Tropinin, The Coachman Leaning on a Whip Handle, 1820
It is not the contented or the glowing who have left many of the profound testimonies of what it means to be alive. It seems that such knowledge has usually been the privileged preserve of, and the only blessing granted to, the violently miserable.
To recognize that our best chance of contentment lies in taking up the wisdom offered to us in coded form through our coughs, allergies, social gaffes, and emotional betrayals, and to avoid the ingratitude of those who blame the peas, the bores, the time, and the weather.
The lesson? To respond to the unexpected and hurtful behavior of others with something more than a wipe of the glasses, to see it as a chance to expand our understanding, even if, as Proust warns is, "when we discover the true lives of other people, the real world beneath the world of appearance, we get as many surprises as on visiting a house of plain exterior which is full of hidden treasures, torture-chambers or skeletons."
Alain de Botton, from How Proust Can Change Your Life