Well, where do I begin? The beginning?
As you may know even if you are not reading it, because most of the summaries online explain it pretty well, it is, in the simplest terms, a rundown of the wide world of, indeed, the archipelago of the passions! Let's start where it starts: with love.
The first expression here is golden. It is written: "Poor porcupines!"
I love this analogy between porcupines and humans. How do porcupines stay warm in the icy winds? Well, it says (paraphrasing), they huddle together, they get close to each other. The problem is they are very prickly and stingy!
Just like humans! Casiraghi/Maggiori cite Schopenhauer to make their case: Humans, like porcupines, need each other, but at the same time, are have so many "repulsive qualities and unbearable defects". Schopenhauer talks of the vulgarity of humans, just like animals, in his essay on the Wisdom of Life (cited). We desperately need each other, but at the same repulse each other and cannot tolerate each other. We therefore invent good manners and politeness as a way to bear it.
But, Casiraghi/Maggiori continue, how can these good manners and politeness "neutralize every form of detestation?"
Envy, rivalry, intolerance, even hatred! There are less dramatic but no less persistent evils like monotony and boredom. Well, one answer is: In some cases, the closeness is held together by reciprocal attraction and love: camaraderie, friendship, romance.
They mention a contrast: the person who does not love, who stays aloof and cold-- and the person who loves blindly, but who risks having it all 'shout down' (so to speak) and blasted forever.
Because, let's face it, when you love blindly and passionately and have your heart broken or are betrayed by a trusted friend, you lose something. You lose trust, you lose hope, you are devastated.
What do you do? Stay aloof, keep some mystery, some safe distance between you and others? Protect yourself from that horrible pain....
Avoid controversy and vulnerability, avoid exposing yourself, avoid risk, talk of anything but what is in your heart....
And now I go on my tangent: It's what I call Facebook Culture. Everyone showing his/her best light, being trite and silly and as beautiful as possible: never showing weakness or disability or sickness. "Look how happy we are! Look at us! Happy and beautiful! Not suffering!" Facebook Culture: A culture of people hiding the truth, hiding the heart, closing off and being impersonal.