New video: Is the idea of a soulmate a myth?

Probably the greatest myth of romantic love is that somewhere, out there in the amorous ether, is our missing other half – our soulmate.

This entertaining new video based on my book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life – which is released in paperback in the US this week – explores how the idea of the soulmate emerged out of the history of love, and how we should think about it today. Are we raising our expectations too high in our search for romance, hoping that a single person can provide us with all the love we need – being not only our best friend, but also our lifelong companion and the best sex we ever had? And who invented the term ‘soulmate’ in 1822?

The new video is something of a companion piece to my article on the Six Varieties of Love known to the Ancient Greeks.

If you haven’t read it, How Should We Live? (titled The Wonderbox in the UK) explores the lessons we can learn from history about the art of living, and looks at topics ranging from love and work to creativity, travel and death. It’s inspired by a wonderful quote from Goethe: ‘He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth’.

Tolstoy’s top tips for happiness in 2015

Tolstoy change yourselfBBC Radio 4 is celebrating the New Year with a marathon ten-hour dramatisation of Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace. As part of the festivities, I’ve written an article for the BBC on seven lessons we can learn from the life of the bearded sage for the art of living in 2015. Read the article here, which is based on my book The Wonderbox (published in the US as How Should We Live?). But if you want a quick taster of his top tips for a happy life:

1.Keep an open mind

2.Practice empathy

3.Make a difference

4.Master the art of simple living

5.Beware your contradictions

6.Become a craftsman

7.Expand your social circle

And here’s a wonderful short video clip showing Tolstoy himself putting some of the above into practice:

Happy New Year, Roman

Welcome to the Festival of Love

What Is Love exhibit Southbank Festival of LoveI was recently at London’s Southbank Centre for the launch of their fabulous summer Festival of Love. What made the occasion particularly special for me was that the two-month festival, running throughout July and August, has been based around the different varieties of love in Ancient Greece that appear in my book The Wonderbox. To set the scene I gave the opening talk on these forgotten approaches to the art of loving, discussing eros (sexual passion), philia (friendship), storge (familial love), pragma (mature love), ludus (playful love), agape (selfless love) and philautia (self-love). Continue reading

Have you tried the six varieties of love?

We’re all pretty sophisticated when it comes to ordering a cup of coffee – do you want a latte, a cappuccino, a mocha or maybe a double espresso? But we are incredibly crude in the way we talk about love, using a single word to describe so many kinds of relationship. Those clever Ancient Greeks, though, recognised six different varieties of love.

I’ve just written an article about the six Greek loves, which you will find at Yes Magazine. Have a read and see if makes you rethink our culture’s obsession with the idea of romantic love.

The article is based on my new book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, published in the US last week. (In the UK this same book was published under the title The Wonderbox – apologies for any confusion!)

Six Life Lessons from Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy was more than just a great novelist with one of the best beards of the nineteenth century. He was also a radical social and political thinker who was constantly grappling with the problem of how to live. I’ve just written an article about his approach to the art of living called Six Life Lessons from Leo Tolstoy, which you can find over at Powells Books Blog.

The article is based on my new book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, published in the US this week. (In the UK this same book was published under the title The Wonderbox – apologies for any confusion!)

How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life

HSWL Cover finalIt’s launch day for my new book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, which has just been released in the US. Previously published in the UK under the title The Wonderbox (sorry, a bit confusing, I know), it’s about what history can teach us about the art of living. What might we learn from the Ancient Greeks about the different varieties of love, from the Renaissance about creativity and death, or from the industrial revolution about rethinking our attitudes to work, money and family life?

But rather than tell you all about the book myself, there’s a fascinating review and discussion of it by the brilliant Maria Popova from Brain Pickings, which came out today. She describes it (most flatteringly) as ‘an illuminating and awakening read in its entirety’. Check out her full article, which focuses on the topics of love, time and empathy.

 

17 Ways to Seize the Day

carpediemdailyI’ve just finished writing a new book on empathy, due out early next year, provisionally titled Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution. In my effort to get the manuscript in on time, I’ve been neglecting answering emails and dealing with bills, and my study is piled with bits of paper that I’ve been meaning to file for months. I just came across one of those bits of paper that I’d completely forgotten about. It’s a list of 17 ideas to help you seize the day, which I prepared for a School of Life project a few years ago called Carpe Diem Daily. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Video: The Six Varieties of Love

The Ancient Greeks would have considered us modern creatures incredibly unsophisticated in the way we talk about love. We tend to use a single word to cover so many different kinds of relationships and emotions. On Valentine’s Day you may well whisper ‘I love you’ to your soulmate over a candlelit meal, but then the next morning casually sign an email ‘lots of love’. The Greeks would have been shocked at the crudeness of our expression, because they identified six different varieties of love. What were the Greek loves? And how might they revolutionise the way we think about love today? Find out in this video on The Six Varieties of Love, which is based on the chapter on love in my book The Wonderbox.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

How Goethe can change your life – 3 lessons for 2013

So you’ve drawn up your list of New Year’s resolutions. Some are probably achievable, like giving up eating chocolate for breakfast. Others may be more daunting because they represent a long-held desire to take your life in a new direction, anything from changing career to renewing family relationships. If you’ve resolved to make a big change, I suggest having a companion by your side who’ll give you encouragement and inspiration. An ideal choice is the eighteenth-century German writer and natural scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In his book Italian Journey, Goethe describes an episode from his own life that offers three essential lessons for making 2013 a year of New Year’s adventuring. Continue reading

Is your job big enough for your spirit?

Here is the video of a talk I gave on my latest book, How to Find Fulfilling Work, at the Union Chapel in London in May. Filmed live in front of nearly 1000 people, it was part of the launch of The School of Life’s practical philosophy book series, edited by Alain de Botton and published by Macmillan. In 15 minutes I offer five essential ideas for career change, drawing on career advice from Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle and a woman who gave herself the unusual 30th birthday present of trying out 30 different jobs in one year – a radical sabbatical.

There were five other talks on the night, each of them full of wise, witty and useful ideas for the art of living:

Alain de Botton on How to Think More About Sex

Philippa Perry on How to Stay Sane

John-Paul Flintoff on How to Change the World

Tom Chatfield on How to Thrive in the Digital Age

John Armstrong on How to Worry Less about Money

My book How to Find Fulfilling Work is also available in several translations, including Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and German. This weekend I’ll be launching the Dutch edition at the LIFE! philosophy event in Amsterdam.

And for anybody who missed it, I recently had a new article on The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People published by the good folk at the Greater Good Science Center, at the University of California.

Happy viewing, reading and living…