Slo Mo: A Podcast with Mo Gawdat

Alain De Botton (Part 1) - How to Love and Avoid Loneliness

July 26, 2020 Mo Gawdat and Alain de Botton Episode 29
Slo Mo: A Podcast with Mo Gawdat
Alain De Botton (Part 1) - How to Love and Avoid Loneliness
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Slo Mo: A Podcast with Mo Gawdat
Alain De Botton (Part 1) - How to Love and Avoid Loneliness
Jul 26, 2020 Episode 29
Mo Gawdat and Alain de Botton

One of the most requested guests by Slo Mo's listeners has been British-Swiss philosopher, Alain de Botton, and I'm honored to have him on this episode and the next to talk about one of my favorite topics: Love. This is Part 1 of a two-part episode, and it may just be the paradigm shift you're looking for if you're facing challenges in the realm of love, be it giving love or receiving it (and let's be honest: who isn't?)

Alain de Botton is a philosoper and writer of essayistic books that have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life." He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries and have sold millions of copies. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. His latest book, published in September 2019, is a collection of essays written for The School of Life, titled The School of Life: An Emotional Education.

I love talking about love, just as much as I'm happy to discuss happiness. Alain's body and scope of work is so vast, I decided to focus this conversation entirely on love, sex, and relationships. I'm so glad I did.

Listen as we discuss:

  • What is love? Alain's definition of love: 'when two people meet in their raw condition.'
  • How the opposite extreme of love is Loneliness, not Hatred.
  • How Life is a desperate emergency, and if we can just admit that, things open up.
  • Why Christianity gives a privileged role to those who suffer
  • One of the most honest takes on sex you'll ever hear
  • How we're always trying to get our life as close as possible to our true reality
  • If we're all imperfect, doesn't that make imperfection perfect?
  • How we've replaced happiness with "fun" just as we've replaced love with "romance"
  • The contradictions in love and how they're only glaring because they violate a script or story we expect from our relationship
  • How we shouldn't be held accountable for what we feel, but rather the actions we take based on those feelings.
  • Reinterpreting the typical disaster scenario in a relationship when one partner cheats on another

Instagram: @mo_gawdat
Facebook: @mo.gawdat.official
Twitter: @mgawdat
LinkedIn: /in/mogawdat

Connect with Alain de Botton on Twitter @alaindebotton and alaindebotton.com

Don't forget to subscribe to Slo Mo for new episodes every Monday and Thursday. Only with your help can we reach One Billion Happy #onebillionhappy.

Show Notes Transcript

One of the most requested guests by Slo Mo's listeners has been British-Swiss philosopher, Alain de Botton, and I'm honored to have him on this episode and the next to talk about one of my favorite topics: Love. This is Part 1 of a two-part episode, and it may just be the paradigm shift you're looking for if you're facing challenges in the realm of love, be it giving love or receiving it (and let's be honest: who isn't?)

Alain de Botton is a philosoper and writer of essayistic books that have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life." He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries and have sold millions of copies. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. His latest book, published in September 2019, is a collection of essays written for The School of Life, titled The School of Life: An Emotional Education.

I love talking about love, just as much as I'm happy to discuss happiness. Alain's body and scope of work is so vast, I decided to focus this conversation entirely on love, sex, and relationships. I'm so glad I did.

Listen as we discuss:

  • What is love? Alain's definition of love: 'when two people meet in their raw condition.'
  • How the opposite extreme of love is Loneliness, not Hatred.
  • How Life is a desperate emergency, and if we can just admit that, things open up.
  • Why Christianity gives a privileged role to those who suffer
  • One of the most honest takes on sex you'll ever hear
  • How we're always trying to get our life as close as possible to our true reality
  • If we're all imperfect, doesn't that make imperfection perfect?
  • How we've replaced happiness with "fun" just as we've replaced love with "romance"
  • The contradictions in love and how they're only glaring because they violate a script or story we expect from our relationship
  • How we shouldn't be held accountable for what we feel, but rather the actions we take based on those feelings.
  • Reinterpreting the typical disaster scenario in a relationship when one partner cheats on another

