Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton is a philosopher, writer and television presenter. His books include Essays in Love (published when he was only 23), How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997), Status Anxiety (2004) and Religion for Atheists (2012)

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Broadening the mind: Match your spiritual needs with a place on the globe

This week's questions: Is Christianity in the UK in decline? Is marriage a good thing? Should politicians take risks?

This week's questions are answered by writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton

People walk with crosses during a pilgrimage to Holy Island

Spiritual travel for atheists: Do pilgrimages have a place in modern society?

Their ideals should be applied to journeys today too, says Alain de Botton.

A good idea from ... Proust

`A scientist announces that the world will end. What would you do?'

Columns: A good idea from ... Winnicott

I'VE ALWAYS wanted to try my hand at those quizzes in women's magazines designed to identify character types (Are you a jealous sort? Does green suit you?), and a little moment of paranoia in my private life led me to think one up the other day. If your lover hasn't called when she promised she would, what goes through your mind? Do you imagine a) that she must have been held up by an innocuous event, b) that she has been run over, or c) that she has abruptly realised you're horrible and has gone off with someone else?

A good idea from ... Rousseau

I WAS feeling a bit glum the other day and a well-meaning friend of mine said to me, "You know Elaine [he has difficulty with my name], your problem is that you think too much." Later, it struck me that there are two diametrically opposed views about problems and thinking: some people suggest that we think a lot when we have a lot of problems. Others suggest that we develop a lot of problems when we think too much. Where should one stand?

A good idea from... Laurence Sterne

IT'S SO hard to say what we feel. We're forced to rummage in a vocabulary box for the right label, but words are imperfect vehicles for conveying ourselves to others. We can't always make them capture nuances; bits of what we mean get left behind, like something stuck to the frying pan, when we try to move a thought or feeling from our minds to the minds of others. How much better it might sometimes be to draw a picture rather than struggle with words. If you asked me to explain how I've been feeling over the past week, it might be easiest to say:

Columns: A good idea from ... Casanova

THE ONLY thing everyone knows about Casanova is that men are occasionally accused of being one when their eyes wander across the room at parties. My eyes wandered the other evening. It was a brunette with glasses. And in the car on the way home, M said, "If you want to behave like some second- rate Casanova, don't expect me to stick around for the privilege."

Columns: A good idea from... Theophrastus

A FEW DAYS ago, I met a woman who told me, "I know someone just like you." "Really," I said (offended). "How do you mean, just like me?" "Well, you know, little hair, a bit gauche, into books. He even wears a big grey coat like yours in winter. It's uncanny." This kind of thing should make one happy. It should be lovely to hear that there is a near clone out there, a soulmate, someone to talk to and go clothes shopping with. But, in actuality, it can be quite horrible, given the strength of our desire to feel special, different, unique.

A good idea from ... Nabokov

EVER SINCE the invention of the printing press, those who most love books have been prey to an awkward, paradoxical thought; that there are too many books in the world. These book lovers may even look back with nostalgia to that fortunate scroll-and-scribe era when, a little after middle age, educated people with good libraries and not too many pressing engagements could conceivably reach a point when they had read everything.
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