I had a telephone call this morning from my son. He wanted me to know that he had got back to the UK following his lecture tour in the Australian universities. He is one of our leading romano–british historians. It reminded me of a conversation we had when he was fourteen. He said that I was unlike other fathers. He claimed that most fathers answered their children’s questions whereas I simply asked him questions back. I like to think, though I cannot confirm, that this triggered him into investigating the truth rather than looking for someone else’s answer.
This wasn’t original to me. I was fortunate to have had a Jesuit education. There I learnt that I couldn’t make statements of significance unless I was prepared to support them with logic and evidence. Nor, as far as I was concerned, could my son.
I have little knowledge of the status of regular contributors to this blog. The odd hint gives me clues of course. But I have the impression that many are highly educated, sometimes clerical, and, most often, with views worth reading and thinking about.
So today I am asking whether any of you recall a remark, or an idea, from a parent, or a teacher, or a friend which you took on board and which has continued to influence you since then.
In my case, it was many years back. I was in a high- level business meeting where we were looking at how we could improve the business organisation. We went through a lengthy discussion reviewing all the different aspects, and potential improvements. When we finished, our chief actuary asked: “But, in the end, what are the things which really matter?” In five minutes, we knew the answer.
So, since then, whether it’s family, or business, or my health, or investments, or my plan for the day, I start with the question “What are the things which really matter?” It has been invaluable.
So I ask you to think through your own mind and memory and see if you can remember the principle, or principles you have picked up over the years and are still benefitting in your life.