Instagram: @mo_gawdat
Facebook: @mo.gawdat.official
Twitter: @mgawdat
LinkedIn: /in/mogawdat

Connect with Alain de Botton on Twitter @alaindebotton and alaindebotton.com

Don't forget to subscribe to Slo Mo for new episodes every Monday and Thursday. Only with your help can we reach One Billion Happy #onebillionhappy.

Mo Gawdat :

I am so glad you could join us. I'm your host, Mo Gawdat. This podcast is nothing more than a conversation between two good friends, sharing inspiring life stories and perhaps some nuggets of wisdom along the way. This is your invitation to slow down with us. Welcome to Slo Mo. My guest today has been the most requested guest by Slo Mo listeners since we started. A world-renowned philosopher and international best-selling author, Alain de Botton. Alain has written on love, travel, architecture, and literature. His books have been described as philosophy of everyday life. Alain started and helps run The School of Life, a school in London dedicated to a new vision of education, something that I personally believe we desperately need. His latest book, published in September 2019, is a collection of essays titled "The School of Life: An Emotional Education". What an honor to have you with me today, Alain.

Alain de Botton :

Hello.

Mo Gawdat :

Hello.

Alain de Botton :

Hi.

Mo Gawdat :

Good to see you.

Alain de Botton :

Very nice to see you. Thank you. I'm so glad this could happen.

Mo Gawdat :

Oh my god, I can't believe we finally meet. You have no idea how many people recommended that we meet.

Alain de Botton :

Likewise!

Mo Gawdat :

I'll start by saying I wanted to discuss around a thousand topics with you. And so I ended up having to prioritize and I...I don't know if that will please my listeners, but I want to talk about love. And I have to tell you upfront that I almost agree with almost all of your views on it, other than a couple. So, let's start with the alignment, first, if you don't mind. What - and I actually, this is, I swear this is a question. This is not a trick question. What is love? When I say I love someone or something, what does that mean? I know the feeling. But I honestly don't know what it is.

Alain de Botton :

Look, I think one way to look at it is to think of love as a form of deep connection to another human being. Now, what does it mean to connect? It doesn't merely mean to talk. It doesn't merely mean to be in somebody's presence, though these things can help. It means a very specific kind of dialogue. And if I can put it sort of metaphysically, I think it is when two souls meet. Now what is the soul? I think the soul is the vulnerable, essential self. It's who we are in the middle of the night. It's who we are when we're scared. It's who we are when we're most alive. It's who we are, when we're joyful. It's something - it's the profound bit of us. And when the profound bit of me meets the profound bit of you, and there is understanding and sympathy, I think then we are getting close to something like love. And, you know, let me say, this is quite possible between two people who will never take each other's clothes off, or perhaps even meet in physical space. It's a moment of love. I mean, the opposite of love is isolation, disconnection, feeling of total loneliness, and -

Mo Gawdat :

Not hate.

Alain de Botton :

No, I mean, no, I think that's no, I would make a continuum with love at one end, and loneliness at the other.

Mo Gawdat :

So interesting.

Alain de Botton :

So we are most loved and we feel closest to love at those moments when we can show ourselves as we really are, and another person can show themselves to us. These moments are rare, you know, for reasons that are worth exploring. You know, part of what it means to be an adult is to be defended against all sorts of risks - risks of humiliation, attack, belittlement, etc. We have a lot of armor. And we're very far, often, from being in a state where we can meet another person in our raw condition. But when we do, I think that can be a moment of, of love. And so love does involve risk. It involves giving something to somebody that they could use against you and but hopefully won't. And it genuinely is a relief from the worst thing in the world, which is, as I say, isolation, alienation.

