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  • Art is Advertising for What We Really Need

    At the centre of our societies is a hugely inventive force dedicated to nudging us towards a heightened appreciation of certain aspects of the world. With enormous skill, it throws into relief the very best sides of particular places and objects. It uses wordsmiths and image makers of near genius, who can create deeply inspiring and beguiling associations and position works close to our eyelines at most moments of the day. Advertising is the most compelling agentimage03
  • A Few Things Still to Be Grateful for

    We are geniuses at focusing on what is missing from our lives. Our dissatisfaction generally serves us well; it keeps us from complacency and boredom. But we are also dragged down by a pernicious inability ever reliably to stop, take stock and recognise what isn’t imperfect and appalling. In our haste to secure the future, we fail to notice what has not yet failed us, what isn’t actually out of reach: what is already very good. We should be sure to create small
  • Can Exes be Friends?

    There are some very strong and socially-endorsed reasons why partners breaking up generally try to remain friends. To the person being - however nicely - rejected, the promise of friendship can feel like an emotionally-reassuring consolation prize. We may no longer be allowed to share their bed, have children with them or end our days in their company, but at least something can be rescued from the ashes: we will continue to be able to call them when we like,
  • Why It's OK to Fantasise (a Lot)

    Every day, each one of us entertains, in the caverns of our minds, a host of secretly very enjoyable but deeply taboo ideas and scenarios. We fantasise about the downfall of rivals, sudden wealth and fame, reversing and accelerating time, eliminating colleagues, anticipating the stock market, the death of various people (even a few we’re meant to love) - and of course, of having sex with a huge variety of entirely inappropriate people in a plethora of highly
  • Be the Change You Want To See

    We spend a lot of time trying to change other people. There is, after all, so much wrong with them: they're selfish, arrogant, bullying, weak, cold, needy and so on. So we try to point this out - and often meet with resistance, denial or sheer indifference. This can be very agitating and hence renders us cross and severe. Why won’t people take our lessons board? In our behaviour, we tend to be making an implicit distinction between two projects: getting
  • Hegel Knew There Would Be Days Like These

    There have been places and periods of history when only a congenital optimist could have had any hope for the future of our species. Think of the end of Athens’s golden age, the fall of the Roman Empire, the petering out of the Renaissance, the close of the Enlightenment, the rise of fascism... It’s when things look bleak indeed that it pays to remember the German 19th century philosopher Hegel. In his Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, published

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