Saturday, February 27, 2010

Layer 256 . . . More Woody, Joan Bakewell, Contentment, Confucius, Virtue, the Treasury and Toyota

Decided to re-listen to Sir Clive Woodward on yesterday's repeat of Desert Island Discs.

To give him his due, he did actually admit that he'd been fortunate to be associated with some superb players during his time as England rugby manager.

"I was very lucky. I had wonderful players."

He also admitted that in life generally he's been very lucky.

Hearing it the second time around I felt pretty sorry for him for having had such a crap childhood. Running away from his Welsh boarding school not once but twice, and managing a home run both times, shows a lot of unhappiness and desperation, and also a lot of determination. Finally though, it seems his spirit was broken, since he remained at the school in Anglesey between the ages of 13 and 18, and was never allowed by the Welsh to play his beloved football. It must have felt like being incarcerated in a kind of rainy and damp British gulag.

He finished up with a bit of a Zen-like  philosophy - "Don't get bogged down in the past, and don't look too far into the future. It's all about today."

But mentioning Bob Dylan and Ronan Keating in the same breath was still . . .  breathtaking. And very amusing.

Kirsty Young is brilliant in her DID role. She has such a quick mind, and great empathy with the people she interviews. It must take incredible concentration, preparation and skill, as well as personality, to do what she does with such apparent unobtrusive ease.


Joan Bakewell, age 76,  had a very thought-provoking column in the Guardian this week. This is the kind of thing that can change someone's entire outlook.

Happiness is being 74

The young have stress, ambition, unfulfilled dreams. The elderly have contentment

Happiness, it seems, peaks at the age of 74 – or so scientists have concluded after asking 21,000 people how happy they were on a scale of 1 to 7. Teenagers racked with angst registered around 5.5; in their 40s people reckoned they had less happiness in their lives. Those who were 74 rated themselves 5.9, the highest of the lot. At 74 I was single, living alone and all life's choices were mine: I was writing my first novel, making new friends and visiting new places. What's not to like?

We define happiness in our own terms and for our own particular life moment. There is probably nothing as ecstatic and overwhelming as falling in love; pledging your love together before family and friends carries its own euphoria; holding your new baby is your arms is another of life's highs . . . all family moments. Then there's the job, the promotion, the first home . . . all rungs on today's ladder for measuring how well you're doing in life and thus how happy you might expect to be.

Happiness is about something else entirely: it's not about future expectations but a deep satisfaction with the here and now, with yourself and your place in the world. It involves a degree of healthy self-esteem and a worldview that sets petty preoccupations against a wider canvas. It probably has little to do with money, though dire poverty will be its enemy. It depends on the falling away of all the things that blight our happiness when we're younger: ambition, competitiveness, stress, unfulfilled dreams and hopes.

In terms that will appal younger spirits, it calls for a certain resignation – an awareness that life is finite, that you finally know who you are and accept your limitations and disappointments. Disappointments, when they come, are less sharp than they once were. They are simply part of the pattern.

There's plenty to make old age unhappy, too. The deep wounds sustained by the death of those we love are the greatest. There's infirmity and illness, the closing down of life's options. But there's a relief too, in knowing you won't be climbing the Eiger or pioneering a new vaccine. The blessings of family and friendship count for more, and they grow as the years go by.


A History Of The World

In 100 Objects

A Chinese Bronze Bell from the time of Confucius - 2,500 years old - Radio 4

Music produces the kind of pleasure that human nature can't do without. Confucius believed that music plays a central part in the shaping of the individual, as well as the state. Individual people, individual sounds, blending together in a pleasant and pleasing way. Society needs harmony, and peace.

The individual and society also need virtue, benevolence and righteousness.

[See also Oxzen Layer 148]

Leaders should embody virtue, and demonstrate their right to rule.

[More for Brown and Cameron to think about.]

In a good society there should be no need for punishment. If leaders and rulers set a good example, then virtuous individuals will live and work together harmoniously.

[NB Gordo]


The Great Offices of State - 3. The Secret Treasury - BBC4

Everything about the Treasury and the people who run it is repulsive. A nasty, gloomy building, full of nasty gloomy people. Full of people puffed up with ego and pride. And a fat lot of good it did them whilst they allowed the State and its finances to hit the buffers. Voodoo economics. Crashing and burning in the most spectacular fashion. No proper oversight or stewardship of the financial system. Many of us said this at the time the bubble was growing - but did they listen?

I know someone who used to have on their child's primary school's governing body a young man who worked in the Treasury. An arrogant little twat in the mould of Ed Balls and the other Young Pioneers of New Labour. He overreached himself in his plotting against the school's leaders and the staff reps on the governing body. He thought he was doing his stuff (secret meetings with local authority officers and so on) ever so cleverly behind their backs, but he was too clever by half, and tripped over his own ego. Thankfully the very people he tried to patronise - parent governors and staff governors - exposed him in a meeting and gave him such a fucking good kicking he promptly resigned. A story with a happy ending.

It seems the look on his face at the time of his public humiliation was a sight to behold. He hadn't realised that regular working people could use words so effectively, and with such deadly intent, and outcome.


Talking of huge crashes -

Toyota: A giant crashes

The Economist has written off the entire affair as exemplifying the problems with Japanese corporate governance. Oh, if only those salarymen in Tokyo had learned from their counterparts in New York and London how capitalism should be done!

Mr Toyoda himself yesterday reiterated that his company had been too focused on growth and had "confused" its priorities. One could put it more plainly still, as former Toyota executive Jim Press has, describing his old employer as being "hijacked" by "anti-family, financially oriented pirates". In so doing, a widely admired company has wrecked its reputation . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment