It's the Introduction, and Weil is describing the benefits of recognizing and accessing our mental "midpoint:"
"It is perfectly normal to experience "the blues" just as it is perfectly normal to experience joy and bliss, but optimizing emotional well-being means gaining greater control of the variability of moods, damping down the oscillations, and enjoying the rewards of the midpoint."Given my engineering background, that made me envision a graph with big amplitudes. But Weil has a better image:
"Imagine yourself on a see-saw. The goal is to have pleasant excursions around the balance point, not to endure violent swings or to stop moving. And you certainly don't want to get stuck on the ground."Have you ever had your see-saw partner impulsively decide to jump on the swings instead? While you were in the up position?
Back to Weil, and bliss:
"I advise you to beware of the countless books, websites, television shows, seminars, religions, and drugs (especially drugs) promising ceaseless bliss. The notion that a human being should be constantly happy is a uniquely modern, uniquely American, uniquely destructive idea."The image of ceaseless bliss may be personally destructive, but it sure can sell cruise ship vacations.
One last excerpt:
"A German friend recently told me that the American greeting ritual -- person #1 says, "How are you? and person #2 must summon a smile and respond, "Great! Great! -- strikes her as bizarre, artificial, and exhausting beyond measure. I agree. I am asked how I am all the time, and as I recite the obligatory "Great!" I can't help wondering what I'm doing. The question feels intrusive, the answer disingenuous, the whole exchange false."