I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about maintaining perspective.
Can you recognise a mid-life crisis when you’re in the middle of a mid-life crisis? I have been unsettled by Will Self’s recent Radio 4 Point of View piece To the end of time. It ends with him saying, in his inimitable way, it’s always, always….now, isn’t it? All too often, since I caught him saying the word now, I have found myself ruminating on being in the very moment, with nothing before or after existing. It’s deeply disconcerting. It makes it feel like any experience is completely temporal. Have a listen and see what he makes you feel. I just hope I’m having nothing more serious than a mild mid-life crisis.
Keeping things in perspective but not too wide a perspective is an important facet of leading a contented life. Certain events have to matter, but not too much. And an appreciation of one’s own insignificance is, generally, a good thing. One of the wisest people I ever met was Pippa Tristram. When my dad died we were studying Chaucer; Pippa was my Medieval literature tutor at York. The end of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde really helped. As Troilus is killed and his spirit floats away, Doun from thennes faste he gan avyse/ This litel spot of erthe… And in him-self he lough right at the wo/Of hem that wepten for his deeth so faste.
When it comes to keeping things in perspective, despite his hat-eating gaffe, Paddy Ashdown is a wise man; certainly UKIP events since the election seem to testify to his wisdom. Here’s what he said just under a year ago…
It’s hubris that always gets you in the end. It did for Tony Blair. It’s the worm in the blood of Nigel Farage now, I think.
Paddy Ashdown, 7 June 2014
I’m having my fifteen minutes of fame. This month my book, This much I know about…Love Over Fear is published. It’s an odd feeling to be described as an author. People will probably see me as supremely confident, but confidence for me has always required a concerted effort. One of the things I have learnt is how people can subliminally rein you in because of what your success makes them feel. I think it takes huge determination to keep on going, when it would be easier to give up and allow everyone to feel better apart from you.
This much I know about…when to apologise. Publishing is a tricky business. I didn’t quite realise the issues surrounding copyright until we were preparing my book. Back in December 2014 I published a post on this blog, which I have since amended, which said that I had been told that Barry Hymer had used some of my Powerpoint slides about Growth Mindset in his presentations. In fact, the only slide that Barry used which contained my material was attributed to me. I apologise unreservedly for writing something which suggested that Barry Hymer would have plagiarised my work – he clearly did nothing of the sort…