de Botton writes:
For the rest of history, for most of us, our bright promise will always fall short of being actualised; it will never earn us bountiful sums of money or beget exemplary projects or organisations. It will remain no more than a hope carried over from childhood.
See the rest of the review by one of my faves, the curmudgeonly John Gray, who writes:
Bourgeois life has always been de Botton’s subject. One of our most consistently illuminating writers on contemporary culture, he dissects the paradoxes that result when individualism becomes a mass philosophy, with a delicacy and humour that conceal the depth of his seriousness. Perhaps predictably, he is not without detractors, who see him as dispensing morsels of platitudinous philosophy to readers anxious for reassurance. But if there is a message in his writings it is hardly reassuring, for he deflates with unsparing irony the pretensions that sustain the way we live. If bourgeois culture differs from what has gone before, it is in claiming that personal happiness is a universally achievable goal. In earlier writings, de Botton turned a sceptical eye on the quintessentially bourgeois notion that happiness can be found in romantic love. He now examines the other main tenet of the creed: the belief that it is work that gives meaning to life.
Unsparing irony. That gets the old corpuscles bouncing. People who earn their living writing books about how work does or does not give meaning to life (or how it may be that universal happiness is unattainable) come in for special mention, methinks.
My wife admitted work distracts her from being alone with her thoughts. I’ve heard some of those thoughts out loud and I’m glad she works. I suspect she’s not alone and that someone is trying to spin it as “meaning” to make kidding oneself a good thing.