Today, another fascinating and deeply insightful Design Matter’s conversation. This time Debbie Millman talks to philosopher and author Alain de Botton. The conversation is a wide-ranging overview of love and relationship. I’ve previously featured de Botton here, and you’ll find the Design Matters 48-minute conversation here (downloadable via iTunes). I found it really useful, and somewhat freeing, culturally speaking.
De Botton’s book The Course of Love: a novel, incorporating paragraphs (in different font) reflecting on different aspects of love and relationships) is sitting opposite me as I type. A local library copy, which I’ve dipped into but won’t get to read in full at the moment – too many other books on the go!
His earlier novel on love, funnily enough, called On Love: A Novel (1993) is well worth a read too. I’ve been really impressed with De Botton’s insights on love and relationships, all the more so, when you realise On Love: A Novel was written while in his mid-twenties (de Botton was born in December 1969).
“To be loved by someone is to realize how much they share the same needs that lie at the heart of our own attraction to them. Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally 'together' - when subjectively we feel dispersed and confused. We would not love if there were no lack within us, but we are offended by the discovery of a similar lack in the other. Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem” ― Alain de Botton, On Love.
He has a strong commitment to the development of emotional intelligence, and this is reflected in his founding of The School of Life. A site I highly recommend too.
I’ve been reading his for over a decade, and listening to him whenever I come across a podcast etc. There’s so much about his approach to Jung and Jungian psychoanalysis that I find both fascinating and compelling in terms of my own journey and life experience. Which of course isn’t to uncritically elevate either Jung or Hollis. Whether I agree, disagree, or am unsure, I find them both to be rich conversation partners.
I was recently reading the published transcript of a conversation with Pete Rollins in the Feb. 2017 issue (Issue # 50) of the Australian publication Dumbo Feather(still on shelves in good NZ magazine / bookshops - $20) and it as fascinating, especially his conversation about “ghosts and hauntings” and “mirrors”. I was thinking of Hollis’ book, mentioned above, as I read Rollins, and then a few days later I was listening to Hollis, covering similar ground. The combination of book, magazine article, and podcast (see below) was a rich one.
Hollis has come up many times on this blog (use search function if interested), and I’ve tried to link to all podcasts I’ve heard (hopefully most will remain active links). The most recent podcast (Nov. 2016) was this one The Love that Heals: Welcoming in our Shadow(downloadable via iTunes)
“Exploring one’s shadow is no easy undertaking. The idea of getting to know what Jung referred to as, “That which I do not wish to be” is rarely considered an exciting prospect. Yet we implore all leaders to be courageous and get to know and learn to work with their shadow. It is only when we do the work to make the unconscious conscious, that we are able to build true compassion for ourselves and others; freeing us to become the leaders we were born to become.
James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, author and lecturer whose work has inspired and influenced us at Reboot. In this episode Jerry and James talk in depth about the Jungian concept of shadow, how shadow shows up in leadership, and what we can do once we become aware of our shadow.”
I first heard Pádraig Ó Tuama in 2014 (my post here; no link to the interview, but I wanted to share one of his poems). He was interviewed about poetry and movingly read a number of his poems. Next up was an interview on Australia’s The Spirit of Things (my post and link here). Finally there was the On Being conversation that I listened to today. I so value his take on the importance of language.
“Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and extraordinary healer in our world of fracture. He leads the Corrymeela community of Northern Ireland, a place that has offered refuge since the violent division that defined that country until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. And Pádraig and Corrymeela extend a quiet, generative, and joyful force far beyond their northern coast to people around the world. “Over cups of tea, and over the experience of bringing people together,” Pádraig says, it becomes possible “to talk with each other and be in the same room with the people we talk about.””
Ó Tuama reflects of the fact that “agreement has rarely been the mandate for people who love each other. Maybe on some things, but actually, when you look at some people who are lovers and friends, you go actually they might disagree really deeply on things, but they’re somehow — I like the phrase “the argument of being alive.” Or in Irish, when you talk about trust, there’s a beautiful phrase from West Kerry where you say, “Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne,” “You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.” And that is soft and kind language, but it is so robust. That is what we can have with each other.”
I enjoyed listening to Hugh Mackay’s 2017 Gandhi Oration. It was delivered at the University of New South Wales on January 30 and was titled: The State of the Nation Starts in Your Street.
I’ve always believed the importance of the local, but I think it’s important to reduce it further; reduce it to smaller constituent parts. The state of the nation starts in your home; it starts with your family relationships; your relationship with your partner; your relationship with your children; your relationship with yourself. A healthy self opens up the possibility of healthy and life-giving familial and intimate relationships. The health of these in turn open up the possibility of healthy and life-giving neighborhood relationships and so on and so forth.
I’ve lived enough of life, and through enough sad and difficult personal and relational realities to observe the truth of these statements time and time again. I’ve seen time and time again the way that personal ‘ill-health’ (an unwillingness to face into our own shadow and brokenness) flows into relationships and damages those.
Damaged personal relationships and ways of relating impact neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations. If we can’t make our intimate and familial relationships work, if we can’t healthily overcome their inevitable dysfunction, if we can’t enact the practices of open listening, trusting, loving, supporting, believing the best about others, reconciling, holding, caring, openness, compromise etc. etc. then in my humble view there is little real hope for the neighborhood, the workplace, the city, the nation, and the nations. I feel very very sad about that.
Anyway, have a listen to Mackay, read his books (particularly his social psychology and ethics titles), reflect, start with self (but don’t stay there; don’t underestimate, for your own health and well-being, the importance of putting others and their needs ahead of your own), and work outwards from there. Couple this listening with listening to an article written by Olivia Laing on e future of thloneliness, and then check out her brilliant book, The Lonely City: Adventures of Being Alone.
You’ll find the audio recording of Mackay’s oration here, an edited (written) online copy of the talk here, and the reading of an article written by Laing in 2015 here (you’ll find the article here).
Today, a post in its entirety from Chris Erdman (Thanks Chris. His blog can be found here). I reminded me of a conversation with good friends a couple of weeks ago. One of those friends was Gareth Higgins, and one of his contributions to the conversation included talking about “Porch circles…” In “Porch Circles” a small group gathers for 90-minutes around food and four questions:
What's most alive in me?
How could my life be better?
What opportunities have I had in the past week to embody my purpose to serve the common good?
How can we help each other?
More from what Gareth’s up to in my next post:
And here’s Chris:
“…Feeling passionate but alone? Here's a way to contribute to the common good
Circles of Strength are small, intentional gatherings of people drawn together by a desire to co-create the kind of world we wish to live in. We gather around two essential goals:
We identify our desires to improve our world, and together, we grow our sense of strength so we can make a difference.
Around us, millions of Americans are rising up to meet the environmental, social, and political challenges of the 21st century.
Rather than feeling disempowered or disillusioned, people like us want to do something useful to transcend barriers, overcome hostilities, and create programs, products, movements and opportunities that contribute to the common good in our neighborhoods, cities, nation, and around the planet.
Circles of Strength are small gatherings of 3 or more people (no more than 5). They are intentional in that they meet at least every other week for at least an hour to check in with each other around a series of questions like:
What am I feeling passionate about? And why?
What is a problem or injustice I cannot allow to remain unchallenged?
What would I like to do about it?
What gifts do I have to address it?
What gets in the way or holds me back?
What progress have I made since we last met?
What do I need to take the next step?
Circles don’t need a trained leader, but they do need a common commitment from each other to listen more than give advice, and to help others find their passion. Through meeting together and talking about our desires for a better world, we help foster accountability, hope, and follow-through. (And when we fail or repeatedly bang into walls, we help each other find new direction.)
Find a few other people, create a circle, and begin to change your world.”
This post follows on from my most recent one to this point. The School of Lifeis committed to developing emotional intelligence. It was founded by Philosopher Alain de Botton. I have been aware of the school through their book series, which have included a wide range of titles.
What I discovered yesterday evening was their YouTube channel ("How to Live" / see short introductory video here) and the wide-range of short-educational films they've produced on a really large range of subjects.
So, given that yesterday was marketer-invented Valentines Day, I decided to illustrate their film-style by posting their short educational film entitled: How Romanticism Ruined Love. I also include a link to a paper of the same title here.
If Philosophy is more your interest you can check out a short film on Michel Foucault, or this one on Jacques Derrida.
“What if the first question we asked on a date were, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this”? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton’s essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was, amazingly, the most-read article in The New York Times in the news-drenched year of 2016. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after?”
You’ll find the podcast here. The NY Times article can be found online here. I also recommend Susan Quilliam’s How to Find a Partner (from The School of Life series. It has useful and interesting insights on the basis of relational love,whether you're in an established relationship, or looking for one)
I’ve been listening to Bangladeshi-born Australian Doctor/Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed quite a bit this year. He’s a young man who’s had his fair share of controversy (plagiarism), but to me he remains a fascinating and oftentimes compelling commentator (for some he will be controversial or just plain wrong in his assessment) on what is happening in Australian culture, and as a corollary, with men. I’ve never been much inclined to gather around my self people and commentators who will affirm what I already think. I like to be stretched intellectually.
Gratefulness is a practice that I know is important, but which I find a struggle. It’s too easy to get caught up in the stresses and busyness of the ordinary and the everyday. I’m hoping to embed it a lot more in my life over the course of 2017.
“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. Gratefulness is the key to happiness. Unless you are grateful for the gift, it won’t make you happy.”
“Gratefulness (which Br David Steindl-Rast) describes as being the same as mindfulness and prayerfulness) is like any other spiritual practice – it must be practiced!
Practice giving thanks for first things, for beginnings. When you wake in the morning, before you even open your eyes, give thanks for the gift of sight. (Br David makes a practice of praying at this moment for those who have no sight or who have impaired sight.) Give thanks for your first cup of tea or coffee – let all your senses come alive or wake up. Continue to mark out the little beginnings of each day – as you open your bedroom door and move into the rest of your house or as you open your front door and walk outside or as you put the key in your car ignition to begin your commute to work.
But also mark the endings of your day – when you arrive home and close your front door behind you or when you shut down your computer. (Too many people do not shut down their computer or log off from work – it tends to go on and on with no end or renewed beginning!)…”
One of the small delights of a New Year is wondering about who my conversation partners might be over the coming year. But, when I say “conversation partners”, I’m not just talking about the people I might physically talk with, I’m also thinking about the books I’ll read (or listen to), the films I’ll watch, and the online interviews and conversations I will listen to.
I also took some time to review all the conversations I listened to on On Being with Krista Tippett. Listening in on her conversations has been a practice of mine since her early days on Speaking of Faith, and the range and depth has been such a gift.
Here are my Top 7 conversations from her show over the course of 2016. They’re not in any order, other than they’re the seven conversations that have stayed with me, and particularly nourished my own journey and exploration.
“On Being - Taking up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you'll love to meet.”