Alain de Botton’s Talk on Pessimism

The following is a transcript of Alain de Botton’s talk on pessimism, available on YouTube and embedded below.

[Suzanne by Leonard Cohen]

@0:57
as Suzanna (Leonard Cohen) mentioned, this is unfortunately going to be a bad lecture. I brought you all under the false pretense. You will learn almost nothing. You will come away from this talk disappointed thinking that I’ve let you down. And that your life is not being enhanced. Things will then start getting worse and you will come to the realization that life is essentially meaningless; that your efforst are headed nowhere. And that you will be struck down by death and your loved ones and all your achivements will wither and be returned to dust. These are the basic facts of human life though they are often denied. But here, we have come together today to put darkness on the table and to look at it fairly and squarely. So, I want to sing a hymn in praise of looking at the glass half-empty and do want to emphasize to you the wisdom, and indeed the beauty of thinking of life as an essentially deeply troubled and compromised affair.

@1:52
We are currently living in troubled times and many of us respond to these troubled times with a feeling of injured self-pity, as though something that is supposed to have gone right, has gone wrong. I would like to reverse the equation. Nothing was entirely supposed to go right and so nothing has particularly gone wrong. We have simply returned to a state of crisis which is the norm in human history. It’s sometimes the principle of newspapers that murder, disease, crisis is the exception. It makes the news. But in fact, this is the news. This is all that ever happens. So, as I say, this feeling of being in a historically abnormal postition is really a misreading of the true facts of existence which is an almost continuous series of crises. Let’s try and remember. None of us were particularly happy in 2004 when things were going supposedly so well. We had all sorts of troubles on our mind, certainly, I did. I don’t remember these boom times being so great. Nothing boomed for me. So, it’s really a return to the same.

@2:54
We do have in our world-culture, two very important strands of thought: Buddhism and Christianity that have emphasized that life is essentially an imperfect business from an entirely secular point of view. I’d like to recover some of that wisdom. Some of the wisdom of thinking that, essentially, life is suffering, and the human-being is a fallen creature. I love the idea of fallenness. It’s a wonderful starting point; very good in a marriage or a relationship – “Don’t expect… I never said I was perfect. I am a fallen creature.” It’s very hard for people to comeback at us on that one.

@3:35
So, really, I am just trying to emphasize the ever present nature of suffering and unhappiness. But really, I want to talk about impotence first.

@3:43
Who here has been impotent recently? [looks in the audience and raises hand]
Anyone else suffered from impotence? You are just not being honest! Someone, at least one other than me. [LAUGHS]

@3:59
Very interesting fact about impotence – impotence is all to do with pessimism and optimism. It’s when there is a huge expectation on you for things to go really well, that’s when people get impotent. It goes to the heart of what I want to talk today. For those who know Montaigne’s essays, there is a lovely piece by philosopher Montaigne on impotence, in which his essential drift is if you arrive in the bedroom (or bed-chamber as he puts it) with high expectations, there is a very serious risk that things will go wrong. This is a true story. There was a man near his village who had “failed with a woman” as he put it, and had cut off his member and sent it to the woman in atonement for his error. And this so disturbed the community and so disturbed Montaigne that he picked up a pen and try and write about this. And his essential conclusion was, when entering the bedroom, always say that you are a bad lover. This is the only way in which you can ever stand a chance of making a good impression. You must always lower the expectations of performance. that’s the way in which you can be a good lover. But I think there is a deeper point here. This is not just about sexual performance. This is about life performance. That somehow raising expectations and suggesting that all will go well is the surest way to go nervous and with nervousness, comes failure. So, there is a curious debt of success on a complete familiarity with failure. If you expect to succeed, you will almost certainly fail. So, pessimism doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a lack of achivement or a complete resignation. But we have to start, I think, I want to argue, from a feeling that things are not going to go well.

@6:02
Nowadays, our philosophers and thinkers and public figures are often in the business of telling us how to make life better. Somehow the improvement of life is the way in which most problems are viewed – “How can we make things better?”

I want to direct you to a philosophy that flourished in ancient Rome.and that took a completely different approach. I am talking about Stoicism and the Stoic school of philosophy.

