The Best And Worst Things About Crushes

They're perfect...and that's the problem.

Crushes are glimpses of perfection...and that's the problem.


Philosopher and author Alain de Botton's School of Life is quickly becoming one of the best things on YouTube with its intriguing and thought-provoking collection of videos that endeavor to teach us all how to be a little happier, a little kinder, and a little less hard on ourselves and others: in short, how to live. 

This new video discusses crushes: those wonderful little one-sided (and sometimes reciprocal) loves and longings that can cause heart-rending torment, dangerous daydreams, and flights of fancy...into the sun. Alain de Botton was kind enough to provide us with a transcription of the narration, which we have included below.


They happen - in the privacy of our minds - pretty much everywhere: - at the pool- the conference- the aisles of a supermarket.

The dynamic is always the same: very little knowledge, indeed, complete ignorance - combined with a deep sense of knowing them absolutely, and of being entirely certain they would, if only circumstances allowed, be the one.
It's been going on since early adolescence at least, this madness - and even now, when one should know better, it happens.

These crushes, they show up our capacity for knowing how to make the most of the smallest details: a wrist, a neck, an ankle, a pair of jeans worn a certain way: they instantly become whole people, with whom we can imagine years of a life together, full of profound mutual sympathy, tenderness and laughter. 

This blessed person will, we know, understand us, and all the secret, complex, ignored parts of us.

This capacity we have for elaborating a whole personality from a few small details, it's there when we look at sketches.

This isn't someone who has no nostrils, eight strands of hair and no eyelashes. It's a beautiful creature we feel we understand at once.

The cynics say it's madness, this filling in of the gaps: we're just projecting wild reckless fantasies.

But that's too sweeping. 

We are probably right to be delighted - it's just not the whole story.

Perhaps that remarkably thin wrist with the leather band around it really does belong to someone who is sceptical, alternative, delicate, intelligent, wry…

The error of the crush is to go beyond that insight, to think this could ever be the whole truth about a human being.
Knocked off course by the crush's power, we forget the one central, inviolable fact of human nature: that everyone is crazy and trouble to be around.

Everyone has something substantially wrong with them. Everyone is extremely hard to live with.You can't know what from an ankle or a wrist,  but it'll be something, time will reveal it sure enough. Because life has messed all of us up. Because we all grew up inadequately parented, and have all ended up terrified and anxious pretty much the whole time.

That said, we shouldn't give up on having crushes - at any age. 

We just shouldn't believe in what they appear to promise any more.

Of course we haven't glimpsed complete perfection. It's just a pretty nice side or two coming to the fore.
Knowing this, we can let go of the frenzied, naive desire to do something about our feelings. We don't need to barge our way past the fruit stand and the vending machines and out into the street, to try to exchange a few halting words with them and, heaven forbid, suggest a date, maybe at the pizza place or the cafe round from the bookstore.

We should do nothing at all other than enjoy the sliver of virtue we've detected, in the full knowledge that a nightmare of tricky, dispiriting things will for sure also be there just beneath the surface.

It's a betrayal and misunderstanding of the crush to do anything more than to enjoy it for what it is: a heavenly glimpse of an entirely inaccessible and very misleading paradise.

For more videos by the School of Life, check out Alain de Botton on Facebook or subscribe to their YouTube channel

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our look at remaining calm. If you liked this, please share it with your friends.


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.