and deviations from the type, lest they be perpetuated or even grow into complete abnormalities in the child which will be produced.
we would not reliably assent to reproduce unless we first had lost our minds.
The feeling one has no time to get anything done provides the pressure that guarantees one does get some things done.
Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.
Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.
Work begins when the fear of doing nothing at all finally trumps the terror of doing it badly.
We pick our friends not only because they are kind and enjoyable company, but also, perhaps more importantly, because they understand us for who we think we are.
It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things.
What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.
You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.
There is a danger of developing a blanket distaste for modern life which could have its attractions but lack the all-important images to help us identify them.
It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.
The essence of art is that its one case applies to thousands,’ knew Schopenhauer.
To look at the paper is to raise a seashell to one’s ear and to be overwhelmed by the roar of humanity.
He was marked out by his relentless ability to find fault with others’ mediocrity–suggesting that a certain type of intelligence may be at heart nothing more or less than a superior capacity for dissatisfaction.
It is according to how we are able to answer the question of what we do (normally the first enquiry we will have to field in any new acquaintance) that the quality of our reception is likely to be decided.
A ‘good job’ can be both practically attractive while still not good enough to devote your entire life to.
We are humiliated by what is powerful and mean, but awed by what is powerful and noble.
Few in this world are ever simply nasty; those who hurt us are themselves in pain. The appropriate response is hence never cynicism nor aggression but, at the rare moments one can manage it, always love.
Maturity’ really means: being very unsurprised by, and calm around, pain and disappointment.
Marriage: a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully omitted to investigate.
I was relying on youth be loyal to the specific variety of compromise and unhappiness, which our hard-won marriage represents.
The quickest way to stop noticing something, may be to buy it—just as the quickest way to stop appreciating someone may be to marry him or her.
Loneliness makes us more capable of true intimacy if ever better opportunities do come along. We might be isolated for now, but we’ll be capable of far closer, more interesting bonds with anyone we do eventually locate.
The mind does most of its best thinking when we aren’t there. The answers are there in the morning.
Pegging your contentment to the overall state of the world rather than of your own life: the basis of morality, or a sort of madness?
If the world seems unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest that it is not surprising that things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains.
On account of its scale and complexity, the world will always outstrip the capacity of any single body to ask fertile questions of it.
The Anxiety of Sunday afternoon: your unlived lives and infinite possibility pressing upon the constraints of reality.
It is as if we need to be reminded of convention in order properly to appreciate the wonder of being unguarded…
The desire for high status is never stronger than in situations where “ordinary” life fails to answer a median need for dignity and comfort.
Everyone is extremely hard and troubled to be around. Everyone has something substantially wrong with them. Everyone is extremely hard to live with.
As victims of hurt, we frequently don’t bring up what ails us, because so many wounds look absurd in the light of day.
Curiosity takes ignorance seriously, and is confident enough to admit when it does not know. It is aware of not knowing, and it sets out to do something about it
A great writer picks up on those things that matter. It’s almost like their radar is attuned to the most significant moments.
One cannot read a novel without ascribing to the heroine the traits of the one we love.
It is difficult when reading the description of certain fictional characters not at the same time to imagine the real-life acquaintances who they most closely, if often unexpectedly, resemble.
Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.
Maturity/experience: the beguiling texture of stones subjected to years of furious seas.
Importance of the random: keep brushing up against people, books, experiences we don’t yet know what to do with.
Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.
A world where a majority had imbibed the lessons implicit within tragic art would be one in which the consequences of our failures would necessarily cease to weigh upon us so heavily.
Forgiveness requires a sense that bad behaviour is a sign of suffering rather than malice.
Distress at losing an object can be as much a frustration at the intellectual mystery of the disappearance as about the loss itself.
The largest part of what we call ‘personality’ is determined by how we’ve opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness”.
Most business meetings involve one party elaborately suppressing a wish to shout at the other: ‘just give us the money’.
Instead of bringing back 1600 plants, we might return from our journeys with a collection of small unfêted but life-enhancing thoughts.
Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape…
… what ease our seemingly entrenched lives might be altered were we simply to walk down a corridor and onto a craft that in a few hours would land us in a place of which we had no memories and where no one knew our name.
The study of maps and the perusal of travel books aroused in me a secret fascination that was at times almost irresistible.
The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.
A danger of travel is that we see things at the wrong time, before we have had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain.
A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. There is an urge to say, ‘I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.
Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.
Insomnia is his mind’s revenge for all the tricky thoughts he has carefully avoided during the daylight hours.
Paying tax should be framed as a glorious civic duty worthy of gratitude – not a punishment for making money.
We read the weird tales in newspapers to crowd out the even weirder stuff inside us.
The best cure for one’s bad tendencies is to see them in action in another person.
It’s hard loving those who don’t much like themselves: “If you’re so great, why would you think I’m so great.
Failure is becoming someone who needs others to fail.
Just be yourself’ is about the worst advice you can give some people.
Not being understood may be taken as a sign that there is much in one to understand.
