Everybody has some kind of teenage-like mania. Mine is to be a flaming fan of some literary authors as if they were Superstars. My idols are not many and mostly dead. Therefore the chances to meet them are not that frequent and when they happen, I try not miss them - using an euphemism, as actually I act live pretty much like a 14 year-old girl craving to go to a Justin Biber concert.
That is why, when I discovered that philosopher and founder of The School of Life Alain De Botton was lecturing in Mantova, I connected to the Festival Letteratura eshop the same early morning the ticket sale was opening. Unfortunately tickets were already sold out, as Festival members had bought them all in the pre-sale.
But, as just any fan girl, I'm not easy to dissuade. So I checked out the Super Speaker schedule on his website and found out that he was holding the same day the same speech (but at different time) in Milan. Without reservation and for free.
So I decided to leave my family for their sunday ice cream in the city center, involved 2 more Art-for-Emotional-Intelligence fan girls and drove to Milan. We entered the Triennale conference room one hour before the speech started and could even find 3 comfortable seats on the floor. But on the first row, for sure. That is what happens when somebody decides to turn philosophy into a popular thing.
So Mr De Botton held his lectio magistralis – or rather his cabaret - "Romantic love ruins our Lives" in 30 minutes of satirical sketches against today love's big enemy – romanticims, indeed. At the beginning I was quite scared that this masochistic choice would lead me to loose self confidence, as I must confess that I so far considered myself a romantic human being. Moreover I’m easy influenced by other people's opinion, let alone my idols’ opinions. But after De Botton's explanation I felt relieved, as I realized I’m (no longer) a romantic. Except for love for nature, clouds and that particular time of the day between 6 and 7 o’clock in the evening, when everything is perfect for love.
So, what are the points of this dangerous romanticim?
- the idea that marriage is related to love (not to struggle for existence)
- the idea that sex is the pinnacle of love (not the natural way to the survival of human species)
- the certainty that we are normal and other people crazy (not that we’re as crazy as everyone else)
- the belief that love has to do with instinct (not with skills)
- the expectations about being perfectly understood by our partner, even without speaking
So what is love, if not predestination, nor instinct, nor sex, nor marriage, nor telepathy?
It is a 100% human thing, something everybody can learn, just like riding a bicycle or play bridge. Well, maybe a bit more complicated. But it's still a skill, the skill to treat our partner with patience, understanding and empathy - in other words, as if he or she would be a 2 year-old baby.
I think this all makes a lot of sense, especially for teenagers and young people in general, who need to learn how to love from zero and who are becoming more and more romantic then their parents, as one can tell from their favourite love icon - padlocks.
And what about adults? Emancipated couples who would like not having to choose between honesty and love, who are open about the fact that, if falling in love lasts 9 months and then love becomes a day-after-day creation, also monogamous sex becomes boring after a while and requires some "restyling".
What De Botton suggests to adult lovers, is to decide to leave the partner only if he can 100% be blamed for all our problems and failures. If he happens to be not, we should stay together and learn to consider each other “lovable idiots”, adopting a high tolerance threshold and lots of (possibily british) sense of humour.
I would really like to know if De Botton has ever watched the Polyamory US TV series and his opinion about it.
Maybe some hints about this topic can be found in his latest book “The course of love” Il Corso Dell'Amore (ed. italiana Guanda, settembre 2016)
As a perfect fangirl, it’s already on my night table.
Watch Alain De Botton's speech about love at a conference by Google held in London in May 2016 called Zeitgeist