What do you regret most? I was asked this recently by one of those newspaper journalists whose day is incomplete if she does not ask at least half a dozen irrelevant questions to half a dozen irrelevant people.
Resisting the temptation to say, “Agreeing to answer your questions,” I said instead, “The fact that I had a happy childhood, received love and care, went to good educational institutions and was allowed to read all the books I wanted.”
It meant I had no great bone to pick with the world when I grew up since I had not been a loner and therefore had no uncontrollable desire to invent computers and software in the manner of some of our heroic inventors.
Unlike Ashton Kutcher’s character in Jobs, for example, I had no desire to invent the iPod or make billions or scream at Bill Gates over the phone. It meant that I could not delve deep into my childhood traumas and translate personal hurt into great literature like Dostoevsky or others with more unpronounceable names.
Nor was there a compelling reason to be violent or vengeful against my fellow humans as I had no desire to earn notoriety, if not actual fame. For I am one of those who is reluctant to even swat at a fly, which even as I write this is trying its darndest to attract my attention. If it gets too irritating, I shall merely go back inside and work from the comfort of my study. Leave and let live, as I often say.
It meant too (the happy childhood, I mean, in case you too got distracted by the fly) that I had no realistic career as an artist fit to rival Van Gogh – there was no way I could pour out my frustrations on to canvases that would make me a millionaire after my death. Or to try to change the world as a rock star who complains so much about his poverty in the early days that he becomes quite rich in middle age and does not know what to do with all that money.
Mere doodlers and bad bathroom singers do not buy private islands – and I blame my happy and healthy childhood for my lack of interest in the Elvis Presley-Damien Hirst school.
Out of suffering comes great art – or so those who have made it on that road like to claim. I did toy with giving my son a rough time when he was growing up so I wouldn’t make the same mistake my parents did. But you know how it is – I lacked the unhappy childhood that might provide an unhappy childhood for my son.