Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy

thank you so much for that that was fantastic and this song apart from being one of my favorites I sing like this everyday I am not joking the reason i picked this song is because it’s called angels the reason i picked this song is because it’s called angels and yet there is no God at the heart of that song and yet there is no God at the heart of that song but there is a lot of feelings that was formerly directed at our God’s art is nowadays our new religion and museums are our cathedrals this is not me stating it that’s something that Theodore Zeldin a cultural historian said art is our new religion and museums are our cathedrals that is a beautiful ideal because religion is on the decline and culture is something that is eminently suited to filling its shoes that is take a look at the historical background to that you know up until the middle of the 19th century this was a pious nation and then around the middle of the 19th century church attendance fell off a cliff and people start to worry what were people going to do when there is no longer a god to hold a society together where were people going to find consolation meaing a sense of morality a sense of dignity and somewhere to go to in moments of distress and with fears and tears and terrors of mortality and a small but influential group of critics in the UK came up with an answer which reverberates and challenges us to this day critics like Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin began to argue that there was something that could fill the gap created by the decline in orgranized faith and that thing was culture with a capital C culture could replace scripture this was the great promise of the 19th century political thought that there could be something that could take up the slack the essays of Plato the novels of Jane Austen the paintings of Titian and Botticelli the poetry of Matthew Arnold these things could fill the gaps left by the departure of religion It’s a beautiful idea one that at the School of Life we take deeply seriously and one that myself take deeply seriously but i can’t help but notice that there are a lot of lip service is paid to this idea in the cultural establishment among the cultural elite in fact the idea is dead and i’ll tell you why it’s dead and how you can prove it’s dead if you were to show up at any of Britain’s elite institutions the University of Oxford the University of Cambridge the National Gallery the taint and you said i’ve come here at the funtain of culture and i’ve come to study because i am lost i don’t know right from wrong i am confused i’m terrified of death the people in charge of those elite institutions will be picking up the phone and dialing if not the insane asylum the police it is simply not acceptable to bring the aches and pains of our souls to the guardlians of culture whatever lip service is paid to the importance of culture it cannot be done now what should you do with these pains and troubles well if you ‘re a relatively stupid person there is one answer that is customarily given and that answer is read a self-help book these things are for stupid people there are some of those people around and they’ll tell you how to live but the elite answer says that anyone who’s clever doesn’t need that sort of stuff and the reason is that life is relatively simple after all all you need to do in an average life is grow up separate yourself from you parents find a job that’s moderately satisfying creat a relationship where you can relate to someone start rasing some children watch the oneset of mortality and your parents generation and then starting to laugh at the shores of your own and then eventually when it gets you lie down in the coffin and shutthe lid politely and go off into the next world or no world at all and that’s simple who’s got any problem with that well i think it’s desperately wrong i think we are very vulnerable fragile creatures in desperate need of support and we generally don’t get it this is why the school of life was founded it’s the founding idea of the school that culture can support us in our life and it’s constant uphill struggle to get that point across what i’m trying to talk to you about today is a new book that i’ve written with a fellow faculty member John Armstrong


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