When we speak of someone being stoic in the face of a disaster, we are very much plugged in to an ancestral memory of how the Stoics of Ancient Rome went about things. One of my favorite Stoic philosophers is the philosopher Seneca, who lived in the time of Nero, a very troubled time for the roman Empire. If we think we have it bad, look at Nero’s reign for what was going on. And Seneca very much believed that philosophy was a discipline to keep you sane in troubled times. And that one of the best ways to be sane was to master pessimism, to make yourself at home in pessimism, to become a master of this strange and perhaps depressing-seeming but not actually depressing philosophy.

Seneca wrote a book on anger. There is a very interesting thing about anger. Many of us today think that anger is sort of physiological problem, it’s to do with hot-blooded or something. Seneca thought that was non-sense. He believed that we get angry for a very simple reason – Optimism. Optimism makes us angry. And he compared a very interesting thing. He asked why people don’t get angry when it rains, particularly in Northern Europe. The reason why people don’t get angry when it rains is that we expect it to rain in England. It’s amazing if it doesn’t rain. So, it would not occur to anybody to be angry at the fact that it is raining. Now, the interesting thing is that we don’t adopt this wise approach in all areas of life. Think about our keys. We start shouting when lose the house keys. Or how we behave when we are stuck in traffic. Now essentially that is because we believe implicitly in a world where keys don’t go astray and the roads are always mysteriously traffic free. That’s a very very odd starting point for life. It’s our expectations that will define what will anger us. That’s not to say we won’t ever feel sad but there is a difference between sadness and anger. And I think Seneca’s point was we will be a lot wiser if we manage to expect more, that our sense of what’s normal to expect is hugely reduced. So we get surprised when suddenly people die Or when things suddenly go wrong. He urges us to think that our fate is in the hands of the Goddess of Fortune. Now, the Goddess of Fortune was held to be a woman who commanded all of our destinies and the thing about her is that she is entirely fickle. She is cruel, vain and at any point decide that we may die and some of us will succeed etc. Essentially, she is an uncontrollable entity in our lives. In ancient Rome, the Goddess of Fortune was everywhere. There was her statue and she was on the back of the coins, etc. And her message was most of our lives in the hands of somebody else. And however much we try and achieve rational control, she will probably at some point get us.

@9:28
In order to try and cope with the vagaries of fortune, Seneca counselled us to undertake what he called in Latin, Pri meditatio , a premeditation. He advised that every morning, in bed, before getting up, you should run through in your mind the whole day ahead of you and imagine every single disaster that could occur to you. Not because it would necessarily occur, but it would protect you.

Now, I just want us to go through what Seneca says in his premeditation. He says

The wise would start each day with the thought that fortune gives us nothing which we can really own, nothing whether public or private which is stable. The destinies of men, no less than those of cities, are in a whirl. How often have cities in Asia been laid low by the single shock of an earthquake? How many towns in Syria? We live in the middle of things that have all been destined to die. Mortal have you been born and to mortals have you given birth. So reckon on everything, expect everything to die.

A year later, the town of Pompei was destroyed. In other words, we live on unstable ground. We must accept this as our very fundamental starting point. We must not react with injured surprise to bad things. These bad things are written into the contract of life. “No should have a child,” argued Seneca, “without the ability to tolerate the thought that the child may be dead by evening.”

@10:54
[I have two children] [LAUGHS]

He gives us some lovely quotes which are oddly cheery. He says, “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.” There is also a lovely quote from him that says, “A man must swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more disgusting in the day ahead.”

Essentially, the starting point has to be much more pessimistic. Interesting thing is, I always cheer up when I read this sort of stuff. And I think the reason is some of the darkest thinkers are [consoling]. Listening to Leonard Cohen cheers you up. It makes you feel that somehow you are not alone in your sadness. That sadness, which can seem like an aberration, a departure from the norm, is in fact the basic default mode of human beings. And so works of art have a huge role in confirming these dark hunches.

@12:00
It’s very unfortunate that we live a world full of hope. We live in a world surrounded by self-help books. And one of the things about self-help books is they’re constantly telling us to get up, get out of bed and achieve things and do wonderful things. I undertook a study of self-help genre and I came across a self-help book, which is perhaps one of the most depressing books I have ever read. It’s by Antony Robbins. I don’t know if any of you know him. Please don’t read him if you don’t. A few years ago, he wrote a book called “Awake The Giant Within.” And the essential point of it is that all of us are small, he says, but all of us have a potential Giant. And by reading his book (16$ on amazon), we can start to grow and do amazing things. He described how he was once poor and small and depressed and fat as well, but he went on a diet and … I have got a quote for you here:

I have got a magical power in me to take back control of my physical well-being. I permanently rid myself of 38 pounds of fat. Through this dramatic weight-loss, I attracted a the woman of my dreams and married her and I created a family I’d always desired. I used my power to change my income from subsistence level to over 10 million $ a year. This moved me from a tiny apartment where I was wish-washing my dishes in the bath tub because there was no kitchen to my family’s current home, a Spanish style del Mar (by the sea) castle.

