For many the new year signifies lots of things – resolutions, new beginnings, re-evaluations and a chance to believe that we will re-shape and re-script our lives along happier, perhaps more fulfilling paths. perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who is happy on the road you’re currently treading. But whether you are looking to make a detour or a pitstop or pack your brain bag and completely start again – there is one place I found a little while ago that might help. It’s time to go back to school. A school unlike any other; one that teaches lessons far more valuable than algebraic formulations or the difference between amo, amas and amat. This is the School of Life we’re talking about. No really. It’s actually called The School of Life. And before you start sneering in the way that we have been so conditioned to in these ever increasingly cynical times stop that lip curl and bear with me. Because this place is an absolute treasure trove.
Founded by Sophie Howarth, previously a curator at Tate, the school is part shop, part schoolroom with classes on philosophy, relationships, value systems and so on. The school also runs weekends away and, perhaps best of all, dinner evenings in great restaurants in London called, Conversation Dinners. Stop sneering at the back and don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
The classes are about the practical application of philosophy on life’s core subjects – love, politics, work, family and play. Taking place over a weekend or six evenings (depending upon what fits in best with you) they’re structured around the burning questions that keep lots of people awake at night – how important is sex – why am I struggling – how can I live a meaningful life – why can’t I find/keep the love I so desperately crave?
The course on love is absolutely brilliant and was created with input from one of my all time favourite writers, John Armstrong (more on him in a not too distant post.) The courses are very interactive and rigorous and as far from self-help as you can possibly get. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
However, if you don’t want to commit to a course then at least be sure to make a visit to the school just to check out the bookshop – it’s very, very small but the selection is bang on the nose. They call it a, ‘pharmacy for the mind’ and that’s a great description. All the books have been handpicked by the team that work there and represent the best writing on all sorts of subjects; from being love-sick, worrying you’re a bad parent to just wanting some tips on how to get the best out of life. The opening hours are a little restrictive (closed at the weekends) but I really recommend a trip as the selection is constantly changing and evolving. I picked up a brilliant anthology of Barthes there as well as the most amazing book on relationships, which I’ll be covering in the not too distant future on this blog.
Finally, more on the conversation dinners. They’re an unrivalled opportunity to meet people in a relaxed setting and simply talk. Whether it be about philosophy, life, travel, music or the things which move and engage you the most. As a way of meeting new people who share similar passions they’re hard to be beat. In a world where we seek ever more increasingly bizarre and remote ways to connect with people the art of real conversation does seem to be dying out. And when there’s opportunities like these on offer then it’d only be a fool who would turn them down or not delve just a little deeper.
So there we are. The School of Life. I wish I’d known about it a long time ago – there are some valuable lessons to be learned there. Go.