Leisure

The Downfall of Oscar Wilde

On Valentine’s Day in 1895, the most famous playwright in the English speaking world, Oscar Wilde, presented his new play, The Importance of Being Earnest, in London at St. James Theatre.…

Calm

On Skin Picking

If we were to need any further evidence of the difficulties of being human, we need only study the poignant phenomenon that psychologists call dermatillomania – more commonly known as skin…

Leisure

What Voltaire Meant by 'One Must Cultivate One's Own Garden'

It is crucial to note the subtitle of 18th century Europe’s most famous novel, written in three inspired days in 1759: ‘Candide – or Optimism’. If there was one central target…

Leisure

Buildings That Give Hope - and Buildings That Condemn Us

A strange and rarely remarked upon feature of buildings is that they talk. They don’t necessarily speak very loudly, it can sometimes just be a whisper, but if you go up…

Self-Knowledge

How to Fight off Your Inner Critic

We almost all have a character inside our minds whom we might call the inner critic. It tends to pay its visits late at night, it waits until we’re very tired…

Work

On Eating a Friend

There are in aggregate far more of them than there are of us. We’re a mere 7.5 billion – while there are 19 billion chickens, 1 billion sheep, 1 billion pigs…

Work

The United States and Happiness

Most countries know deep in their bones that life is – for the most part – a painful and unsatisfactory business: misery is the norm, one is born to suffer, the…

Leisure

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a novelist, essayist and activist whose writings on racism and the idea of self-acceptance in 20th century America challenged readers to investigate their innermost thoughts and beliefs.

Self-Knowledge

Reasons to Give Up on Human Beings

It’s peculiar to think that there might be a word like ‘misanthropy’ in our language: ‘a dislike of humankind.’ For a phenomenon to become a word, it needs a sufficient number…

Self-Knowledge

The Melancholy Charm of Lonely Travelling Places

Nothing quite provokes the peculiar mixture of discomfort and pleasure that characterises the melancholy mood as powerfully as does solitary travel. On our own somewhere on the road, we may feel…

Leisure

Katsushika Hokusai

There are two ways of looking at Mount Fuji. As a geological phenomenon, it is classified as an active basalt composite stratovolcano, 3,700 metres high, 10,000 years old in its most…

Leisure

On Luxury and Sadness

There is an age, and a frame of mind, when we are strong enough to treat luxury with every bit of the disdain it deserves, when we know how to pour…

Leisure

Agnes Martin

If there were to be a patron artist of melancholy, it might be the American abstract painter Agnes Martin. Over a long life (1912-2004), she produced hundreds of canvases, most of…

Work

Shakespeare: 'When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state...'

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate,…

Self-Knowledge

Nostalgia for Religion

The situation is simple enough if one believes. Or doesn’t believe. Where it starts to get complicated is if one firmly doesn’t believe – never has and never will – but…

Self-Knowledge

Splitting Humanity into Saints and Sinners

It is a characteristic temptation of the mind to declare things to be either very very good or very very bad. Nuance is not our species’ strong point or natural resting…

Self-Knowledge

The Window of Tolerance

When we think of what it means to feel mentally well, we often picture exuberance or excitement. But what really defines our optimal moments is that they are ones in which…

Self-Knowledge

Parties and Melancholy

The great problem with parties is their implicit understanding of loneliness. From the moment we arrive at most of them, we’ll notice that intense efforts have been made to generate a…