Mo Gawdat :

So I see that, and I agree, by the way, and it's such an interesting point of view. The question, though, is: so love between two people is different than, I always say, "I love butterflies". Right? And I sort of have the same feeling - I don't know how to explain that - of the way I, I want butterflies in my life like the way I want my dear departed son in my life. And there is that same, almost same, exact feeling. And, and my challenge as an engineer, is I can actually explain with logic every other emotion. Like fear is a moment in the future, is a little more risky than a moment in the present. Right? And that's fear. Very simple to understand. But love, I don't get. What is it? So I - connection? Do I feel like I belong to this other thing? I want this thing in my life? I want to be with that other thing? What does it mean?

Alain de Botton :

Well, okay, so let's move as engineers, to borrow your engineering mindset. If we want to try and build an equation. I mean, look. One thing I'm struck by, is that there's something around vulnerability. There is something around weakness, seems quite connected to the deeper form of communion between two people. If I call up a friend and I say, "How are you?", and they go, "I'm terrific. I just got a million-dollar raise, and my relationship's great", I might admire them, but I don't feel close to them. In fact, I might feel very lonely. If I call them up and they go, "I can't bear it. Sometimes I just want to kill myself. I'm so sad about so many things. I'm so worried about some things", I feel connected to that.

Mo Gawdat :

Interesting.

Alain de Botton :

So something very important is going on when we hear about other people's problems. I mean look, I think that life is a desperate emergency for all of us.

Mo Gawdat :

(Laughs) All the time!

Alain de Botton :

Pretty much. Pretty much all the time. I think it is a desperate journey. We almost just can't even admit it to ourselves how desperate it is, but it is desperate. All the time. And I think when we can just admit that to another human being and feel that they suffer as we do, then this is the beginning of something special. I was joking to a friend who's going through a lot of pain. And we were discussing the ideal community. And the ideal community would be - I don't mean to be adolescent or macabre, or whatever - would be one in which everyone in the community would have, at one point, gone through an experience that they thought, "I'm not going to be able to make this. I will take my own life", but they decided to keep going. Those who've gone there, and who would be willing to live that reality openly - because some people might have lived that and just not go there ever again - those who are able to acknowledge what that means, they will be friends; we have the deepest sort of community. Look, let's go to Christianity. So, for Christianity, human beings are broken - by necessity. We are imperfect beings, abandoned by our Creator, in a world which we can't control, which is constantly mysterious, etc. There is the danger of pride - "superbia" in Latin. Pride cuts us off from other people and from love. Correct. It basically means I don't need anyone. I'm okay. I'm solid. But the reason why in Christianity the weak and the poor and the desperate have such a privileged role, is because they are the ones who know about their need for others - their need for God and their need for others closer to them. So I think all this is starting to tell us things about what is really going on, what we really want in love. And look, I mean, let's get sexual here. Some people will say, might say, "well, this has got nothing to do with like, you know, the birds and the bees, or, like, young people, and getting together with somebody, and again... let's look at what sex is: deeply strange, embarrassing, vulnerable -

Mo Gawdat :

Very unlike the image you show on the outside world, right?

Alain de Botton :

Sure! So to be able to show yourself sexually to another person and be accepted - wow! What an amazing thing. We call it sexy. But that's just a shorthand for "amazing" and "close" and "intimate" and "loving". I don't mean in a sort of sweet, lovey-dovey way - I mean, I just mean, "amazing". If you have a kink that you've never told anyone. And - I don't know, you like to be observed across 200 meters in a park, while you wear a particular kind of sock or something - and you are able to tell someone and someone is able to welcome that and integrate that into their life.

Mo Gawdat :

Yeah.

Alain de Botton :

You're much less lonely. That's an act of love. So I think we often look at sex as some completely foreign, weird realm that comes along and disrupts love, and it does in some moods. But it also belongs to the project of love, around getting to be known by somebody else in our most vulnerable deep selves.

