So, you’ll be aware that I recently read A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton. While I was fairly underwhelmed by the previous title, I felt that the writing was promising, and had heard only wonderful things about de Botton’s work, so I felt that a second-chance was due. I’m so very, very glad I did. I took philosophy in the first year of my Arts degree, and loved it, even though I’m not very sure that I understood it. I didn’t pursue it because I was given a scholarship to study Literature & History, but I would’ve loved to continue with it, if not for the money. Mind you, I also felt as though even though it was a fun flight of fancy to sit around pondering big questions without really giving any answers, I never really saw the potential of philosophy of having any practical application to life. Lofty ideas on ivory towers, really.
De Botton has changed that. Well, perhaps not changed it, but at least made those lofty ideas applicable to the everyman, in a way they just might be able to use or at very least understand. What a spectacular book.
De Botton takes the time to look at some of life’s big challenges through the lens of one school of philosophical thought:
- Consolation for Unpopularity (Socrates)
- Consolation for Not Having Enough Money (Epicurus)
- Consolation for Frustration (Seneca)
- Consolation for Inadequacy (Montaigne)
- Consolation for a Broken Heart (Schopenhauer)
- Consolation for Difficulties (Nietzsche)
My particular favourite was the chapter on Epicurus (what does that say about me, I wonder? Well, I’m a stay at home mum who used to earn a university educator’s salary. I’m feeling the lack of money these days. Kids are expensive!). More than that, though, it was nice to relive that philosophical part of me that hasn’t been indulged for quite some time. Books like this make philosophy no longer just the exclusive domain for academia and ivory towers, but a useful part of everyday life.
What’s the lesson? Philosophy is awesome, and so is Alain de Botton! (Not my most poignant lesson, I realise. Perhaps I need to re-read Consolation for Inadequacy!)