We know the types of self-help books that are out there and they are very depressing. And they are part of a wider movement. That is the feeling that everybody can succeed. That opportunity is not just for the few. It’s for the many. This is the message we hear from every single politician who ever stands up on a pulpit. “Everyone can do it.” No one should hold you back. You can do it. It’s a beautiful idea. Except it’s got some serious drawbacks. One of the most serious drawbacks is that it constantly leaves us feeling envious. Let me talk to you about envy.

@14:08
The interesting thing about envy is you don’t envy everybody. It’s, I think, unusual for anyone in this room to envy the Queen. I don’t envy the Queen. We don’t envy the Queen because she is too weird. She is just so remote from us, we can’t really relate to her. However, who in this room has not envied someone at their school reunion or by reading in the paper about someone they were once in school with? Anyone not felt that emotion?

Basically, the reason for this is a sense of opportunity. We don’t feel we would envy the Queen because she is too distant. We don’t feel equal to her. Soon as you feel equal to somebody, soon as you feel, “I am basically more or less like this person and I could do this too,” but you haven’t done what the person has done. Then you’ll start to get envious and depressed. So, a feeling of opportunity and equality and the fact that everybody can make it, this is a very very depressing starting point which constantly leaves us feeling we haven’t achieved enough.

@15:25
When I was doing my study of American self-help books, it struck me that if you look at self-help shelves, there are really two kinds of books. The first kind of book is like the Antony Robbins kind of book – “You can do it. you can make it. It’s out there.” The other kind are the books telling you how to cope with what is euphemistically called “Low Self-Esteem.” And I think there is a real relationship between envy and low self-esteem.

A society that tells people that they can achieve anything, will also be a society that very swiftly develops the problem of low self-esteem. Because, if everybody expects to achieve everything, you will get awful lot of people who are feeling that something has gone dramatically wrong with their lives. It’s probably as unlikely for you to become Bill Gates today as it was unlikely in the 17th century that you can join the ranks of the French aristocracy. But it doesn’t feel like that.

It feels, opening many magazines etc., that if you had a garage and you had some idea about software and a few bright ideas and contacts, you could get there. Simple, really!

Only, it’s not! Statistically, it is unbelievably small. I was talking to somebody in venture capital the other day who said to me that 98% of all business ideas ever submitted will fail. We don’t hear that. We don’t hear those stories. We are focused on a very very small minority.

Another thing that you always hear, another very optimistic but very depressing idea, is the idea of meritocracy. Meritocracy is the idea that if we all work hard enough at making society fair, we will be able to build a world where anybody can make it. You hear politicians from all sides of the spectrum praising meritocracy. “How can we get the school system working well enough that it can make a meritocratic world come true?”

Now, the interesting thing about Meritocracy is that it’s got some very nasty, cruel side-effects. If you really believe that we can build a world where everybody’s gonna end up where they merit to be, where they deserve to be, you’ll also end up with a society in which anybody who doesn’t make it deserves not to make it. If you believe in a world where those who get to the top merit their success, you are implicitly also setting up a society where people deserve to fail. And the more people believe that we do live in a meritocracy, the more people will be very hard on themselves if they fail and very tough on others. I remember a while ago, I was in America, which is often the center of meritocracy in many ways and, I was at a dinner with some friends and everybody had a bit too much drink. There were a lot of jokes being made about White trash and Trailer trash. There was lots of hilarity of trailer trash and how funny it was that people were on the edge of the cities in caravans with their children, and I said “Well hang on a minute. This doesn’t sound particularly funny.”

And this friends of mine says, you know, “This makes my blood boil. You come from Europe and you are a socialist and you believe that there is something wrong with this kind of attitude. Whereas really, I only got to where I got because I have worked hard. My father was an alcoholic. But I made it to the top. I made it because of me and so I deserve to be at the top. And if someone is in a trailer home, then they are in a trailer home and well, it’s their problem. And don’t expect me to pay for them.”

