Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Adam Phillips [74]:
More has been written about how relationships don't work than about how they do. We have virtually no language, other than banality, to describe the couple who have been happy together for a long tmie. We would like them to have a secret, we would like them to have something they could give us. Or thet we could give them, other than our suspicion. There is nothing more terrorising than the possibility that nothing is hidden. There is nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage.
But they have a secret! It is 'uninterestingness'. Phillips is channelling Tolstoy's famous 'All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way' -- but Tolstoy's point is dramatic; not that unhappy life is better, but that it is more interesting from the point of view of a writer. May you live through interesting times is a curse, after all; not a blessing.

Here's another Tolstoy quotation, from Family Happiness: 'I longed for activity, instead of an even flow of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to renounce self for the sake of my love. I was conscious of a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life. I had bouts of depression, which I tried to hide, as something to be ashamed of…My mind, even my senses were occupied, but there was another feeling – the feeling of youth and a craving for activity – which found no scope in our quiet life…So time went by, the snow piled higher and higher round the house, and there we remained together, always and for ever alone and just the same in each other’s eyes; while somewhere far away amidst glitter and noise multitudes of people thrilled, suffered and rejoiced, without one thought of us and our existence which was ebbing away. Worst of all, I felt that every day that passed riveted another link to the chain of habit which was binding our life into a fixed shape, that our emotions, ceasing to be spontaneous, were being subordinated to the even, passionless flow of time… ‘It’s all very well … ‘ I thought, ‘it’s all very well to do good and lead upright lives, as he says, but we’ll have plenty of time for that later, and there are other things for which the time is now or never.’ I wanted, not what I had got, but a life of challenge; I wanted feeling to guide us in life, and not life to guide us in feeling.'

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