I’ve borrowed a huge book about Christopher Isherwood, having been reminded of him by a photo in a pub in Malvern of him and Auden. Stephen Spender is quoted in the book speaking about himself:
‘I was incapable of being interested in my fellow undergraduates just for themselves. I wanted them to be interested in me and in what interested me – in that order.’
Working at a university as I do, I am regularly impressed by the confidence and ambition of undergraduates, which completely contrasts with my attitude while I was doing my own studies. My ambition extended to having enough 50ps for the pool table and hoping to get up in time to buy the last jacket potato-and-curry from the local garage. Shameful.
Replace ‘undergraduates’ with ‘people’ in Spender’s quote, and haven’t you got an apt description of what I’m going to call a ‘facebook mindset’? After spending much of my 20s waving a placard around, piling up petitions and folding away chairs in church halls, I have decided in my 30s to spend more time focussing on me. Indeed, the balance may have tipped with all the running I’m doing: I’m creeping towards an advanced state of narcissism. Now I’m thinking about muscle mechanics and the effects of nutrition and being just a few seconds quicker than last time…It seems so pathetic, yet there are so many other people out there devoted to being fitter, quicker…prouder. And yet, while we’re watching our meals and checking our progress, there’s a world out there that we could try to influence. Ah, guilt…