How Proust Can Change Your Life

Marcel Proust sat in bed writing Remembrance of Things Past, English School

Marcel Proust sat in bed writing Remembrance of Things Past, English School

Some notes and takeaways from reading this book, in quotes. I appreciated the format of this book, it's a list of 9 HOW TOs applicable to life, and I while I was reading, I was the reader of my own self.

Love Life

  • "what would you do in your last hour?"
  • "our dissatisfaction were more the result of a certain way of living than of anything irrevocably morose about human experience"
  • if mortality encourages you to reevaluate your priorities, ask yourself what your priorities are
  • if you've been living a half-life before this, what does a whole life consist of?
  • we shouldn't need a cataclysm to love life today, it would be enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening

Read for Yourself

  • "one cannot read a novel without ascribing to the heroine the traits of the one we love"
  • "every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self"
  • "art can properly affect rather than distract us from life"
  • The value of a novel is not limited to its depiction of emotions and people akin to those in our own life; it stretches to an ability to describe these far better than we would have been able, to put a finger on perceptions that we recognize as our own, but could not have formulated on our own"

Take Your Time

  • "greatness of works of art has nothing to do with the apparent quality of their subject matter, and everything to do with the subsequent treatment of that matter"
  • "everything is potentially a fertile subject for art and we can make discoveries as valuable in an advertisement for soap as in Pascal's Pensées"
  • "n'allez pas trop vite - an advantage of not going by too fast is that the world has a chance of becoming more interesting in the process"
  • "Hang on to the performance, read the newspaper as though it were only the tip of a tragic or comic novel, use thirty pages to describe a fall into sleep when need be"

Suffer Successfully

  • "Love is an incurable disease." In love, there is permanent suffering". Those who love and those who are happy are not the same"
  • pain is subjective: "we cannot allow ourselves to judge the legitimacy of another's pain simply on the basis of the pain we would have suffered had we been similarly afflicted"
  • "feeling things (usually means feeling them painfully) is at some level linked to the acquisition of knowledge"
    • "being jilted by a lover is a perfect introduction to the mechanisms of emotional dependency"
  • "we don't really learn anything probably until there is a problem, until we are in pain, until something fails to go as we had hoped"
  • "we become properly inquisitive only when distressed. We suffer, therefore we think, and we do so because thinking helps us to place pain in context. It helps us to understand its origins, plot its dimensions, and reconcile ourselves to its presence."
  • "we cannot be taught wisdom, we have to discover it for ourselves by a journey which no one can undertake for us, an effort which no one can spare us"
  • "... a relationship between the degree of pain a person experiences and the profundity of thought he or she may have as a result"
  • "It is grief which develops the strengths of the mind. These griefs put us through a form of mental gymnastics"
  • "if genuine priority is the development of our mental capacities, the implication is we would be better off being unhappy than contentment, better off pursuing tormented love affairs than reading Plato or Spinoza"
  • it is not the contented who have left many profound testimonies of what it means to be alive, but the violently miserable, suffering is the perfect precondition for insight.
  • "suffering opens up possibilities for intelligent, imaginative inquiry – possibilities that may quite easily be, and most often are, overlooked or refused"
  • "far greater wisdom would seem to lie in pursuing ways to properly and productively unhappy"
  • the task is to gain a better understanding of reality. Pain is surprising: we cannot understand why (we're suffering). Identifying reasons for such discomforts does not absolve us of pain, but may form the principal basis of a recovery. While assuring that we are not uniquely cursed, understanding grants us a sense of boundaries to, and bitter logic behind, our suffering.
  • "too frequently, suffering fails to alchemize into ideas, instead of a better sense of reality, it pushes us into a baneful direction where we learn nothing new, where are subject to many more illusions and entertain far few vital thoughts than if we had never suffered to begin with"
  • these are bad sufferers: people who learn nothing from their sufferings, and instead, react to them with a variety of ruinous defense mechanisms which entail arrogance and delusion, cruelty and callousness, spite and rage.

Express your Emotions

  • "there may be significant things to learn about people by looking at what annoys them the most"
  • "find the right words for things", don't just say "That's nice.", it prevents ourselves or our interlocutors from really understanding what we have lived through. "We stay on the outside of our impression"
  • "The problem with cliché is not that they contain false ideas, but rather they are just superficial articulations of very good ones"
  • "the way we speak is ultimately linked to the way we feel, because how we describe the world must at some level reflect how we first experience it"
  • "wanting to sound like other people has it's temptation. there are inherited habits of speech guaranteed to make us sound authoritative, intelligent, worldly, appropriately grateful, or deeply moved"
  • "they begin to write well only on condition they're original, that they create their own language"
  • "Only that which bears the imprint of our choice, our taste, our uncertainty, our desire and our weakness can be beautiful"
  • "giving to what we feel a form of expression which differs so much from, and which nevertheless after a little time take to be, reality itself"
  • "our notion of reality is at variance with actual reality, because it is often shaped by inadequate or misleading accounts"
  • "[Monet] has freed himself from traditional, and in some ways limited, representations of La Havre, in order to attend more closely to his own, uncorrupted impressions of the scene
  • "in every successful work of art: an ability to restore to our sight a distorted or neglected aspect of reality"

