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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, October 06, 2008
    The School of Life on the M1
    Fascinated to discover an organisation called The School of Life, devoted to the study of how to live. As director Sophie Howarth writes in the current TateEtc,
    The philosopher [Plato] believed the meaning of life could and should be studied. Yet if you went to any university, museum or other cultural institution in the UK today and said you’d come to study “how to live”, you’d be politely shown the door. Why should this be considered so ludicrous? Surely the question of how to live is still the most important one we can ask. Last year Anthony Kronman, professor of law at Yale, published a passionate polemic, Education’s End: Why our colleges and universities have given up on the meaning of life. “Why did the question of what living is for disappear?” he asks. “Our lives are the most precious resources we possess and the question of how to spend them is the most important question we face.”
    Even more fascinated to discover that alongside a programme of courses, life coaching sessions and lectures (interestingly called 'sermons' and held on Sundays at The Horse Hospital) The School of Life also offers holidays - with a difference. David Lawrence is hosting one later this month. It's A Tour of the M1. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with excuses to undertake such activities, but this is how Lawrence justifies his two-day trip:
    Motorways are strangely alluring; we spend so long on them, but don't know much about them. This holiday reveals why the M1 is such an extraordinary work of architecture, design, sociology and peculiar gastronomy. We explore the length of this great tarmac institution, meeting architects and historians, artists and truckers. We unearth the story of the motorway’s construction, reveal the poetry of its monumental architecture, dine in its historic service stations and recover the utopian thrill of its early days. We also, of course, meet those who are campaigning against the expansion of the M1, and hear their stories.
    Makes perfect sense to me though work commitments mean that I shan't be able to join Lawrence and various others including Ed Platt, author of the brilliant A40 Western Avenue story Leadville, and School of Life co-conspirator Alain de Botton who locates the M1 Tour travel itinerary in these terms:
    Rather than always being a chance to escape reality, perhaps holidays should offer us a chance to make ourselves more at home in the world we actually live in, even down to its half-terrifying, half-sublime motorway systems.
    Quite right! More please, but preferably not at weekends...