Thursday 24 May 2012

But I Digress | An Education in the Arts

It feels like just yesterday I was starting out at Uni.

It wasn't. It was, oh... ten years ago I guess? Maybe more. Maybe - I'd like to think - a little less. In any case, my four year degree course ended ages ago, so it must have begun even before that.

I studied English and Film & Media.

It was lots of fun. I look back on the experience more positively than I felt about it at the time, in fact. But however much I enjoyed it, or however much I convinced myself I did, the qualification it was all for has been of... shall we say very little use to me in the years since.

Then again, I don't care to pursue employment in a field that stresses educational achievement. Perhaps if I did, it'd be different. I won't know for a fact until I've given up on my dream once and for all, and then, well... it'll hardly matter, will it?

But enough about me. There's a whole new breed of would-be purveyors of art out there, a whole other generation's worth, and the other day, geek-god Neil Gaiman blessed them with his presence.

By now you'll have been tempted by this video somewhere else on the internet, I bet, but it's 20 minutes long, and if you're anything like me you'll have kept it in an open tab until your computer crashed, then promptly forgotten all about it. I'm embedding it here on The Speculative Scotsman precisely because that's what happened to me, until I was rudely reminded of it.

This, then, is your reminder. 

You'll be glad of it too, as I assuredly was. I've had the pleasure of hearing Neil Gaiman talk in person on a couple of occasions - whenever he's come to Scotland, obviously - but his commencement address to the graduating class of Philidelphia's University of the Arts is leagues more inspirational, dare I say uplifting, than any amount of Q&A.

The author has some stellar advice to share, and anecdotes aplenty to illustrate his experiences. I'll admit some of his sayings seem slightly misguided - optimistic to put it politely - but even these are illuminating, because of course you need a little luck as well as a lot of talent to make it in the arts. Or vice versa.

If I had all day, I could go on about the value of an education in the arts for all of it. But I don't! So I'm just going to let you watch this video, wherein Neil Gaiman is funny, smart and self-effacing, as ever:

Mountains, my friends. Mountains.

What's yours? And here: if you're completely honest with yourself, are you getting any closer to it, doing what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I'll show you mine if you show me yours! :)


  1. My Mountains are Scaffell Pyke and Snowdon. I have got to the top of Slieve Donard in my own fair Nortern Ireland and spent a glorious day getting to the top of Ben Nevis. It would be good to complete the set. A friend did all four in 72 hours a few years back,

    I always said I would love to write a book....but other people are much better at it than me:).

    I read Ancient History and Byzantine Studies at Queen's. Four wonderful years of Rotten Romans, Glorious Greeks and scheming Byzantines. I can read (badly) medieval Hreek, dissect the meaning of Byzantine icon and backpacked around Turkey the Eastern Med during my degree. Did it prepare for work? Nope. But I wouldn't change what I did for the world. We need art based education. Or else we would all be Borg!

  2. Honestly, Niall, I'd very much like to hear more about you. I think this kind of hint at what's behind the curtain adds a personal touch and invests some trust in your readers, while giving them even more of a reason to invest in you and keep coming back.

    Just my two cents.

    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher Denby