It is easiest to accept happiness when it is brought about through things that one can control, that one has achieved after much effort and reason. But the happiness I had reached with Chloe had not come as a result of any personal achievement or effort. It was simply the outcome of having, by a miracle of divine intervention, found a person whose company was more valuable to me than that of anyone else in the world. Such happiness was dangerous precisely because it was so lacking in self-sufficient permanence. Had I after months of steady labor produced a scientific formula that had rocked the world of molecular biology, I would have had no qualms about accepting the happiness that had ensued from such a discovery. The difficulty of accepting the happiness Chloe represented came from my absence in the causal process leading to it, and hence my lack of control over the happiness-inducing element in my life. It seemed to have been arranged by the gods, and was hence accompanied by all the primitive fear of divine retribution.
„All of man’s unhappiness comes from an inability to stay in his room alone,“ said Pascal, advocating a need for man to build up his own resources over and against a debilitating dependence on the social sphere. But how could this possibly be achieved in love? Proust tells the story of Mohammed II, who, sensing that he was falling in love with one of the wives in his harem, at once had her killed because he did not wish to live in spiritual bondage to another. Short of this approach, I had long ago given up hope of achieving self-sufficiency. I had gone out of my room, and begun to love another – thereby taking on the risk inseparable from basing one’s life around another human being.
(Alain de Botton – On Love)
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