Sunday 04th December

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Mark Vernon: Book + London dates

| Special Events, Things to do | 18/08/2014

Writer and journalist Mark Vernon
Writer and journalist Mark Vernon

For anyone who does or has found personal relationships tricky (I guess that includes most of us) then Mark Vernon’s latest book ‘Love: All That Matters’ can prove a similarly tricky if helpful and indeed positive pocketbook. A smart and engaging little tome, small but nonetheless exhaustive, I could not read it in one sitting but in small chunks necessitating time to break and reflect.

This is not a guide to managing relationships as such, more a potted history of the psychology of relationships. As a handbook on how to take pleasure in love and life it offers many useful insights. One concept appealing to me is the idea of how we embellish whatever (moreover whoever!) we attach ourselves to, as philologist Owen Barfield explains, “the sexual instinct is the underlying reality and that what is called ‘love’ is a late-come embroidery on it.” It’s the unpicking of the threads – unravelling the reasons that we forge or seek to forge an attachment – that makes for some hard-hitting reality-checks.

Vernon concerns himself with three modes of relationships throughout the course of a lifetime. He identifies that “the transition between each mode is painful because it requires letting go of the security that comes with the familiar love…” Thus we move from our first needful connection with our parents, transferred as it is upon youthful romance, and then further transcribed to the deepening ardour of friendship – the “fullest flourishing of human love…” Vernon ultimately proposes a balance between all three modes.

It is a book that refers to the flipside, such as when parental care is damaged or broken. There’s an admission that “the brute fact of existence is the opposite of love – indifference…” and that, existentially, we clutter our lives with the aforementioned embroideries. It’s all cleverly related by the author in a kind of aversion therapy, to return or re-tune to the “capacity to love another”. Vernon contrasts the abstraction of ‘finding love’ with the more transcendent concept of its allowance (to allow oneself to love, and to love oneself). To ‘stand in love’ rather than fall in love.

The truth as I see it is demonstrated by our need for stories and rites simply to make us feel better. Mark Vernon has much success in un-levering these social structures, and getting down to the foundations. Astonishing, the necessity of this exercise, come no surprise that in order to fully experience this life we should purely love ourselves and each other. Even Greta Garbo admitted in the autumn of her years that “I think I may have made rather a mistake.” Love schmlove. Companionship – that’s to love.

London dates

Dr Mark Vernon will be leading short courses on philosophy at the Idler Academy and the School of Life this autumn:

Mondays, September 22 – October 27 │ Introduction to Ancient Philosophy │ Idler Academy, London

Saturday, September 27 │ Philosophy as Therapy │ School of Life, London

Sunday, November 2 │ Ancient Philosophy │ Idler Academy, London


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