Monday, 26 March 2007


The Prologue

I was driving across town on Sunday. Radio is dull, so I go to put on a CD, but remember that they are back in the flat being added to my iPod. I recall what Michael Kickingbear (1) said about listening to podcasts in the car instead of radio stations.


Instead of listening to the radio, I would have preferred to listen to something I wanted to hear. Instead of watching a television programme, I channel-hop, or switch off. Instead of reading a newspaper, I skim through data sources more relevant and entertaining (2).

Why is it important that I only receive information that I perceive to be relevant to me just now?

I like the irrelevant, I aim to be a renaissance man, having breadth of knowledge and skills rather than depth of knowledge. (3)

I don’t think it is age-related, more related to the strength of character. If the character is weak, then choosing relevant information falls into the laziness category ("I’ll do the minimum to get by", and so some information fails to 'stick'). If the character is strong, then the person might find that they can focus in on main projects and still have enough energy (physical/mental) left to deal with the minor tasks.

How do people learn about strength of character any more? (4) We sit and watch “Friends” and see that as society’s guidelines. I see children being pulled along the streets on their ‘heelies’ and maybe that is why it annoys me - is that my poor strength of character or their laziness? Maybe that is why people who struggle in their normal life have the animal cunning to push on through other challenges. Maybe that is why we huff and puff when the lights change and we have to wait a few extra minutes to get to our destination. For some people, the world really was against them, and they had to rage against it; for others, getting up in the morning is the biggest struggle we have to face, and so that is our yardstick. And if something is more difficult than that, well, we can turn on the iPod or change channels, and tune out the things you think are irrelevant.

Heck, it is a blame culture, and all we need to do is make up an excuse for why the task hadn’t been done on time. (5)

If the bailiffs are kicking in the door, the poorhouse turns you away, and the rain doesn’t stop falling and you forgot the waterproofs: who are you going to blame? What does not kill me, makes me stronger? (6) But people use that as an excuse for lots of poor behaviour these days. Or for making challenges more difficult (eg crossing the Andes by frog (7)).

Maybe that’s why I’m nervous about the imminent 212 mile trek.


It is all writ large best here, I think, by Mr Thomas. We ‘did it’ in school, and the work stays with me, resurfacing in so many different ways. Strange that it was irrelevant back then, when I might have nicked myself shaving, or had to recover some escaping sheep from the croft, or a goat ate some birthday cake.


BG! said...

Good epilogue! It says a lot.

At school, we did "A Man For All Seasons" by R. Bolt. We hated it, partly because we were forced to study it, partly because it was set so far back in time that we thought it irrelevant, and partly because, at that age, we didn't have any well-established moral foundations to use as a yardstick against which we could measure the mettle of the characters.

A few years later, in Sixth Form, I read it again. Voluntarily. As a break from A-Level revision. All of a sudden I understood it, as if I had had a revelation. Now, I can see that it is a masterpiece. The principles of the principal character form a basis for my own, or at least that's what I strive to achieve.

My battered old O-Level copy has pride of place on my bookshelf. It contains much multi-coloured felt-tip-pen scrawl (the graffiti that comes from being bored witless) but I wouldn't be parted from it, ever.

I've got to go for a lie down now (and not under a tarp) :-)