Be a Good Friend

  • "Marcel was passionately interested in his friends. Never have I seen less egoism, or egotism ... He wanted to amuse you. He was happy to see others laughing and he laughed" – Georges De Lauris
  • "Never, right up to the end, neither his frenzied work, nor his suffering made him forget his friends – because he certainly never put all his poetry into his books, he put as much into hsi life" - Walter Berry
  • the likelihood of honesty in friendship is highly dependent on how much is on our minds (true but hurtful) thoughts and their tolerance to the truth (how ready others will be to break off the friendship given the honesty)
  • "I feel infinite sadness at seeing how few people are genuinely kind"
  • "My only consolation when I am really sad is to love and ot be loved"
  • "He should always be the one to ask questions and address himself to what was on your mind rather than risk boring you with what was on his"
  • "conversations required an abdication of oneself in the name of pleasing others in the name of pleasing companions.
  • "it was not for elucidating, egoistically, things that one was interested in (friendship). It was primarily for warmth and affection"
  • "i do my intellectual work within myself, and once with other people, it's more or less irrelevant to me that they're intelligent, as long as they're kind, sincere etc"
  • "I like you and I would like you to like me"
  • every friendship demands a degree of insincerity: "the ever-present requirement to deliver an affable but hollow word to a friend who proudly shows us a volume of her poetry or her newborn baby"
  • discern the incompatibilities of truth and affection, divide their projects, make a wise separation

Open your Eyes

  • "our sense of beauty was not immobile, and could be sensitized by painters, who would, through their canvases, inculcate in us an appreciation of once neglected aesthetic qualities"
  • "great painters possess such power to open our eyes because of the unusual receptivity of their own eyes to aspects of visual experience: the play of light on the end of a spoon, ..., pinkish tones on an old man's skin – qualities that can inspire our impressions of beauty"
  • happiness may emerge from taking a second look; our dissatisfactions may be the result of failing to look properly at our lives rather than the result of anything inherently deficient about them.
  • "it isn't his life that has been mediocre as much as the image of it he possessed in memory" (images which preserve nothing of life)
  • "beauty is something to be found, rather than passively encountered, it requires us to pick up on certain details."
  • simple images provide certainties, ex: spending money makes you happier, aristocrats who are more educated and well-spoken have more class, that formal education, factual knowledge and university degree = intelligence

Be Happy in Love

  • the limits lie not in love, but in the "general difficulty of maintaining an appreciative relationship with anything or anyone that was always around
  • the idea of love feels like a vague, chimerical dream, and after having it, it can grow chimerical and vague
  • "he will soon forget what is there to be grateful, because the memory of Gilberte-less life will fade, and with it, evidence of what there is to savor."
  • "we're creatures of habit, and therefore always liable to grow contemptuous of what is familiar"
  • "Presence may be the very element that encourages us to ignore or neglect it, because we feel we may have done all the work simply in securing visual contact"
  • "deprivation quickly drives us into a process of appreciation"
  • "learn a lesson of what we naturally do when we lack something, and apply it to conditions where we don't"
  • "if long acquaintance with a lover breeds boredom, ..., it may be we do not know him or her well enough"
  • "suffer the interval between desire and gratification, ..., it allows people to know and fall deeply in love with paintings in Dresden, hats, dressing gowns, and someone who isn't free this evening"
  • secrets to long-lasting relationships: "Infidelity, not the act itself, but the threat of it. An injection of jealousy is the only thing capable of rescuing a relationship ruined by habit"

Put Books Down

  • there is a danger of taking books too seriously, a healthy relationship (with books) would depend as much on an appreciation of their limitations as of their benefits
  • "The universe suddenly regained infinite value in my eyes" on works of John Ruskin. "he found experiences that he had never been more than semiconscious of raised and beautifully assembled in language"
  • "books can bring back to life, from the deadness caused by habit and inattention, valuable yet neglected aspects of experience"
  • "there is no better wya of coming to be aware of what one feels oneself than trying to recreate in oneself what a master has felt" "we should read other people's books in order to learn what we feel; it is our own thoughts we should be developing"
  • all books can do is provide us with desires, "That is the value of reading, and also its inadequacy. To make it into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement. Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life; it can introduce us to it: it does not constitute it"
  • dangers of books "instead of awakening us to the personal life of the mind, reading tend to take its place, when the truth no longer appeals to us as an idea which we can realise only bt the intimate progress of our own thought and the efforts of our heart, but as something material, deposited between the leaves of books like honey fully prepared by others and which we only need to take the trouble to reach down from the shelves of libraries and then sample passively in a perfect repose of mind and body"
  • good books can silence people
    • "his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me and make me out of temper with every sentence of my own"
    • "So sick of Orlando I can write nothing" - Virginia Woolf
  • "artistic idolaters combined literal reverence for objects depicted in art with a neglect for the spirit of art" - "a picture's beauty does not depend on the things portrayed in it"
  • "look at our world through his eyes, not to look at his world through our eyes"

This took 1 hr 42 minutes. I'm past my set bedtime. I hope this helps someone.