03 April 2007

My need for a hotel environment

(copy of a letter)

Reviewing what I have written about the stresses that resulted from the retardation of my education, or more to the point, my acquisition of qualifications, so that in the end I was thrown out with no qualification at all, I think I have still underemphasised the importance of my need for a hotel environment. This is such an unacceptable thing to mention that one starts by mentioning other factors first, such as the relative desirability of research in physics rather than maths, and the relative undesirability of a Fellowship or Professorship in maths rather than physics, even if one could get those things.

In fact, the greatest deterrent to feeling motivated to do a degree at the age of 21 for the purpose of spending at least another three years doing a DPhil for the purpose of moving towards a very belated residential Fellowship or Professorship as soon as possible, was that although the Fellowship or Professorship should have provided a hotel environment, the years of doing a DPhil to work towards that outcome would not have done, and this made it very difficult to generate any motivation to work towards another three arduous and unrewarding years, living in circumstances that would rule out any possibility of getting anything out of life, the positive outcome at the end of which was highly dubious, seeing that my past life had been so distorted.

As a DPhil student I would have been living in lodgings, not in college, and with very little access to dining facilities in college. So that was the first horror that I would face on getting a research scholarship to do a DPhil, which of course in the end I did not, being condemned by that failure to the even worse horror of living without a hotel environment and with no academic career track at all along which I could consider myself to be working, however hypothetically, for an appointment accompanied by the hotel environment which was the minimum necessity for a tolerable (not intolerable) life.

If the years since I was prevented from taking the School Certificate at 13 had been less bad I might have found the prospect of continuing to struggle with bad circumstances less daunting. But there came first the additional shock of finding out that I would not even be free to do research (reconstruct physics ad lib) but would have to spend another year taking some ‘qualifying’ exams, solving some other types of problems based on the very dubious theoretical structures of quantum theory as it was. And even then, the additional shock was, that I would not be free to do free-floating research, but that the specific thesis topic I proposed was considered ‘too theoretical’ and I would be faced instead with writing a thesis considered suitable for a mathematician rather than a physicist.

It was very difficult to feel motivated about working for a ‘reward’ so dubious as doing yet another exam in problem-solving followed by a thesis of a tedious nature, in effect much the same kind of thing as solving problems for the sake of proving to other people that one could, all in order to work towards an uncertain and hypothetical reward which might not, even if one could get it, provide the conditions of a hotel environment.

Of course, the alternative was still more horrific, since in total exile from an academic career I would certainly not have the equivalent of a residential college (hotel) environment, nor any tolerable way of earning any money at all, nor any way, tolerable or intolerable, of working towards re-entry to an academic career which was capable, at least potentially, of leading towards what I needed to have.

It was not surprising that I had come to this pass since my education had always been run by people who wanted me not to be able to get anything out of life that I wanted and desperately needed to have. They had not been motivated to let me establish my claim on the sort of career that I needed to have when I was still at an age when doing so could have been a positive rather than a negative experience, and I had had no say in the matter, so it was not really at all surprising that they had succeeded in placing me in this horrifying situation.

However much they liked to ignore the fact, if I was confronted by a situation in which I did not have a hotel environment, the lights of my life went out, and getting an adequate environment became the primary consideration. I did not suppose that the lights could come on again until I had, as a minimum necessity, the minimum requirements of a life that I could get something out of.

I am sorry to have to spell this out at such length, but people have always maintained a blind spot in this, the most crucial area of my life. At least, a blind spot in any positive sense, but great sensitivity in the sense that any move that I might have made to alleviate my position was violently and ingeniously opposed.