Monday, January 06, 2014

What To Do Next?

I've Never Seen Star Wars. Marcus Brigstocke's Radio 4 programme introduces celebrities to experiences they have never had and asks them to rate them.

I recently came across an article Richard Osman (the boffin on Pointless) wrote in The Guardian. It was a smart deconstruction of the time commitment necessary to follow the advice of the '...100 X to do before you die' format.

To cut a longish story shortish - you can't. I have wondered before if it is a singularly middle-class developed-world expectation that every good thing in the world, be it painting, park or panorama, is only there for me to see and no other purpose. As natural resources that enable travel become fewer and fewer I need to jettison my expectation that I could see everything. The Golden Gate Bridge and Sydney Opera House can manage without my custom.

Osman looked at the time necessary, let alone the expense, to read all the books, see all the boxed-set TV series and movies, eat at all the restaurants and visit the galleries and concluded that there would be no time to do anything ordinary.

A while back I developed the rule of cyclical proficiency - you can't get better at one skill without getting worse at another. So this last year I read a good number of books, better than average, but I seemed to be constantly behind with the newspapers and didn't see enough films.

So as a thought for the start of the year may I encourage the skill of selection. Can you decide on one area where you might become more engrossed this year? And work out the cost. What will have to have less time devoted to it in order to compensate? One of the best-read people I know has no TV in her house. Another manages to blot out all around her in order to be lost in a book for a couple of hours. Chaos may reign in her household but she will not be moved.

The alternative is to continue to be a massive generalist, in which case there will often be 'Did you see?' Or 'Have you read?' conversations where your answer is negative. And this can feel bad if everyone else has seen Gravity3D and you haven't, or read The Da Vinci Code or seen 'that' clip on YouTube.

A Radio Bristol presenter recently announced that he had just seen The Sound of Music for the first time. He followed this up by saying that he had, really, never seen Star Wars. He managed it without shame which was cool.

I find that the lot of a parish priest is to be a generalist. When you meet someone new and they tell you what they do for a living it is helpful to be able to grasp the next question to ask and to discuss their life with some sense of being in on their secret a little bit.

All this means that the skill of selecting, from the huge range of human experience on offer, which ones you cannot afford to overlook, is a peculiarly third millennium one. There comes a time when you need to know about Harry Potter, The Sopranos and One Day I am sure. But when? Tough call.

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