I first discovered Alain de Botton’s “Essays in Love” at 22 and still young enough to keep tabs on when writers wrote what. de Botton was 23 so I felt hypothetically, I had a year. (victim of the arrogance of youth) Since then, he has written on every single subject I ever wanted to write about – status, architecture, Proust, travel, work, airports – and now back to love (not to mention his School of Life). In his new novel “The Course of Love,” he provides what has been lacking in the art of love stories, how to understand the transition from passionate love (Romanticism/ Before marriage) to companionate love (Enlightened Romantic Pessimism / Many years after marriage) and the strong role that psychology plays in being able to tolerate each other’s “crazy.” That in the future, the main thing we will want to know about a potential partner is “How crazy are you?”
The only way for couples to perpetually exist in a state of magical enthusiasm is to die at the height of that feeling, this is one of the first things we learn from Romeo and Juliet. de Botton reveals that during the lifespan of a marriage, we all realize we married the wrong person. Instead of finding a soulmate, what we in fact decided on and found was a particular kind of suffering to spend the rest of our lives dealing with. Not until we realize this, can we really enjoy/understand/practice the institution of marriage and be more accepting and kinder to our chosen form of misery.
The biggest culprit in misaligning everyone’s general understanding of love and its discontents lies heavily in the hands of representation in literature, love songs, and the movies. If only we had more movies and books about the separation of sex and love at times, the helpless infant living within us all, and how normal it is to just be bored most of the time, then maybe there would be less failed marriages and more people reaching the heights of companionate love (happening sometime in our golden years). Love starts not with the finding but after the marriage.
You can find a similar message/ problem in Episode 3 of “Ecke Weserstraße” which I must applaud is so much better than the first two episodes. Here we have a group of young, urban, creative, internationals living in the coolest area of Berlin but their lives just don’t live up to the blogs, movies, drugged experiences and pop culture representations of what a cool life should be. Most of the time, they’re just bored, broke, and subliminally conscious that their way of existence is not sustainable (fireworks… no sparklers). If what fucked up Madame Bovary’s understanding of marriage was too many romance novels, in “Ecke Weserstraße” it comes from checking out too many travel blogs of couples documenting their romantic nomad getaways. (The girlfriend was so believable) Real jobs are boring and at times ridiculous so much so you just want to send off a Snapchat letter of resignation or make paper airplanes. As if life couldn’t get any worse, the hottest place to live now is Echo Park (like Berlin from the 90s or more Berlin than Berlin) as conveyed by a German to another German in stilted English.
Ironically, while watching this episode on YouTube as two of the flatmates portrayed a montage of a Berlin summer romance, I realized after all these years living in Berlin I never had a Berlin summer romance… but then I realized no, my life is not a YouTube episode, I will just be waiting in lines for gelato and trying to avoid the sun.