The most courageous act in politics is to try to understand your opponent.
Intuition is unconscious accumulated experience informing judgement in real time.
Maturity: knowing where you’re crazy, trying to warn others of the fact and striving to keep yourself under control.
Being snappy is a symptom of an argument we forgot to have some way back.
There is a devilishly direct relationship between the significance of an idea and how nervous we become at the prospect of having to think about it.
The continuing belief that the world is fundamentally just is implied in the very complaint that there has been an injustice.
It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value.
Half the ingratitude and complacency in the world down to how slowly and imperceptibly most good and bad things unfold.
Few in this world are ever simply nasty; those who hurt us are themselves in pain. The appropriate response is hence never cynicism or aggression but, at the rare moments one can imagine it, always love.
Rather than getting more spoilt with age, as difficulties pile up, epiphanies of gratitude abound.
Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.
Being put in our place by something larger, older, greater than ourselves is not a humiliation; it should be accepted as a relief from our insanely hopeful ambitions for our lives.
To appreciate life’s small moments, it helps to have a sense the whole can never be made perfect.
Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.
Though it may feel otherwise, enjoying life is no more dangerous than apprehending it with continuous anxiety and gloom.
A sharp decline in actual deprivation may, paradoxically, have been accompanied by an ongoing and even escalating sense of fear of deprivation.
as the determinants of high status keep shifting, so, too, naturally, will the triggers of status anxiety be altered.
We never envy another’s achievement more than when we know very little about how it was attained.
If we were entirely sane, if madness did not have a serious grip on one side of us, other people’s tragedies would hold a great deal less interest for us.
At the heart of the pain created by sexual rejection is our habit of interpreting it as a moral judgement, when it might more accurately be categorized as a mere accident.
Judged against eternity, how little of what agitates us makes any difference.
The more people you have to ask for permission, the more dangerous a project gets.
Most victories are, in the best way, acts of revenge.
He feared that by leaving her he would ruin her life – so he stayed, and did just that.
Those who divorce aren’t necessarily the most unhappy, just those neatly able to believe their misery is caused by one other person.
We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.
One of the best protections against disappointment is to have a lot going on.
What kills us isn’t one big thing, but thousands of tiny obligations we can’t turn down for fear of disappointing others.
Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well: and requires no less practice.
To grow interested in any piece of information, we need somewhere to ‘put’ it, which means some way of connecting it to an issue we already now how to care about.
What we colloquially call ‘feeling bored’ is just the mind, acting out of a self-preserving reflex, ejecting information it has despaired of knowing where to place.
Marriage: a deeply peculiar and ultimately unkind thing to inflict on anyone one claims to care for.
Politics is so difficult, it’s generally only people who aren’t quite up to the task who feel convinced they are.
When we suspect that we are appropriate targets for hurt, it does not take much for us to believe that someone or something is out to hurt us
There is an easy way to measure our inner levels of abjectness and friendliness to ourselves: we should examine how well we response to noise.
It’s very hard to respect people on holiday – everybody looks so silly at the beach, it makes you hate humanity – but when you see people at their work they elicit respect, whether it’s a mechanic, a stonemason or an accountant.
I feel that the great challenge of our time is the communication of ideas.
On paper, being good sounds great but a lot depends on the atmosphere of the workplace or community we live in. We tend to become good or bad depending on the cues sent out within a particular space.
Learning to give up on perfection may be just about the most romantic move any of us could make.
I see religion as a storehouse of lots of really good ideas that a secular world should look at, raid, and learn from.
I like the values associated with a medical family – common sense, being practical but also thoughtful.
Fantasies can be great, but we shouldn’t make the wedding a fantasy, because the wedding is the gateway to married life. It shouldn’t be a moment of illusion; it should be a moment of preparation.
I do think that travel can be part of a journey of inner maturation, but you’ve got to do it right.
The death of marriage has been announced so often and would seem so normal, in a sense. So what’s surprising is the sheer longevity and tenacity of this institution.
We are properly ready for marriage when we are strong enough to embrace a life of frustration.
I’m also interested in the modern suggestion that you can have a combination of love and sex in a marriage – which no previous society has ever believed.
What is fascinating about marriage is why anyone wants to get married.
To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone.
The arrogance that says analysing the relationship between reasons and causes is more important than writing a philosophy of shyness or sadness or friendship drives me nuts. I can’t accept that.
The philosophy I love is very selective. It is really just the bit that is involved in a search for wisdom, and this means a short roll call of names; Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epicurus, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche.
If you are pro love, you have to be a little bit disloyal to the romantic feelings that propel you in the early days.
The claims I’m making for art are simply the claims that we naturally make around music or around poetry. We’re much more relaxed around those art forms. We’re willing to ask, ‘How could this find a place in my heart?’
I like working with people. I believe change can only come through collaboration.
My dad was a slightly stricter version of Richard Dawkins. The worldview was that there are idiots out there who believe in Santa Claus and fairies and magic and elves, and we’re not joining that nonsense.