Alain On Happiness  

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"Everybody continually kills the Mandarin"

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Les Propos sur le bonheur is a work by French philosopher Émile Chartier on the art of being happy, first published in 1925 (an augmented edition was published in 1928). It has been translated in English as Alain On Happiness.


  • It is clear that in mulling over harsh judgments, sinister predictions, and bad memories, we fashion our own sadness; in a certain sense, we savor it.
    • Sad Mary
  • In short, the important thing is to get started. No matter how; then there will be time to ask yourself where you are going.
    • Fate
  • We must clear away, simplify, eradicate.
    • The Prophetic Soul
  • Our errors perish before we do. Let's not mummify them and keep them around.
    • Our Future
  • Everybody continually tries to get away with as much as he can; and society is a marvelous machine which allows decent people to be cruel without realizing it.
    • Attitudes Toward Neighbors
  • Politeness is for people toward whom we feel indifferent, and moods, both good and bad, are for those we love.
    • Domestic Tranquility
  • Humanity will have to extricate itself from the bags created by false moralists, according to whom we taste happiness and then pass judgment on it, as if it were a piece of fruit. But I maintain that even for a piece of fruit we can do something to help it taste good. This is even truer of marriage and every other human relationship; these things are not meant to be tasted or passively accepted; they must be made. A relationship is not like a bit of shade where one is comfortable or uncomfortable depending on the weather and the way the wind is blowing. On the contrary, it is a place of miracles, where the magician makes the rain and the good weather.
    • On Private Life
  • Any kind of barbarism, once established, will last.
    • Men of Action
  • Idleness is the mother of all vices, but also of all virtues.
    • Men of Action
  • In short, the anomaly of war is that the best men get themselves killed while crafty men find their chance to govern in a manner contrary to justice.
    • Egoists
  • May the Gods, if they did not die of boredom, never give you one of those flat kingdoms to govern; may lead you through mountain paths; may they give you for a companion a good Andalusian mule with eyes like wells, a brow like an anvil, and who stops dead in his tracks because he sees the shadow his ears make on the road in front of him.
    • The King is Bored
  • Work is the best and worst of all things; the best of it is voluntary, the worst of it is servile.
    • Happy Farmers
  • Every menial condition is bearable as long as one can exercise authority over one's work and be assured that the job is permanent.
    • Happy Farmers
  • We are advised and led along by second-rate moralists who only know how to work themselves into a delirium and pass their illness onto others.
    • The Eloquence of Our Passions
  • One must preach life, not death; spread hope, not fear and cultivate joy, man's most valuable treasure. That is the secret of the greatest of the wise, and it wil be the light of tomorrow. Passions are sad. Hatred is sad. Joy destroys passions and hatred. Let us begin by telling ourselves that sadness is never noble, beautiful or useful.
    • On Pity
  • An author of antiquity said that every event has two handles, and that, in order to carry it, there is no sense in choosing the one that hurts the hand.
    • In The Rain
  • Certainly thinking is pleasant, but the pleasure of thinking must be subordinated to the art of making decisions.
    • Ceremonies
  • Obligation spoils everything.
    • Happy New Year
  • Never be insolent unless it is a deliberate decision, and only toward a man more powerful than yourself.
    • Giving Pleasure
  • Happiness is a reward that comes to those that have not looked for it.
    • Victories
  • Each one gave the other the only assistance one man can expect from another: that his friend support him and ask only that he remain himself. It is no great accomplishment to take people as they are, and we must always do so eventually, but to wish them to be as they are, that is a genuine love.
    • Poets
  • Untie, liberate, and do not be afraid. He who is free is disarmed.
    • Poets
  • It is very true that we ought to think of the happiness of others; but it is not often enough said that the best thing we can do for those who love us is to be happy ourselves.
    • Happiness if Generous
  • When the pack is out hunting, the dogs do not fight among themselves.
    • One Must Vow

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