Infirmity alone makes us take notice and learn, and enables us to analyse processes which we would otherwise know nothing about. A man who falls straight into bed every night, and ceases to live until the moment when he wakes and rises, will surely never dream of making, not necessarily great discoveries, but even minor observations about sleep. He scarcely knows that he is asleep. A little insomnia is not without its value in making us appreciate sleep, in throwing a ray of light upon that darkness. An unfailing memory is not a very powerful incentive to study the phenomena of memory.
[W]e become properly inquisitive only when distressed. We suffer, therefore we think, and we do so because thinking helps us to place pain in context. It helps us to understand its origins, plots its dimensions, and reconcile ourselves to its presence.
— Alain de Botton
There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or even lived in a way which was so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory. But he shouldn’t regret this entirely, because he cannot be certain that he has indeed become a wise man — so far as any of us can be wise — unless he has passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be reached. I know there are young people . . . whose teachers have instilled in them a nobility of mind and moral refinement from the very beginning of their schooldays. They perhaps have nothing to retract when they look back upon their lives; they can, if they choose, publish a signed account of everything they have ever said or done; but they are poor creatures, feeble descendants of doctrinaires, and their wisdom is negative and sterile. We cannot be taught wisdom, we have to discover it for ourselves by a journey which no one can undertake for us, an effort which no one can spare us.
A woman whom we need and who makes us suffer elicits from us a whole gamut of feelings far more profound and more vital than does a man of genius who interests us.