Mo Gawdat :

And I think that moment of connection, really, is: here is who I really am, entirely bare. Bare of my clothes, but also bare of my masks. The ego as I go through life; this is me, without pretending to be anything that I'm not...

Alain de Botton :

Yeah.

Mo Gawdat :

...and accepted. And I think sex in that manner is definitely a very powerful love tool.

Alain de Botton :

I think there's a real longing in every human being to try and get their life as close as possible to their reality. We can't do it all the time and in all contexts. And of course, sometimes we have to be in inverted commas, professional, etc. But I think the longing, which drives us in our friendships and our relationships and our relationship art is the desire to be ourselves - properly ourselves - around others. And I think that sometimes when people have a breakdown - what gets called a "breakdown" - it's often because the gap between the deep self and the sort of surface self has grown so huge and there seems no way of allowing the world into your reality. And you just feel like having a breakdown is the only option. But I think often behind the breakdown is a desire for authenticity and...

Mo Gawdat :

Yeah, to stop pretending.

Alain de Botton :

...for love, in a deep sense.

Mo Gawdat :

Yeah. Can I go to one of my favorite comments from yours is the idea that we're imperfect creatures, and in every possible way, I love that concept of how the modern world tries to convince us that the way to succeed and progress and find the place in life, if you want, is to be as perfect as you can, while in reality, it's almost the design itself is imperfection. Which, in a funny way, makes the word "imperfection" an oxymoron. Because if all of us are imperfect, then that by definition is perfection, isn't it? I mean, what is wrong with us accepting the fact that to be a perfect human you have to be little irrational, you have to be a little insane, you have to be a little... And you talk about that a lot. So would you tell us a bit about that point of view of: I'm imperfect and I'm okay with it.

Alain de Botton :

I mean, again, you know we started with love. Love is the acceptance of somebody's imperfections. If you think of how a parent loves a child, most parents know that their children are very flawed and, you know, not perfect. They don't need to be perfect, but it's okay not to be perfect, you will be loved anyway. So many of us have that experience of what it is like to be loved as an imperfect being. But we live in a very demanding world, where, partly because of the amazing achievements in science, where perfection is possible.... In a very limited arena, you can create a circuit board, etc, which has no design flaws in it, but it's a very small...

Mo Gawdat :

I dare say no, I dare say no.

Alain de Botton :

Maybe not, maybe not. But I think that we've been very impressed, understandably, by our achievements as a species.

Mo Gawdat :

Yeah, yeah, but those achievements are, in my view, nothing more than a good approximation for what we cannot measure beyond. You know, so we use Newton's laws to put a man on the moon, but the reality is, Newton's laws are in no way accurate. There no way near reality as a matter of fact.

Alain de Botton :

Yes, yes. They work for that limited project.

Mo Gawdat :

Exactly.

Alain de Botton :

Yeah. I agree. So look, we've come from a world in which the major faiths always accepted that humans were imperfect. And we created a human and a divine world. The divine is the realm of perfection and the human is the realm of imperfection, and we accepted this. Then what happened somewhere in early modernity is this fateful, fateful decision. And the United States has a big role to play in that history, to try and build Jerusalem, not in the next world, but in this world with our hands on this hill. And this is a fateful moment in history. Because, first of all, there's so much intolerance built into this.

Mo Gawdat :

Certainly.

Alain de Botton :

I mean, if humans are supposed to be perfect - my God, how much you're gonna crucify the person who remains imperfect.

Mo Gawdat :

Imperfect, yeah?

