Recently I have been reading Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy partly because I have always loved his name and thought he would be a nice chap to have a cup of tea with, also because it is one book I have seen Sully get really enthused about over the recent months.
Split into six chapters De Botton takes six of the greatest philosophers and uses their theories to tackle the everyday conundrums of human existence. Never believing myself to be intelligent enough to handle philosophy it is not so much that I have actively shunned or ran away from philosophy (if one could do such a thing). Rather I have never felt myself worthy of reading such work, which brings into line many personal questions of my feeling of inadequacy and self-esteem issues that I don’t wish to bore you with, but that I assure you are discussed within this book.
However this morning on the daily commute I finished the chapter on ‘Consolation for Inadequacy’ and it set me to thinking about recent events or rather realisations that have happened within my life.
Last year I gained my Masters in Theatre and Writing, throughout the entire year that I studied like many other students I cried constantly because I felt I lacked the necessary intelligence to actually succeed on the course, and despite gaining a Merit for my final grade and a Distinction for my dissertation I still consider that my being on the course was some massive joke played by the University at my expense.
After every class, on every train ride to and from campus I would sit there and weep sometimes uncontrollably at my feeling of ineptitude which is, I am aware, completely pitiful and completely devoid of intelligence, so I do not wish for any sympathy about it! Then sitting in my lecturer’s office one day having a catch up, or on my part a break down he just looked me dead in the eye and said ‘Elisa, I bet you have never had that many friends.’ I was dumbstruck. Not because I felt it was cruel or unjust, rather because it was completely honest. Now to those who have know me a long time I wish to say I am in no way de-voiding the relationships I have formed but I cannot deny that up until only really a few years ago I didn’t really feel that well connected to anyone or anything. This was purely because I felt that the friendships may have had different motives and at the end of the day would have turned into a ceremonial wedgie in the school playground. My lecturer put this down to the fact that ‘[I] think in a different way to everyone else…whilst others were thinking of the answers [I] was thinking of the symbolic nature of things.’ Going on he said ‘As such I can only deduce that you were a bit of a loner because when you tried to have conversations with your peers both parties felt the other was talking in a foreign language’ Now saying this to you I realise this makes me a pompous bum but it does hold a candle to current events.
I am more than aware that my friends (because thankfully in the past few years I have finally made some!) are ridiculously more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. They are wonderful, beautiful women whose grace, charm and confidence I can only hope one day to achieve. Going back to De Botton and his chapter on inadequacy, De Botton uses Montaigne’s friendship with the writer and MP Etienne de La Boetie as an example of consolation for inadequacy. That friendship is a consolation for loneliness is not profound, its obvious but I was drawn to a quote from Montaigne about La Boetie which marries the level-headedness of rational thinking with the feeling that friendships and relationships are somehow fateful.
We were seeking each other before we set eyes on each other…we embraced each other by our names. And at our first meeting,… we found ourselves so taken with one another…so bound together, that from that time on nothing was so close to us as each other.
In the friendship which I am talking about, souls are mingled and confounded in so universal a blending that they efface the seam which joins them together so it cannot be found.
For the past month and a bit my friend Alice has been staying with me whilst she works here for the “summer”. Like all of the other girlfriends I have I truly believe that like Montaigne ‘we were seeking each other’ before we had met but what’s so strange about Alice is that seemingly many aspects of our lives were drawn with the same pen. I find it doubly strange because she’s from Italy perhaps making the probability of our meeting all the more unusual. Yet we did find one another and knowing that she is going back to the sunny streets of Turin next Wednesday is heartbreaking because I feel as though I have a another sister that I have to say goodbye to.
So this post is dedicated to Alice because she’s just swell and I don’t want her to leave. Any employers out there should snap her up as quickly as possible! It also goes to all the other beautiful ladies (who know who they are!) that I have in my life because in the last few years you have made me realise what friendship is about. I love you all and only hope I can be like you one day!