We’re used to the idea that a year should be punctuated by a sequence of special public days: Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, some kind of national day, May Day, the August Bank holiday etc.
It is almost universally agreed that education is hugely important. But we are not particularly sure what we want from it. Our large commitment to there being good schools ironically has not been matched by concern about what they are for.
The modern world is in love with entrepreneurship. Starting your own business holds the same sort of prestigious position as, in previous ages, making a pilgrimage or spearing multiple enemies in battle.
Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was born in Frankfurt in 1903 into a wealthy and cultured family. His father, a wine merchant, was of Jewish origin but had converted to Protestantism at university.
The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was born in 341 BC, on the island of Samos, a few miles off the coast of modern Turkey. He had an unusually long beard and wrote over three hundred books.
There is no more ridiculed genre than the self-help book. Admit that you regularly turn to such titles to help you cope with existence and you are liable to attract scorn and suspicion.
We don’t always feel comfortable admitting it to our friends. But, secretly, the idea of being famous has great appeal. Fame is deeply attractive because it seems to offer very significant benefits.
The things that get us sexually excited can often sound rather improbable. On the face of it, Wellington boots, a heavy knit fisherman’s jumper or a car park seem unconnected to erotic satisfaction.
You are queuing to go through to Departures; one of the guards at security has lovely, almost turquoise eyes. You are intrigued by the way they're frisking the occasional passenger.
In almost all countries and communities around the world, there is one central (usually unvoiced) suspicion that arises whenever someone lets slip that they are ‘having therapy’: they are crazy.
It’s one of the grandest and oddest words out there, so lofty, it doesn’t sound like something one could ever consciously strive to be - unlike say, being cultured, or kind.
Under such a title, one expects something properly heroic: inter-planetary travel. Perhaps the flotation of a public company. A breakthrough in renal cancer research.
If you had the misfortune to do too much, or the wrong kind of it at school, you’ll probably remember one thing about history: how dull it can sometimes be.
Anyone of childbearing age will be surrounded by examples of catastrophic parenting in their own and previous generations. We hear no end of gruesome stories about breakdowns and resentments.
Today, like most days, you are anxious. It is there in the background, always present, sometimes more to the fore, sometimes less so, but never truly banished - at least not for longer than an evening.
Having a decent conversation is something most of us imagine we can do without problem - and certainly without much thought. These things just happen naturally. Don't they?
It is, of course, a form of madness. You pick up the largest jam jar and fling it to the floor. You go up to the attendant at the counter and deliver a stream of obscenities.
No one, probably, has ever much doubted that these things are nice. Clouds, trees and streams represent nature in its most gentle, tranquil guise. Their appeal is instinctive. But we take them for granted.
You are introduced to someone at a conference. They look nice and you have a brief chat about the theme of the keynote speaker. But already you have reached an overwhelming conclusion.
In general, we are very much alive to the benefits of exercise. In learning to speak another language, drive a car or play an instrument, we recognise the value of rehearsing and memorising.
We tend to reproach ourselves for staring out the window. You are supposed to be working, or studying, or ticking off things on your to-do list. It can seem almost the definition of wasted time.
Typically, envious feelings swirl around unexamined. We carry them about guiltily but blindly. This gives rise to outbursts of bad temper directed at innocent bystanders (especially one’s partner).
Our minds are filled with out-of-focus feelings and ideas: we dimly experience a host of regrets, hurts, anxieties and excitements. For the most part we never stop to analyse or make sense of them.
It’s late and, across the nation, people are sinking back into the soft corners of sofas, clutching glasses of wine and TV remote controls and numbing their minds with soothing images and sounds.
On a good day, Capitalism can seem pretty impressive. Take the sheer organisational might of corporations, with their incredible ability to focus the efforts of thousands of people on precise goals.
It comes naturally to most of us to think of music as therapeutic. Almost all of us are, without training, DJs of our own souls, deft at selecting pieces of music that will enhance or alter our moods for the better.
For years, you felt burdened with thoughts, feelings and opinions that didn’t seem to make much sense to anyone else. You sometimes wondered if you were going mad.
Many people will note a particular brightness to the light today, and a balminess to the air, which may trigger a surge of hope and a willingness to look at familiar problems with renewed determination.
They have a habit of ruining embarrassingly long stretches of our lives. They will - by nature - seem absurd to others for they are triggered by what are, ostensibly, the very ‘small things’.
Insomnia leaves us horribly exhausted, but there are a few benefits to sleepless nights, which we might focus on to alleviate the sheer panic that a failure to sleep can cause.
Why does being ‘a good person’ have such a bad name? In the modern world, the idea of trying to be good or kind conjures up all sorts of negative associations.