Alain de Botton :

Yeah. And I'm not the first to say it - we're living in a very, very intolerant world currently. Because we simply cannot accept our flaws. And we can't have a good relationship with our imperfection. And I think this is an absolutely key thing. What is a good relationship to imperfection? You know, psychoanalysts talk about this process of splitting. The mind likes to split, and it likes black and it likes white and it likes perfect and imperfect. And of course, the reality is, we're all this bewildering kind of mixture. There are no gods and there are no monsters. Everyone is a mixture. But this is such an achievement of the imagination to understand. You get it in great novels. Dostoyevsky will show you that there is no such thing as a monster. Tolstoy will show you that. But this insight is not stable enough in the world. It gets lost. So there's a lot of unnecessary suffering because I do think that forgiveness is based on the recognition of mutual imperfection. I forgive you, because I'm imperfect. And you will forgive me because you're imperfect. And this is how we will live together. And I think that we have forgotten this.

Mo Gawdat :

So I want to go into romantic love. But before I do that, maybe I think I would want to go into the more important love. So what you're saying here is that love is that attempt to connect, so that we're not lonely, to some kind of another, "being" - a soul, as you say; "the profound bit of me". So in which case, self-love would be able to connect to that profound self of me, and get to that moment of acceptance, which basically says, "I'm imperfect. I'm not just physical. I'm much more profound than that. I am a mixture of thoughts and concepts." And maybe it's spirit if you're religious, or whatever that is. And all of that mixed together, comes with blood and puke and mistakes and shame and tons of things. And all in all, I can still connect and accept, which creates that sense of self-love. Would that be a reasonable definition?

Alain de Botton :

Yes, absolutely. And it's a beautiful definition. And you know, that's a major goal. That's a Himalaya. Let's put this in perspective here. What you've just described, this process of self-acceptance, to know oneself and accept oneself and accord one love - this is big. You know, that's the work of a lifetime. And other people are going to be involved in that project, who can help us in that project. Because of course, this is the way in which love heals us. Interpersonal love helps us to tolerate ourselves. The kindly interpretation of ourselves by another person can recalibrate how we judge ourselves and can be so important. I mean, this is a lot of the way that therapy works. The person will go to a therapist and say, I hate myself I'm piece of *expletive*. I've never achieved anything. And the therapist will go "Ahh! Ahh, let's just calm down here. What do you mean? Where's this is coming from? You seem perfectly nice to me." And slowly we untangle how this came, where this punitive voice, where this desire to destroy oneself came from, etc, etc. But it's a major achievement. And there's a lot of us wandering the earth who don't like ourselves very much at all. I mean, look, there's a huge deficit of love in the world.

Mo Gawdat :

In general. I agree.

Alain de Botton :

In general. People don't love themselves enough, and they don't love others enough. And this is not just hippie nonsense. I mean genuinely, most of the psychosocial distress ultimately is a shortfall in this quality of love - this ability to witness oneself, witness others, except react with tenderness and acceptance towards oneself and others. This is really, really, in shortfall and despite all our computers and factories, etc, we can't seem to mass manufacture this. And what we end up with at the end of the chain is politics. Politics is merely the ultimate consequence of a million, million, million, million of these little moments and thermometer reading. It's telling us that things are a little troubled.

Mo Gawdat :

That things are very troubled. I agree with you hundred percent, wholeheartedly. I think we have a deficit of love for many reasons. The most important, in my view, is how we replace loved. Just like we replaced happiness with fun, we're not happy so we go to a party and we call that happiness. We replaced love with romance. And I think romance, as you often say, is probably the biggest enemy of love. It is the biggest enemy of genuine true love. So I want to take us into that because I also think some of my listeners will want practical understanding of why does love not always work? In my view, there is love, there is romance, and there is relationships - that is, the process of living through that. Right? And it seems that you and I agree that romance is... is an interesting myth that started, you know, a few hundred years ago and is now captivating us as the target. When in reality, it's probably an illusion or maybe the enemy. What would you say to that?

