Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Architecture of Happiness

I finished The Architecture of Happiness today and am a little sad that I have because that means I won't be spending the next subway ride home reading the erudite thoughts of Alain de Botton, my not-so-secret nerd crush.

His writing always strikes a relevant and oftentimes emotional chord for me and this book is no different. I had to re-read the following passage several times because he describes what has been top-of-mind for me the last few months as I've begun to commit and make purchases for my new home come August:

Our sensitivity to our surroundings may be traced back to a troubling feature of human psychology: to the way we harbour within us many different selves, not all of which feel equally like "us", so much so that in certain moods, we can complain of having come adrift from what we judge to be our true selves.

Unfortunately, the self we miss at such moments, the elusively authentic, creative and spontaneous side of our character, is not ours to summon at will. Our access to it is, to a humbling extent, determined by the places we happen to be in, by the colour of the bricks, the height of the ceilings and the layout of the streets...

...We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need - but are at risk of forgetting we need - within. We turn to wallpaper, benches, paintings and streets to staunch the disappearance of our true selves.

In turn, those places whose outlook matches and legitimates our own, we tend to honour with the term "home"...

...We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us

AL teases me all the time about how much I have "going on up there" in my brain what with all the different virtual homes I have but I can't help it because there are so many different things that appeal to me for different reasons at different times - but in that moment, it feels like "me". So this was a helpful way to consider my seeming indecision about the interior design of my home.


dianamuse said...

His writing is a wonder. If you've not yet tried How Proust Can Change Your Life, it's an equally enjoyable portion of de Botton's talent.

phoenix said...

I have read that - thanks. :) The only title I haven't read is Status Anxiety. And much as I enjoy is non-fiction, it was his smart fictional works that first turned me - namely On Love on and they're still my favourites.

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