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Artists and writers launch London "School of Life"
August 3, 2008 / 10:45 AM / in 9 years

Artists and writers launch London "School of Life"

LONDON (Reuters) - A group of artists, writers and intellectuals has launched a new “university” in London, designed to help those too tied up with work to appreciate the finer things in life, like art, books and travel.

The School of Life, operating out of a small shop in Bloomsbury, an arty district of central London, describes itself as a “chemist for the mind” that plans to dispense “cultural solutions to everyday ailments”.

It hopes to inspire those who have got out of the habit of reading decent books, cannot keep conversation flowing at dinner parties, or need to expand their holiday horizons.

The philosopher Alain de Botton, author of “How Proust Can Change Your Life”, and Sophie Howarth, a former curator at London’s Tate Modern gallery, are among the faculty members.

“The School of Life is open to everyone seeking intellectual and personal adventure,” the school says on its website.

“Our audiences, like our faculty, are characterized by curiosity, sociability, open-mindedness and an appetite for life.”

The founders believe that people with too little time to spare need after-hours instruction in how to use what little they have to live a more fulfilled existence.

”Perhaps you have a burning question for a paleontologist. Perhaps you’re considering a career change and want to talk first-hand to a photographer or landscape designer.

“The School of Life has a large freelance faculty who are willing to meet with you for an hour of chat in exchange for a small fee,” the website explains, listing 50 experts.


Among courses being offered later this year are instruction in life, love, work, family and politics. A typical course, in love, will explore why relationships are so complicated and why attraction ebbs and flows.

“We draw on ideas from philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature and art. We discover what the likes of Plato, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Freud had to say about compassion, empathy and self-love,” the instructors promise.

Courses run for six weeks and cost 195 pounds ($390).

There are also lessons in how to make more scintillating conversation at dinner parties, lectures in the value of punctuality, and discourses on what books you should read.

On holidays, one suggestion is to head to the Lofoten Islands, north of the Artic circle in Norway, or to take an intense, introspective journey around your own bedroom.

Later this year, de Botton, one of Britain’s most high-profile philosophers and thinkers, will teach a course in travel appreciation at Heathrow airport.

“Alain will introduce you to people whose lives are intimately linked to the airport, explore the iconography of airports for artists and writers, and help you think more deeply about how we might all improve ourselves in the art of traveling,” the course notes explain.

Editing by Robert Hart

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