Alain de Botton :

Well look, I think that some of the things that we associate with being in love in a romantic way, are capturing genuinely important features. The idea that someone is very special to you, that you will share your secrets with them, be very close to them, it'll be them and no one else... blah, blah, blah. These are not bad ideas. I mean, they're very - I've been saying - you know, really what is... what's dangerous? What's the risk here? Where does that notion of romantic love lead us astray? And I think that under the guise of encouraging acceptance, closeness, honesty... romantic love forces us into a very narrow space where a lot of who we actually are, can no longer be accepted. And so it then asphyxiates its own sources of initial benevolence. So the normal thing is: you meet somebody, and then... I mean, let's just take a very banal example, just because sometimes banal examples are good. There's a story that tells us that when you are really in love with somebody, you need to spend all your time with them. Because they're just amazing. So you spend all your time with them. Now, for many, many of us, we need maybe four or five hours alone. Every day. Others we go crazy. We can't be with somebody. Right? Suddenly the lover says that "I thought you loved me. I'm following the romantic script. And we're on holiday in Tahiti. And you're saying you need to go to your room and be alone? You can't love me!" Right? So exploring myth number one - can one love and want five hours a day on one's own? Yes, but the story doesn't allow it. Let's get into the more hot potato area: you love somebody etc, etc. And then you say, "Ah! That person across the road, they're pretty hot. Pretty..." - "How? I thought you loved me! You're finding this person hot?" And what do you do? The romantic love tells you, well, if you are in love with someone, you don't notice anyone else. All you have eyes for is only one person. Now, we all know -many of us know - that this is not really possible. This is not true. It's actually quite possible to continue to find somebody else quite hot. What do you do with that? Love that had begun as this ability to fuse your soul to another soul and be recognized is suddenly running into a major problem, which is you cannot be honest about your sexuality with somebody. Oh my god! So suddenly love and romance seem to go in opposite directions. So this is another kind of problem. Then more practical things. So, a lot of the beautiful romantic idea is we will understand each other by intuition. Two souls will meet, and we will feel our way to a kind of just deep connection.

Mo Gawdat :

(Laughs) Deep telepathy. It's like suddenly I will be able to read your mind.

Alain de Botton :

And there are some lovely moments in the early days of romantic love when it seems possible. But over a lifetime, it's not possible. Over a lifetime, well, sometimes we have to go, "Hang on a minute, I'm going to do a three hour PowerPoint conversation with you about how you behave in the bathroom, and it's not going to sound very romantic, but then we all understand each other." Or here's a seminar on my mother and you know what she means. So sometimes it doesn't sound very romantic, but it's actually true to the spirit of love. Sometimes we need to educate each other. Sometimes we need to speak in a certain way. Sometimes we need to be very realistic about where sexuality leads us, etc. And I think for many of us, we still don't have the courage to do that work within romantic love. We don't dare to, to be ourselves - properly ourselves - with another person. We think we'll lose them. We think we're too odd. No one's ever told us that actually, I don't know, whatever it is, maybe it's okay to spend five hours alone. Or maybe you have a different approach to sexuality. Or maybe you won't have children together. Or maybe, you know, you'll only meet every Monday or whatever it is. Maybe your script is going to be a little bit different. But the romantic narrative which has held so dominant in the modern imagination for 200 years leaves us really only one story of how this love is meant to go and it leaves us feeling so inadequate. And most of us have left feeling so peculiar in relation to this demand. It's quite coercive.

Mo Gawdat :

I have to say, I mean, the statistics are just glaring in your eyes. When you say some of us know that your sexuality may not be limited to one person, I don't think there is a single human, unless they may be asexual or not very interested in sex, that wouldn't be every now and then attracted by another person. And to me, I always say that what we feel, we shouldn't be held accountable for. Our actions is what we should be held accountable for. So you know, I can feel angry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with feeling angry. It's an emotion, that means that is a trigger for it, right? It's the way I act on my anger that holds me honorable or a maniac that's on a rampage. And similarly, I think what happens in relationships is that we get into that silo, of "Let's not talk about things, because if we talk about them, then that defies the idea, the target, of the perfect romantic love." But that in itself is the spiral that takes you out of romantic love.

