Friday, 14 October 2016

How two good friends getting 'cool jobs' changed my life (but not that much...)

It was 1986 and I was trying to decide my future. As usual, I knew that I did not want to continue on the line I was pursuing, but not what I did want to do.

The previous year, I had (briefly) arranged to study philosophy at Trinity College, Cambridge - with some notion of following in Wittgenstein's footsteps (why would anyone want to do that? - indeed...); but had veered away and turned-down the place, due to the cost of college fees, plus an inarticulate aversion that it was not the right thing. But I lacked any alternative plan.

Then, on the same evening of the same day, I heard that two good friends had got 'cool' jobs - one as a musical director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the other as a producer for BBC Radio Three (the classical music channel). I was of course very pleased for them, but I also realised that no conceivable success in my mapped-out future could give me anything like the satisfactions which they would get from these jobs.

I steeled myself, therefore, to make a break - and things went well and easily when I arranged to do an English Literature Masters Degree by research at University College, Durham.

The experience was, on the whole, very good; and I ended up doing a lot of philosophy, and it launched a parallel to my academic career - in journalism, and humanities work - but I can also see that I did not do then (in that one year in Durham) what I was supposed to have done, and for which I received many synchronicitous hints and nudges: I did not become a real Christian (nothing like).

But I only became a very relativistic, postmodern, 'cultural' kind of 'Christian'/ agnostic - such that I would more often look at church architecture, sporadically attend choral evensong, later got married in a church, etc; but not any kind of Christian, not with a faith, not such that it made any significant difference to my real life. And as late as the late 1990s I spoke in a public debate about how Christianity was unnecessary (made obsolete by Darwin etc).

Indeed, this dire spiritual state continued for another TWO DECADES!

So, friends getting cool jobs changed my life - but did not change it in the way it was meant to change it, nor in any deep or essential fashion.   


  1. "And as late as the late 1990s I spoke in a public debate about how Christianity was unnecessary (made obsolete by Darwin etc)."

    What made you change your mind, particularly from the "made obsolete by Darwin etc." point of view?

  2. @Albrecht - There is no definitive answer - you could look at these: