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Sociability • Social Virtues

The Loveliest People in the World

The loveliest people are not the applauded and the haughty ones, the elated and the optimistic ones. 

They are the ones who long ago shed their pride, who can tell you frankly how lonely and sad they are, who can face their self-hatred and accept their regrets.

They aren’t just unhappy (there are plenty of boring and frightening ways to be that); they’ve come to an optimal perspective on their unhappiness. 

Ferdinand Hodler, Self-Portrait, 1916

You could tell them about the strangest, oddest, most lamentable things about you and know that they understood it all at once from the inside. There are no follies around sex or status, love or money that they aren’t fully acquainted with.

They want to get to the howl inside you because they are so familiar with the howl inside them.

They aren’t remotely attached to seeming sane; they long ago ceased attempting to appear normal.

They know that life is mostly pain, mystery and error — and will never try to persuade you otherwise. They will never be so mean as to try to cheer you up.

They can be trusted because they have had the courage to fathom their full propensities to cowardice and corruption.

They don’t give a jot about your reputation — because they know enough what people in general are like.

They combine a thorough misanthropy for the group with a deep love and tenderness for the individual.

They’ve been through their obsessions with love, public esteem, career triumph and positivism — and come out the other side.

They let their humour get very dark, because the gap between their hopes and their experience is so wide.

They’ve gone into the weirdest bits of themselves and will therefore understand the oddest bits of you.

They don’t expect life as a whole to go right and, against a backdrop of despair, laugh with exceptional richness and glee. 

These are the sort of people you want in the prison cell or on the way to the scaffold, in the trenches or the bed next to you on the cancer ward. 

These are the kinds of people we need so many more of in our lives — and should try so hard to be for others.

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