28 March 2009

How Proust Can Change your Lie...erm...Life.

One of the chapters of this Alain de Botton book that I am presently re-reading is called "How to Open your Eyes". 
It starts with the following sentence: "Proust once wrote an essay in which he set out to restore a smile to the face of a gloomy, envious, and dissatisfied young man
Proust had a theory that seeing a painting by Jean-Baptiste Chardin could quell said young man's need for the lush and opulent goods he was so often seeing (and missing from his own life) in other works at the Louvre, and how he could learn, through seeing this artist's subject matter, how to see the beauty in simple things such as a sideboard, a loaf of bread, or a coffeepot, just as much as in villas and kings and diamond-studded door handles. Because, with this diversion, the man could once more associate himself with the greatness of art, and an art that actually lay within his corporeal grasp.

...beauty is something to be found, rather than passively encountered...it requires us to pick up on certain details, to identify the whiteness of a cotton dress, the reflection of the sea on the hull of a yacht, or the contrast between the color of a jockey's coat and his face. It also emphasizes how vulnerable we are to depression when the [painters] of the world choose not to go on holiday and the pre-prepared images run out...
The moral? That we shouldn't deny the bread on the sideboard a place in our conception of beauty, that we should shoot the painter rather than the spring and blame memory rather than what is remembered...

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