One of the powers of jealousy

One more little snippet from Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life. I am actually now into another novel I pulled off the shelf that is a relic from a book club which I never read called The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry, but more on that in another post. This is perhaps some lousy excuse, but I have taken lately to reading novels on the bus trips back from Sydney, for the simple reason that other books, such as the Christian living ones I was working through, are not so well designed for continuous reading for three and a half hours, in order to gain the most benefit, so I’d find I’d read a bit, then pause and ponder and look out the window, or my phone, then read a bit more etc, but because I can keep the pages of a novel flicking, I feel like I am actually reading more in the given time, and there are perhaps better times and ways to read the other books.

I thought this an insightful little snippet, on how much easier it is to at least think we understand happenings, when those happenings are less close to our heart or have less important consequences for our lives. But when things mean a great deal, or we have more invested in the outcome, it is suddenly so much harder to interpret them. I was interested to discover that one of the major influences on Proust was George Eliot (and also Dostoevsky), because the portions I’ve read of his musings on the human psyche have something similar about them (the first part is de Botton, then a quote from Proust).

Though we sometimes suspect that people are hiding things from us, it is not until we are in love that we feel an urgency to push our enquiries, and in seeking answers we are apt to discover the extent to which people disguise and conceal their real lives.

It is one of the powers of jealousy to reveal to us the extent to which the reality of external facts and the emotions of the heart are an unknown element which lends itself to endless suppositions. We imagine that we know exactly what things are and people think, for the simple reason that we do not care about them. But as soon as we have a desire to know, as the jealous man has, then it becomes a kaleidoscope in which we can no longer distinguish anything. 

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