What Can We Learn from This?

I remember being about twelve and worried by the stern, serious attitude taken by the more clever boys at my school. I realised that in some ways I was far more clever than them but my take on life back then, as is still sometimes the case, suffered from blind spots. Were these boys in touch with one, I wondered? Seriousness generally worried me like that. Should I be being serious, too? Or was it another case of the phenomenon that I’d noticed the last time I’d seen those boys with their fathers (school plays, cricket matches): their fathers looked similarly serious, but as much as their sons without any reason I could fathom.
     As I grew older I realised that seriousness is often a front for uncertainty; being told to learn, an act of obsessive control. Clever people may be loud or quiet, and are often serious, but when they talk about something serious they tend not to be – the ones I like, anyway. They can be emotional or amusing, or stupid or enigmatic, but rarely would I say they were serious. I watched a video clip of Jacques Derrida in Ken McMullen’s Ghost Dance the other day. How was he? Pouting, dramatic, funny, suave … he’d have given Dean Stockwell a run for his money with a continental  Candy Coloured Clown (which leaves me wondering what Foucault would have done with Frank). People I can learn from don’t ask me to learn anything at all.
     These days I find my professional world littered with ‘what can we learn from this’ type exhortations; from UKCP research conventions to the kinds of letter the BACP ask psychotherapists to write after acts of mild misconduct. The Guardian’s plastered with it: what can we learn from outpourings of grief? Tweets about bombings? Police investigations.
     We will learn, however hard we are compelled to learn, very little, I can assure you. Or maybe less, the harder we are told to look.

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