I know it's been a long time since my last post, and I apologise profusely for this. The end of term in Cambridge has been somewhat manic, and the reading week that followed wasn't any quieter. Now, though, we have a chance to take things a little more easily for a while.
Whilst browsing around on Facebook, I stumbled across a fairly heated exchange about who had it hardest; a Christian Minister or a high-ranking executive. Words were exchanged about the number of hours worked and the availability of down-time from the respective jobs, but what struck me most profoundly was the different units of value being cited. Is it possible to compare the responsibility of managing multi-million pound budgets with the intense nature of pastoral responsibility for all the souls in a parish? I'm not sure it is.
It also got me thinking about money, and about the fact that money really does sit behind all aspects of modern life. The question 'can we afford it' is usually the first phase of any major life decision we might take; it was our first thought about moving to Cambridge for me to study. We speak of 'cost-benefit analysis' when making a corporate decision, and we speak of lifecycle costing or full economic cost in the worlds of private and public sector. This is so much a part of western life that has become normative and we no longer question it.
It saddens me that there will be more young people taking this type of approach to their university education from now on. Regardless of your position on fees, it's clear that there is more anxiety about student finance now than there has ever been in the past, and this can't be good. Whilst cost is important, so is opportunity, and so is equality; can we, and should we, put an economic price on either of those?
My final thought comes courtesy of the BBC website who feature an Oxford academic who is aiming to give away £1m over his lifetime. I won't retell the story, read it yourself. All I'll say is that this kind of effort is inspirational for me. I sometimes wonder how we'll get by on my grants from the church, but this example gives me hope. It also makes me look at our contemporary approach to Christmas with a certain amount of disgust. We're trying to do a cheap Christmas this year with a modest budget per-head, and it's really hard. It's hard for two reasons. Firstly because you really can't buy much for under £10, and secondly because there's so much expectation around Christmas that you're made to feel Scrooge-like if you don't push the boat out.
We don't seem to be able to exist without money, but it would be nice if it didn't have to be at the centre of all we think and do, at least for a little while.