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.   


Albrecht said...

"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?

Bruce Charlton said...

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