Selected Quotes From “What They Forgot to Teach You In School”

Shortly after reading On Love, I found another de Botton title in my library’s e-book collection, What they Forgot to Teach You In School. Unsurprisingly, I soon had four pages of quotes from the book. Below are just a few.

On Love

“Our Romantic culture prompts us to imagine love as a kind of boundless admiration for a perfect being. This estimation forgets that there is another way to live, one in which we can love that which is less than ideal, one in which not every mistake has to be appalling, one in which we’re aroused to sorrow and compassion by the sadness and mishaps of others, one in which we can love flaws rather than always fixate on otherworldly perfection. We can, at our best moments, see the child inside the vulnerable adult and extend mercy and kindness as required. Genuine love isn’t blind to defects; it is compassionate towards them and readily sets them within an awareness of a person’s overall qualities and character.   Hating ourselves is the easy bit. Learning to give ourselves a break is the true, rare, and properly adult achievement.”


Repair, don’t Run

“We cling to rupture because it confirms a story which, though deeply sad at one level, also feels very safe: that big emotional commitments are invariably too risky, that others can’t be trusted, that hope is an illusion — and that we are fundamentally alone.”

“It is no doubt a fine thing to have a relationship without moments of rupture, but it is a finer and more noble achievement still to know how to patch things up repeatedly with those precious strands of emotional gold: self-acceptance, patience, humility, courage, and many careful lessons.”

On Moods

“Moods are proud, imperious things. They show up and insist that they are telling us total certainties about our identities and our prospects — perhaps that our love lives will never work out or that a professional situation is beyond repair. Still, we always have an option of calling their bluff, of realising that they are only a passing state of mind arrogantly pretending to be the whole of us — and that we could, with courage, politely ignore them and change the subject.”

“Ou sense of self is naturally fluid: we are, as a reality and a metaphor, largely made of water. We shouldn’t allow a misplaced idea of permanence to add to our sorrows. Though we may be unable to shift a mood, we can at least recognise it for what it is and understand that, in the inestimatable words of the prophets, with the help of a few hours or days, it too shall pass…”

Be Water, My Friend

No one gets through life with all their careful plan As intact. Something unexpected, shocking and abhorrent regularly comes along, not only to us, but to all human beings. We are simply too exposed to accident, too lacking in information, too frail in our capacities, to avoid some serious avalanches and traps.  The second point is to realise that we are, despite moments of confusion, eminently capable of developing very decent plan Bs. […]  It helps, in flexing our plan-B muscles, to acquaint ourselves with the lives of many others who had to throw away plan As and begin anew: the person who thought they’d be married forever, then suddenly wasn’t — and coped; the person who was renowned for doing what they did, then had to start over in a dramatically different field — and found a way. Amidst  these stories, we’re liable to find a few people who will tell us, very sincerely, that their plan B ended up, eventually, superior to their plan A. They worked harder for it; they had to dig deeper to find it and it carried less vanity and fear within it.”

“It’s worth trying to understand, therefore, why happiness ‘ever after’ should be congenitally so impossible. It isn’t that we can’t ever have a good relationship, a house, or a pension. We may well have all this — and more. It’s simply that these won’t be able to deliver what we hope for from them. We will still worry in the arms of a kind and interesting partner; we will still fret in a well-appointed kitchen; our terrors won’t cease whatever income we have. It sounds implausible — especially when these goods are still far out of our grasp — but we should trust this fundamental truth in order to make an honest peace with the forbidding facts of the human condition.   We can never properly be secure, because so long as we are alive, we will be alert to danger and in some way at risk. The only people with full security are the dead; the only people who can be truly at peace are under the ground; cemeteries are the only definitely calm places around.”

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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