coromandal


a strong element of the haphazard
May 14, 2016, 1:01 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

photo: Gregory Crewdson

Your fault if you’re poor – says Gates; how can it be your fault there’s just so much randomness – counters de Botton, below. Gates’s – also Trump’s – view adds misery to life unnecessarily.

If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it is your mistake.

Bill Gates

I think it’s the randomness of the winning and losing process, that I want to stress.  Because the emphasis nowadays so much is on the justice of everything … Now I’m a firm believer in justice.  I just think that it’s impossible.  We should do everything we can to pursue it, but at the end of the day we should always remember that whoever is facing us, whatever has happened in their lives, there will be a strong element of the haphazard.  And it’s that that I’m trying to leave room for, because otherwise it can get quite claustrophobic.

Alain de Botton

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what books do

In first year uni philosophy, one of the essays we read was titled – does literature humanize? I went on to study literature for four years, and since then – decades ago – the question of the role of literature, now in our culture almost entirely sidelined, niggles.

In this video is a case for what literature does from the School of Life, and below are pulled quotes done by Brain Pickings. Reading literature opens new worlds, makes us sympathetic and human, offers comfort and companionship, and confirms the fragility and imperfection of life. This is a list based on the idea of the consolations of philosophy – a very powerful and necessary truth.

I also think that literature has a macro effect that isn’t as evident in this consolations view. For instance, could we say that as a humanizing agent, literature – and the humanities at large – is our most significant defense against intractable fundamentalisms and ideologies of control? I think so. Do we want a strong stand against the reductive teachings of some preachers, MBAs, cults, CEOs, mullahs, mobs, clubs, and isms? Try an educated population.

Literature frees us, yet some of the deans of our universities want to get rid of it, either because they don’t see the connection, or they’re not interested in the kinds of freedom the humanities engender and sustain.

Video above (duh) and the pulled quotes here:

  • IT SAVES YOU TIME
    It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver — because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly. Literature is the greatest reality simulator — a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you can ever directly witness.

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all kinds of richness
October 11, 2013, 12:24 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

In our work lives, the status quo is snobbery and the desired goal is love, explains Alain de Botton below. Snobbery is being judged based on superficials while all the richness of our inner lives roil hidden beneath the judgment: a vision from Dante’s hell. In essence, bosses reduce workers to one or two capabilities that meet their business needs, while workers yearn to use their genius and suffer through their days.

To break this unhappy  – and untenable – blockage, one must see the real potential of a person’s inner life. This is accomplished by imagination, which breaks the bonds of the snob judgment and allows the real inner richness and creativity to be revealed and to play a part.

It’s a good lesson to know if you want to be happy in your workplace, or to make a pleasant workplace for the people who work for you.

Alain de Botton on the chasm between our rich interior selves and our jobs:

We live in a world surrounded by snobs.  What is a snob?–A snob is someone who takes a small part of you and uses that to judge the whole of you.  And the dominant snobbery nowadays is job snobbery.

This is a deeply frightening vision.  Partly it’s frightening because most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card.  The business card does not fully reflect who we are. We are being judged, we feel, in a humiliating way.  We feel there is so much in us that has not got an expression in capitalism.  You know, capitalism is a machine that recognizes outward financial, external achievement.  And most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into that language.  There are very few of us whose full complexity of character has been brought out, as it were, on their business card.  Most of us, what is special about us requires – it requires love.  And by love, I mean imagination.  It requires someone to say, even though that person looks a bit, it could be anything boring, uninteresting, unimportant, dull, actually that’s because I’m only looking at them in the first 30 seconds.  They need more time.

So we need charity and we need complexity.  And the cruelty of the modern world, the cruelty of New York City, for example, so this is a city where people give you 30 seconds and not much longer, if you’re not careful.  And that’s very challenging, it cuts people up inside.  It literally drives you crazy.

What are you worth?  Getting past status anxiety, Alain de Botton



governed by idiocy and prejudice
November 14, 2011, 4:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

In our recent economic downturn, people say that there is a culling happening, that the brightest and the best are being retained in their companies while the dubious and slovenly are let go.  They say that this is a good thing, as the fit become fitter and human progress is assured.  No one really says what happens to all the people that slip through the cracks:  trampled underfoot perhaps, but anyway out of sight out of mind.

This version of who sinks and who swims doesn’t fully square with my experience.  I have found that, at least sometimes, the loyal and boring tend to rise quickly and entrench, while the smart get restless and make waves and are let go, or get bored and leave of their own accord.

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preserve of geniuses

I’ve been watching some British TV shows – detectives, lawyers and doctors in small towns and villages – and marveling at how addicting they are.  They are well written – the ones I’m hooked on – the acting is strong and the filming / editing lush.  And the combination makes a show that is technically rich with a human vulnerability built in that draws you to the story and characters.  Layers of broad brush and detail finely cut and a steady parade of exceptional actors:  technique and humanity in a fine balance.  Their great appeal is in the quiet strength and nuance of their craft.

To talk about craft in the electronic age is clearly a throwback.  Our houses are not of clay and wattle made; often they’re factory built by speculators.  In America consumer goods are made in enormous factories and now even more in industrial towns in China.  Everyone works in finance, IT, Google.  So is there a place for a conversation about craft among the ones and zeros?

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is love an elitist guild?
September 11, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

I recommend Alain de Botton’s twitter page.  Each tweet is pregnant with insight that no doubt comes from years of reading and writing books, particularly on philosophy and society. I’ve assembled some here in no particular order on the theme of family.  Apparently, he’s in the thick of one, and reflecting deeply, which is good news for us.  His ideas tend to upset the apple cart of standard beliefs about relationships and love.

Here’s my take on some of the ideas:  Love is work, it may not look like it to the casual observer, but relationships that look stable have been worked on.  Living in a family is like living in a fish bowl: all foibles on display and assessed.  Our children reflect our worst qualities and embarrass us.  To love, you have to understand how difficult it was to have been loved by your parent.  Real love may come to very few of us.  Love loves beauty and degradation, which confuses us. Love isn’t guaranteed, it’s hard work and often ugly.

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necessary things
August 24, 2011, 3:42 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

Percentage of North Americans Declaring the Following Items to Be Necessities



Second car
Second television set
More than one telephone
Car air conditioning
Home air conditioning
Dishwasher

1970
20
3
2
11
22
8

2000
59
45
78
65
70
44

Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton p 194