Blow, blow, thou winter wind

A life coach? No thanks, look what happened to Lear.

So says Richard Morrison of the Times, who has been analysed by the Dr David Lewis Work-Life Balance Formula and been found wanting. He scored 18 out of 100 — "you do not have any balance between your work life and your personal life", Morrison was told. But he strikes back:

"I think the whole idea that people can adjust their work-life balances like twiddling a knob on a thermostat is fatuous. Indeed, I believe that the ever-growing army of “life-coaches” who spout slick psychobabble on this subject may do more harm than good, because they hold out the false promise that people can fundamentally change and improve their lives, when actually most lives are fixed by traits in people’s psyches or external circumstances that are beyond their control.

"Case in point? I always recall poor old King Lear. He thought he could improve his work-life balance by abdicating his responsibilities to his kingdom without properly thinking the details through. He was, in modern jargon, “down-shifting” — albeit on a grand scale. The result? He went bonkers, and his family and kingdom fell apart. What he had before wasn’t perfect. What he had afterwards was private and public anarchy.

Literature is full of these warning-sign figures: people who chase a dream without realising (or realising only too late) that it would mean renouncing something even more important to their wellbeing. Frequently the choice is between money or power on the one hand, and love, integrity or a rich family life on the other. In earlier eras it was well understood that a happy life is as much about renunciation as acquisition. Only in our era do we imagine, tragically, that advances in technology, medicine and of course psychology make it possible for people somehow to “have it all” by twiddling that magic work-life-balance knob. "

Quite. Read the whole article at the link above, I recommend it. And if you want to, you can go from there to the Lewis formula website to see what it says about your life-work balance (I daren’t).

Incidentally, Richard Morrison is also cheerful. The reasons?

"Read and rejoice

Journalists are often accused of peddling nothing but bad news. But in The Times yesterday I see we reported that:

  • Thanks to climate change, English wine could be “magnificent” in a few years;
  • Despite that £60,000-a-week salary, Ashley Cole apparently didn’t join Chelsea for the money;
  • Far from dumbing down, more and more schools are teaching Latin;
  • Win-at-all-costs racing driver Michael Schumacher is secretly a really nice guy;
  • Gordon Brown was grinning madly because he was thinking about his baby boy, not Tony Blair’s imminent demise.

    What a truly joyous world we live in. And you can stop sniggering at the back. This is a cynicism-free newspaper."

  • Richard Morrison’s articles are collected here.

    Lost children and parents

    I’ve watched a couple of movies in the past two evenings as my computer is preventing me from blogging or reading blogs. Maybe by coincidence, both films were on similar themes  — Broken Flowers, in which a parent searches for an unknown, possibly non-existent son, and Secrets and Lies, in which a young woman searches for a previously unknown parent. Both are award-winning films, both feature a less-then-sympathetic central parent figure, and both feature the sterility (in some cases, literally) of material success compared with the more upfront, "in touch" behaviour of the impoverished characters.

    Despite the similar themes, I did not enjoy Broken Flowers, finding it boring and pretentious. There is good acting in it (although the neighbour who stimulates the main character to act is not in that category), but you just know that nothing will be resolved or revealed. Sure enough, events take their predictable course right up to the final dissolve, and I was left thinking that I had wasted the previous couple of hours.

    Secrets and Lies, on the other hand, was genuinely moving in showing a woman’s search for her birth mother after the death of her adopted parents. There were some typical Mike Leigh moments (if you’ve seen anything directed by him you will know what to expect in terms of scenes of excrutiatingly painful yet amateurish social interaction), but the developing relationship of the mother and daughter is beautifully conveyed. And the excellent support from Timothy Spall and Claire Rushbrook, playing characters who have lives outside the times they are on screen, adds to the pleasure. Even though Secrets and Lies is now 10 years old, I felt it had so much more to offer the viewer than the more recent movie. Maybe that is because it is a more upbeat movie, but I don’t think so — it just had something to say.