Love in the daily grind

Love in the daily grind

On 7th May, Rahi had his third birthday. My mum, Anni, and I prepared things, and when he came out in the morning there were candles and balloons, chocolate cake with strawberries on top, the table strewn with cards and presents.

He was so excited! He smiled at the table, his shy little smile, the smile he has when there’s some inner joy about something he can’t quite believe is real, or when he’s getting used to some great happiness, and then the smile broke out into laughter and noise and excitement.

It was a beautiful thing. And to add to the beauty, my mother was there, at her grandson’s birthday, not something to be taken for granted when one lives in India and the other in Europe. She was smiling at Rahi, Anni was smiling at Rahi, and the soft spring light streamed in through the big window by the birthday table.

I dandled Anaya on my knee and felt stress and anger rising. I had work to do. I had deadlines. This was taking longer than planned. Why was it taking so long? Annika should have done something. My mum should have done something. Someone should have done something. It shouldn’t be taking this fucking long. Fuck!


My son’s birthday, and I couldn’t enjoy it? Maybe 20 minutes out of my morning, and all I could feel was stress and anger?

Christ, man.

It has occupied me ever since. It occupies me still. Later, in the most recent salon, I shared a question, a struggle, that is very alive and important for me right now, and the memory of Rahi’s birthday was at the front of my mind. The question is simple.

How do I find love in the daily grind?

How do I access and experience love while I am exhausted and overwhelmed and every day feels like a day to survive rather than a day to live?

How do I learn to see love in the new conditions of my life?

It can no longer be flowers on Tuesday or entire weekends in bed together. If Annika was sending me flowers on Tuesday, I’d be like, dude, if you have the time to be getting me flowers, can you please do some of my childcare instead? It has to be something else. It is something else.

But how can I learn to see it and to feel it? And I mean not intellectually, not with my mind, but with my soul and my heart and my eyes?


In 2001, the snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan (a Federer / Tendulkar level genius, one of those people who seem to have born to do one specific thing) checked himself into rehab for drug addiction.

A key part of the rehab program was group meetings with other addicts. When he went to his first meeting, says O’Sullivan, he was in bits. I hated my life, he writes. I hated that I had become dependent on drugs. Then someone started speaking, telling the group their story, and O’Sullivan listened because he was there and had no choice.

His story was my story, writes O’Sullivan. And he looked so happy and was so bubbly that it filled me with an unfamiliar hope. I came out of the meeting feeling fantastic, got home and celebrated in my usual way, which was rolling a nice fat spliff. That’s how excited I was. I am going into the Priory tomorrow, I might as well finish off this little bit I’ve got left.

Clearly, says O’Sullivan, there were flaws in my thinking.


No shit, Ronnie. Clearly, there were. It’s a flaw I know so well. In fact, let me share something that I find embarrassing and difficult to share, simply to illustrate how well I know this flaw.

Like many of us, I’ve had a difficult relationship with food / weight / body for a very long time (it started at 10, in my memory, but we can save the details for the long winter nights). Over the last four years this has gotten much worse. I’ve put on over 20 kilos, and my relationship to food and to my body has frankly become rather catastrophic.

But none of that is the difficult bit to share. The difficult bit comes now. I decided, dear reader, just this weekend - basta. I am going to eat well. No more shit, here comes new Pranay. I decided to start from today. So naturally, last night, I ordered two burgers and polished ‘em off with fries. I was celebrating. My last night, my last ever spliff.

Clearly, there are flaws in my thinking too.

Ronnie, by the way, eventually ‘started listening properly, and stopped thinking that the best way to get over your addiction to spliff was by smoking all the spliff you had in your house.’ So there’s hope for me yet!


Ronnie smoking that last spliff, me eating my last burgers, people smoking their last cigarettes … they all illustrate something about our desires that I’m going to call the Cleopatra principle.

When Shakespeare talks about her in Antony and Cleopatra, he says of her that

"Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.”

That's the Cleopatra principle: The more you do something, the more you will want or feel compelled to do it.

Every time I binge eat burgers, even the celebratory last-burger-ever-burgers, I make it more likely that I will binge eat burgers again. Every spliff Ronnie smokes, even the celebratory last-spliff-ever-spliff, strengthens the patterns and processes, the feelings, the complicated mix of things that drive him to smoke spliffs in the first place.

And in this fact lies the possibility of salvation.


Simone Weil was a French philosopher and a truly extraordinary person. Amongst other things, she had a breathtaking, merciless purity. This came out in her thinking and writing, where it is rare enough - even amongst philosophers - to encounter a mind and a soul that is genuinely devoted to truth and goodness. But even more, it came out in her life, because she didn’t just write and think, her thought then became real in her life. She didn’t just say, it’s good to live this way, she actually went out and tried to live that way.

But this is not a piece about Simone Weil. I introduce her because I want to introduce a concept that became fundamental to her thought and her life, namely the concept of attention. And I want to pick out one striking remark she makes about it:

“We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will.”

In this remark is potential salvation from celebratory spliffs and last-ever-burgers, and from being angry while your son delights in his third birthday. In it may be an answer to how to find love in the daily grind.

It’s very simple. The Cleopatra principle tells us that the more we do of something, the more we are like something, the more of it we will do and be like. Weil tells us that the route to change lies in the attention. I’m just putting them together.

If we want to find love in the daily grind, we must attend to love in the daily grind.

Because, the thing is, there is love in the daily grind. There’s love, there’s beauty, there’s joy and fulfilment … everything that makes life worth living is right there, right before our eyes, weaved into the fabric of our ordinary experience.

If there is a God, this is where She makes her home. It’s not Her fault we refuse to see Her.


These ideas are also a vision of what philosophy and philosophising is: it consists of training the attention on the things that truly matter. It consists of transforming oneself by transforming what one attends to, and how one attends to it.

This vision is central to the new philosophy. Most directly, it finds expression in the stuff I’ve started writing around “Moments of Grace” (pretty much what it says on the tin), and in the community events we’ve been having (the salon and the magic sessions). And indirectly it finds expression pretty much everywhere.

I'd like to give Simone Weil the next words (I was going to call them the final words, but I always hope that words are the start of something, not the end, so I don't want to call them final):

“The poet produces the beautiful by fixing his attention on something real. It is the same with the act of love. To know that this man who is hungry and thirsty really exists as much as I do - that is enough, the rest follows of itself.
The authentic and pure values - truth, beauty and goodness - in the activity of a human being are the result of one and the same act, a certain application of the full attention to the object."