Alain de Botton :

So here's a typical kind of disastrous relationship scenario that happens. Two people who are in a relationship. And one person is starting to feel... they're trying to explain a bit of their reality to the other person. For whatever reason, the other person is not listening. The person feels disenchanted, lonely, starts to feel angry. They try, they keep trying, they can't get there. There's anger, there's scratchiness, there's bitterness on both sides. That person goes off and has an affair with somebody else because they're so lonely. They're alienated. So they'll go off and have an affair. That affair is discovered. The original partner goes, "I thought you were supposed to love me! Oh, I'm leaving you." So suddenly the couple breaks up. And everybody goes, obviously, "What happened there?" I go, "Oh well, my partner had an affair." Oh how terrible. It likes, no no no, let's go back. Let's look at this through the lens of closeness and the desire for communication, and what happens when that desire is stymied, and how it really should have gone. You can bring people back together again, from all sorts of situations that look from the romantic point of view desperate. If you take this couple I've just described, and you say to them, "Look, one of you is not hearing the other, we need to solve that. Then one of you responded to not being heard, in a really unfortunate way, we need to understand that. And you guys both need to understand each other and understand ultimately what's going on. On both sides is a longing for closeness and a longing for honesty and understanding. You've just got in a terrible muddle." But as I say, the surrounding environment doesn't make these kinds of conversations too easy to have.

Mo Gawdat :

And so in that case, what you're saying is that part of acceptance is that even though the situation went wrong, perhaps - or probably - on both sides, so the entire system broke down for some reason, the whole idea of acceptance is to say, "Okay, if I love you, then we might as well have a conversation. The fact that I would like to stay within romantic love with you, or maybe break it up, either way that doesn't contradict the concept of love, which demands that we're open and honest. And we're completely showing who we are, and accepted for it."

Alain de Botton :

Absolutely, absolutely. And in that sense, that can bring two people closer together. And I think it's an adventure in most amazing courage, to, you know, as you said a few minutes ago, to accept oneself and then to do that with another person. It's thrilling. To leave the script of who we are meant to be. Most of us, we're given a script by society: what it's like to be a normal father, a normal mother, a normal husband, a normal wife, a normal worker, a normal child. All these scripts, these scripts are almost always baloney. We try and stick to them. We get terribly muddled, because they don't really help us. And some of us, and I think this is what "enlightenment" ultimately means: have the courage to say, "Hang on, I can't, I can't carry on with this anymore. There is too much that I know is not being recognized by this script. I want a richer, more honest life - with myself, with those around me... And that will be a life of true love." To come back to Christianity and desperation. I speak to you as a - I'm a secular Jew. But I like Christianity. It's very a interesting religion.

Mo Gawdat :

I do too, actually. I think it's a very interesting religion in so many ways.

Alain de Botton :

It's like, what is this business with the poor? Why do the poor have this role? Again, it's to do with pride. So, by "poor" one really ultimately means: people who've lost everything, and who, therefore, because they've lost... they've lost their hold on the standard narrative of success. It's not going to work for them anymore. They throw that out of the window. They are in this new space. And that's a space of radical honesty and authenticity. And as well, they've got nothing left to lose. And that's when they can be true love and true knowledge of oneself and knowledge of another. But it's very hard when one's on the app and one's on TV, as it were. It's very hard at those moments... one's a fake.

Mo Gawdat :

I'd hate to interrupt this conversation here, but I think we're going to continue for a while. So let's end part one here. And wait for us for the next episode, where I continue my conversation, with the incredible Alain de Botton. And for all of you who joined us, thank you so much for listening. Be sure to follow me on social media. Search for Mo Gawdat, Slo Mo, Solve for Happy, or 1 Billion Happy. I know you've got a lot going on. But remember, there is always time to slow down. Until next time, stay happy. Transcribed by https://otter.ai