In his Five Short Talks on Excess, I dug his section on Enough is Enough. Excess is contagious, Phillips argues. But why, if we love something, do we want too much of it? We might fear losing it and never having it again, or maybe we become greedy because “what we are getting is not quite what we want: it’s failing to satisfy me so I begin to believe that more is better, that if one cream cake isn’t doing the trick, three will, when in fact it isn’t a cream cake that I really want.”
The reverse is also true… we eat too little for the same reasons. Children “can use doubt about food to hide doubt about love… But once again excess – here, excessive deprivation – is born of mortal fear. Excesses of appetite are self-cures for feelings of helplessness.”
“Excess is a sign of frustration; we are only excessive wherever there is a frustration we are unaware of, and a fear we cannot bear. An addiction is an unformulated frustration.”
“We have become excessively frightened of feeling frustrated; why else do people in affluent countries eat so much more than they need – indeed, make a cult of eating? Is it because we have become, have been encouraged to be, phobic of frustration? As though satisfaction is more enlivening, more interesting, more revealing than frustration. We can only be truly satisfied if we are truly frustrated.”
I skimmed most of the remainder of the book. Other bits that stood out:
” ‘The hell of the narcissist,’ the French analyst Serge Viderman wrote, ‘is the tyranny of his need for others.’
An interesting poem by Czech poet Miroslav Holub entitled ‘Brief Reflection on Maps’:
Albert Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi, who knew a thing or two about maps,
By which life moves somewhere or other,
Used to tell this story from the war,
Through which history moves somewhere or other.
From a small Hungarian unit in the Alps a young lieutenant
Sent out a scouting party into the icy wastes.
It began to snow, it snowed for two days and the party
Did not return. The lieutenant was in distress: he had sent
His men to their deaths.
On the third day, however, the scouting party was back.
Where had they been? How did they manage to find their way?
Yes, the man explained, we certainly thought we were
Lost and awaited our end. When suddenly one of our lot
Found a map in his pocket. We felt reassured.
We made a bivouac, waited for the snow to stop, and then with the map
Found the right direction.
And here we are.
The lieutenant asked to see that remarkable map in order to
Study it. It wasn’t a map of the Alps
But the Pyrenees.