Philosophy, cosmology, and chatting up women

From Alain De Botton’s introduction to a book I just read:

“De Maistre’s work springs from a profound and suggestive insight: that the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to. If only we could apply a travelling mindset to our own locales, we might find these places becoming no less interesting than the high mountain passes and jungles of South America. What then is a travelling mindset? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. We approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is interesting. We irritate locals because we stand on traffic islands and in narrow streets and admire what they take to be strange small details. We risk getting run over because we are intrigued by the roof of a government building or an inscription on a wall. We find a supermarket or hairdresser’s unusually fascinating. We dwell at length on the layout of a menu or the clothes of the presenters on the evening news. We are alive to the layers of history beneath the present and take notes and photographs.”

From the main text, chapter 13:

“The contemplation of the starry sky is a charm that never loses its novelty for me, and I need not reproach myself for ever having made a single journey, or even a single night-time stoll, without paying the tribute of admiration that I owe to the marvels of the firmament. Although I fully feel the impotence of my mind in these lofty meditations, I draw an inexpressible pleasure in busying myself with them. I love reflecting that it is not chance which is bringing to my eyes that emanation from far-off worlds, and each star sheds, with its light, a ray of hope into my heart. Ah, could it be that these marvels have no relation with me other than the fact that they shine before my eyes? And my mind which rises up to them  – could they be strangers to the stars?…Man, the ephemeral spectator of an eternal spectacle, raises for an instant his eyes to the heavens, and then closes them again for ever; but during this fleeting instant that is granted him, from every point of the sky and from the very furthest bourns of the universe, a consoling ray of light sets out from every world, and falls onto his eyes, announcing to him that there is a relationship between that immensity and himself, and that he is an associate of eternity.”

And from chapter 18:

“Any man who embarks on a conversation with a beautiful woman by coming out with a witty remark or turning a compliment, however flattering it might be, shows a glimpse of intentions that should not become explicit until they are starting to be justified. Furthermore, if he starts being witty, it is clear that he is trying to shine, and thus that he is thinking less of the lady than of himself. “