Through his witty and literate books -- and his new School of Life -- Alain de Botton helps others find fulfillment in the everyday.
It started in 1997, when Alain de Botton turned away from writing novels and instead wrote a touching extended essay titled How Proust Can Change Your Life, which became an unlikely blockbuster in the "self-help"category. His subsequent books take on some of the fundamental worries of modern life (am I happy? where exactly do I stand?), informed by his deep reading in philosophy and by a novelist's eye for small, perfect moments. His newest book is The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.
In 2008, de Botton helped start the School of Life in London, a social enterprise determined to make learning and therapy relevant in today's uptight culture. His goal is (through any of his mediums) to help clients learn "how to live wisely and well."
“It’s perhaps easier now than ever before to make a good living; it’s perhaps harder than ever before to stay calm, to be free of career anxiety.”
“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”
“The problem is if you really believe in a society where those who merit to get to the top, get to the top, you’ll also, by implication … believe in a society where those who deserve to get to the bottom also get to the bottom and stay there.”
“It’s as though either you accept [religious] doctrine and then you can have all the nice stuff, or you reject the doctrine and you’re living in some kind of spiritual wasteland under the guidance of CNN and Walmart.”
“The secular world is full of holes. We have secularized badly.”
“Let’s say you went to Harvard or Oxford or Cambridge, and you said, ‘I’ve come here because I’m in search of morality, guidance and consolation; I want to know how to live,’ — they would show you the way to the insane asylum.”
“When you look at the Moon, you think, ‘I’m really small. What are my problems?’ It sets things into perspective. We should all look at the Moon a bit more often.”
“We may not agree with what religions are trying to teach us, but we can admire the institutional way in which they’re doing it.”
“Religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone; they’re for all of us.”
“Why does that sense of mystery, that sense of the dizzying scale of the universe, need to be accompanied by a mystical feeling?”
“The universe is large and we are tiny, without the need for further religious superstructure. One can have so-called spiritual moments without belief in the spirit.”