Now this is the attitude you hear. And it’s the attitude precisely because of meritocracy. I think that it is absolutely impossible to have a meritocracy. It’s completely crazy to imagine that we will ever reach a society where people really deserve their success and totally deserve their failure. There are simply too many factors in anybody’s life and to expect that you can take a reading of somebody’s life and determine from that whether they deserve to be there or not is simply unbelievable. Again, if you go back to Romans and the Stoics, and think of the Goddess of fortune, an ancient Roman who did well did not think that he or she was responsible for the success. They knew that the Goddess of fortune had done it. So, instantly, if something went right, you went to give an offering to the Goddess of Fortune to basically say thank you.

“I didn’t sell my company for million pounds.”

“I didn’t win public office.”

The Goddess of fortune gave this to me. It’s a gift ad that gift may be taken away. That gift says nothing about me. That gift, as it were, was in the hands of somebody else. Again, we have lost sight of this. We have become much more optimistic. We believe we are in control of our destinies and with that belief in control comes serious self-esteem.

@20:20
People commit suicide, weirdly, a lot more nowadays and a lot more in societies which are felt to be individualistic. Where the individual is felt to be entirely in control of his destiny, the rates of suicide goes up. And the reason for that is all failure is assumed to be a personal point of blame. so people assume their success and assume personally their failure. And that’s why rates of suicide are higher.

The interesting thing about a recession is that in recessions, certain kinds of suicide go down in number. Why is that? Because suddenly there is a public explanation for failure. And that public explanation is a huge burden that’s lifted off our backs. In fact, people continue to fail at all times of the economic cycle. But suddenly there is a a publicly available story for why there is a failure. And that publicly available story is very important. And what I want to suggest is these stories of public failure have disappeared in the narrative we tell ourselves about what life is like. I mean, if we look at the history of work and how people view work. Nowadays people expect that their work will be an arena of fulfilment and happiness. That is the sort of basic assumption that we have, One that’s constantly held before us. A completely insane idea historically, where work was assumed to be… I mean if you listened to the ancient Greeks, work is slavery. And if you want to have a good life, you simply have to take yourself out of the financial system. You cannot.

The pleasurable sides of existence are not those circumscribed within the boundaries of work. And in early Christianity, a similar kind of belief that work is essentially a punishment for the sins of Adam. That’s why we toil. That idea starts to disappear by the time you get to the 18th century, bourgeois philosophers are singing the praises of work. Work is a place to realize yourself, to become yourself, something precious you can take out of yourself and getting paid for it. A beutiful idea, but again, an idea with all sorts of casualties. Because the optimistic idea of work kicks in at the same time that the optimistic idea of love comes about. The mid-18th century is a curious time. A lot of bourgeois philosophers come up with a new idea of love. Suddenly, The idea is that you should marry you love. Completely mad idea, historically.

@22:49
Previously, you didn’t marry someone you loved. You’d marry somebody who’s got a farm next door. You hand over the family property. That’s how you do it. But suddenly a new idea… no, you should marry someone that you love and that’s how marriage should work. And similarly, you should get a job that you love as well. You should realize yourself.

So, suddenly these two vital safety valves, the hobby and the Mistress go out of the window. For hundreds of years, your real life happens on the weekend and evenings in your spare time. That’s the time of enjoyment. And similarly, your real love life goes in extra-curricular activity. But suddenly, this better idea of love marriage.

I know some people who are happily married and I know some people who really enjoy their jobs. But they are a real minority. I would estimate around 5% of people I have ever come across in that lucky band. So, it’s very odd that the other 95% of us have before us an idea of normality, an ideal which has failed 95% of us. It’s a very very bizarre philosophy of life that we should be holding up as “normal” something which is clearly, almost beautifully rare.

@24:19
I want to talk more about the cheerful sides of pessimism. And how to be happily sad. One of the things that I think we should all do a lot more is put skulls on our desks. In the middle ages and the early modern period, a vital piece of interior design was a skull. If you finished a beautiful desk, a mahogany desk or whatever, you’d put your quill and a skull. A skull was something you’d always put on your desk. And the reason for that is that as you are doing your work, you would always look at the skull and think “I am gonna be like him in a little while.”

The point was not to despair but, precisely, to focus on what’s important. Because I think one of the things about the thought of death is that it doesn’t make you think that life is meaningless. Far from it. It simply readjusts your priorities. Any of us who have been near death experience or let’s face it, all of us are in near death experiences. We are near death experience right now because you know you could fall on your head. So, life is a near death experience. But any of us who have experienced near death experience will report the following things; that somethings started to matter a lot and other things started to matter a bit less. And the things that tend to matter a lot less are what other people think about you and certain aspects of your career. And the things that tend to matter a lot more are what people you really like think of you (very unusual idea, but something that only occurs to us on our death bed). So, the contemplation of death, a very very important of a healthy life and I would like all of us to reflect on death more regularly.

@25:56
If you are a tourist, head out to see some ruins. There are some wonderful ruins in ancient Egypt, in Greece… But also, there are some modern industrial ruins. Head up north to parts of Northern England. Head to the Mojave desert where there is a famous AirPlane graveyard where most of current world airlines are parked. It’s good to see modern civilization in crumbling to bits. It’s good to see what would happen to us in time, to make us properly at home. I think we live in a world where human achievement is right at the center of what we do. And we constantly have held before us great human achievements. It’s very important to balance that by getting out into nature, getting out into bits of history where we see the marks of time written into the landscape. Anything which, as if it were, puts into perspective in some way. There’s a nice way of feeling small, I suppose, I want to say. Very often, we are made to feel small by people, work, or in social life, who patronize us etc. I want to invite us to feel small in relation to the really big things: eternity, time, death. These are good things to feel small in front of. That’s why many of us enjoy going off to see a glacier, say, or looking down at the Earth from an aeroplane or thinking about the Polar ice caps. These vast empty spaces make us feel small in a way which alleviates us from that agonizing sense of self-importance and egoism, which is otherwise clinging to us like a bad smell. So, head out to glaciers, head out to anywhere which makes you feel properly small.

@27:41
The other thing, of course, that you can do with sadness is to discover works of art that are sad. And if you are feeling a bit sad, my advice to you is to find an artist who somehow says NOT “life is cheerful.” That’s a devil’s talk that life is cheerful. An artist who somehow makes it even grimmer. Read someone like the philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. Read PAscal, listen to Leonard Cohen. Or indeed listen to Elton John. There is a lovely song by Elton John called “Sad Songs (Say so Much).” Listen to the first verse:

Guess there are times when we all need to share a little pain
And ironing out the rough spots
Is the hardest part when memories remain
And it’s times like these when we all need to hear the radio
`Cause from the lips of some old singer
We can share the troubles we already know

So, in other words, a sense of confirmation. It’s through the sad song that our own sadness is alleviated. And on that note, I’d like to all to sing a little bit of Sad Songs… [Song plays from @28:44 to @30:25 ]

@30:26
Now, the other thing that sadness and sad songs ad pessimism, generally, can do is to improve your sex appeal. It’s a little known fact, very rarely spoken of in the pages of fashion magazines that sadness can bring you dates. And it’s very often thought that if you are not getting out enough, if you are not feeling attractive, if you are not pulling people in, then maybe you should feel happier, more cheerful and suggest an image that your life is going well. I’d like to draw your attention to the leaflet that where you can find a picture by Edward Hopper called “Automat.” Here’s a woman in a cafe and I think she is rather cute. And I think one of the reasons she is cute is because she is sad. Now, imagine this woman with a group of her girl-friends, giggling away. Things have gotten really happy. she has got a promotion. She is so happy she is waving her arms about. Instantly, I’d find her less attractive. I think the reason is, when we think about love and falling in love, one of the things I think we want to do is to touch other peope’s sadness. [It could sound rather creepy]. But what we really want ina relationship is to share the sad things. I mean, what’s the point of having a relationship in which you are cheerful all the time. you want to have a relationship where you can somhow unite your sadness with somebody else’s sadness. Relationships are built around shared griefs. And letting a little bit of that shared grief show, even on a first date, is a good thing. Confessing how lonely you ahve recently been is a good thing. Particularly, I think there is a gender divide. I have to be honest. I think most men (I speak personally); most men like someone who’s been in a lot. we feel relaxed and coming back to impotence, very cheered up by the sense that the woman hasn’t got too many dates and that she is a little bit alone. [Looks at his watch] Time is ticking on. I’m gonna bring things to a close.

@32:27
I think one of the things that I want you to take away from today is the advantages of living your dark moments fully, living your sadness to the full. Not seeing it as some aberration but seeing it as something that is an intrinsic part of life. You shouldn’t run away from it. you should embrace it. And standing in your room with Elton John at full blast, you should embrace sadness. Also read some Nietzsche.

@33:01
Let me quote a little bit from Nietzsche. He says –
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished.”

In other words, Nietzsche, one of the greatest philosophers of 19th century, is advising us that anyone he cares about, he wants them to suffer. Now what on Earth is going on there. The reason is simple. Nietzsche believed, like many of those who’ve studied the question, that somehow, there is a real relationship between the ability to suffer – the ability to endure suffering and live suffering and look suffering in the face – and the capacity to do anything important or good.

@33:49
Let me read you another bit from Nietzsche.

If you refuse to let your suffering lie upon you even for an hour and if you constantly try to prevent and forestall all possible distress way ahead of time; if you experience suffering and displeasure as evil, hateful, worthy of annihilation, and as a defect of existence, then it is clear that [you harbor in your heart]… the religion of comfortableness. How little you know of human happiness, you comfortable little people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, shall remain small together.

In other words, there is a real relationship between the capacity to endure suffering and the capacity to do great things. It’s not a coincidence that Nietzsche was a teetotaler.

@34:34
His favorite drink was milk and he advised us never to drink. Please, none of you who want to be Nitzschians, don’t go to the pub now. The reason for this is … let’s think about what alcohol does. Alcohol is one of those things that… if you feel a little bit sad, got some problems, what do you do – drink. And what happens after you’ve had a few drinks. You feel a bit more cheerful. Now this is absolutely disastros advice for Nietzsche. Because he believed that it is in moments of darkness that we have our best insights into what we need in life. If we try and stop feeling envious immediately, if we try and stop feeling bad, if when writing a book we feel happy with immediately, we will never do anything good. the capacity to tolerate suffering, the capacity to be pessimistic comfortably, to endure passages of peesimism is absolutely essential. And that’s why Nietzsche thought that alcohol was a very very bad idea.

@35:28
Now there is something else that Nietzsche thought was a bad idea. And I’m speaking in an appropriate place and that’s Christianity. And he called Christianity and alcohol the two great narcotics of European civilization. And he believed that Christianity is bad for the very same reason that alcohol is bad. The reason that Christianity is bad (do excuse any body here who is a believer) is because it makes us feel good too quickly. If you are worried about timidity, the New Testament tells you – “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth.” If you are worried about having no friends, the New Testament says – “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you. And when they shall seprate you from their company.” If you are worried about an exploitative job, te New Testament advices – “Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.”

So, in other words, you quickly feel a lot better about a lot of things. Now Nietzsche famously argued that all of us actually want many good things. We want an active sex life, we don’t want to be meek, we quite want to be clever, we want to have good jobs. But some of us give up too quickly. And we give up too quickly because we are addicted to comfortableness. And Christianity for Nietzsche was a religion that turned all these things on its head. It was a hypocritical creed which denounces what people actually want, but are too often too weak to fight for. And it praises what many of us don’t want but happen to have. So, in the Christian view, powerlessnewss becomes goodness. Baseness becomes humility. Submission to people one hates becomes obedience. And in Nietzsche’s phrase, “Not being able to take revenge turns into forgiveness.” Now, Nietzsche thought that was all a very very bad idea. Now, incidentally, he was poor, totally forgotten, and in many ways wretched. But the very difference, he thought, was that he embraced the darkness. He didn’t say I’m sad. He didn’t say there are things wrong with my life but then “not really wrong.” He said there are things wrong with my life and I am sad about it. He embraced the pessimism. He admitted to the pessimism.

And this is really the essence of what I’m trying to say now. That pessimism is a feature of life. It’s a feature of life we often run away from. By running away from it too quickly, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to embrace this darkness and to embrace the lessons that it often brings. And we often also cut ourselves off from the deepest kind of relationships which we can have with other human beings which are relationships based around a confession of suffering. and I think, essentially, all good friendships are about confession of one sort or another. They are confession of things that the rest of the world thinks as unacceptable, but are in fact part of human life. So, all of us now… we can have a little bit of time to have some tea and there’s also gonna be a confessional box, but what I hope you take away from the next few minutes is gonna be a sense of shared communion around the dark things and a capacity to admit among ourselves, just how hard we find everybody and life. So, join me in being sad and eating some mis-fortune cookies. Thank you all very much and I hope that today goes quite badly.

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