Magnetic North Blog
In researching famous fathers and sons it became evident that the majority had followed similar career paths. Peter and Kasper Schmeichel, both premier league winning goalkeepers; Martin and Charlie Sheen, both actors with a history of substance abuse; God and Jesus, kind of the same person so couldn't really be more alike; Donald and Donald Trump, both insufferable arseholes.
There is, of course, an evolutionary imperative in copying your father and learning how to read and negotiate the world. Those proto-humans who, from an early age, did not copy the hunting and evading techniques of their parents, did not, in most cases, live long enough to procreate and pass those disobedient genes on. They were not selected for.
Indeed, I remember as a child wanting to be a minister because it was what my father did. I remember thinking that it was a worthwhile pursuit and taking pleasure in the knowledge that showing such respect would make my dad proud of me and perhaps bring us closer - the primal urge to copy and survive still present, but evolved further to include more sophisticated human emotions.
But there comes a time when the child must rebel, and this too is rooted in evolution. The child needs to learn to fend for themselves so that when the parents die they are capable of surviving in the world and finding a mate to start the whole circle over again. Those creatures who, at a certain point, did not break free from their parents, did not, in most cases, live long enough to procreate and pass those overly clingy genes on. They were not selected for.
And so here we are, impossibly caught between two desires, to cling on and to let go; to copy and to create; to honour and to reject. How do we negotiate this dual purpose? How do we keep our parents happy whilst also living our own lives? If your father wanted you to do something that wouldn't really cost you much, like sprinkling some water on a child's head and telling a wee lie about how you plan to bring them up, would you do it? Which impulse would you follow? Respect or rebellion?
I know which way I'm leaning, but if you come see the show you might be able to help me decide once and for all.
On tour October-November 2017.
Did I live in a religious household? I guess I did, but it never really felt that way. We said our prayers at night and grace before dinner (and because I knew no other way, those events did not feel odd or extreme at all) but apart from that my parents were very hands off by way of religious instruction. That was for Church. My upbringing was far from severe and I have no doubt that my character contains many positive attributes gleaned from the version of Christianity I was brought up in. I try to be kind and think of others. I am not overly preoccupied with gathering wealth or possessions. I believe in turning the other cheek as much as possible. And this is not to say that a secular upbringing cannot produce identical traits, nor that these traits are true of every religion or indeed always positive in every situation. Growing up in a religious household has not severely damaged me, but I’d like to talk about two ways in which it seems to have left a little bit of a mark.
Firstly, there is the sin of pride. It’s a sin, you see, because if you are proud of an achievement it is to dismiss or diminish the role that God had in that achievement. Instead of feeling proud of yourself you should rejoice in the God who made it all possible. This is designed to have the effect of making one feel humble, but in reality, what it did to me was to make me incapable of feeling joy in my achievements. I didn’t win the rugby tournament. God did. To this day I still hold some shadow of that idea within me making it difficult for me to enjoy my successes. It’s now ingrained within me, only I’ve exchanged God with determinism. Don’t be proud. You didn’t do it. It’s just something that had to happen.
And secondly, infinity. When I was young I did not have a crippling fear of death. No, I had a fear of never dying. Or being alive on an ethereal plane … forever. With no hope of it ever ending. No option but to continue. For ever. FOR. EVER. It’s not an exaggeration to state that this crippled me to the extent that I used to cry the bitterest, most fearful tears one can imagine into the mirror in the bathroom thinking about it. Yes, I was dramatic about it, but the fear was very real. I can still call upon it if it’s useful when performing. Now, of course, I’m thankful to say, it’s death that makes me feel that way, and the idea of infinity is thankfully no longer a concern.
I am thankful that these two afflictions of character are the only two that immediately spring to mind, suggestive of the fact that my religious upbringing has been of little hindrance to my life at all. However, it’s important to remember that this is not everyone’s experience and, as is all too evident today, faith and religion can lead to altogether more hideous outcomes.
On tour October-November 2017.
For Father's Day, we thought it would be a nice idea to ask recent father Rob Drummond to reflect on his experience so far:
I’ve been a father for 139 days. So far I’d liken it to voluntarily signing up for a forced labour camp run by a tiny mute dictator. I’m not finding it complicated, I’m finding it mentally and physically gruelling. Like moving twelve heavy cement bags from one van to another. And knowing that you have to do the same thing again tomorrow. What? Not cheery enough for you. Well that’s something we need to change. Of course it’s wonderful to see him smile at me in the morning. It goes without saying that I love him with a fierce instinctive love which is different to any I’ve experienced before. I’m definitely glad we did it. It’s just that people don’t talk enough about how gruelling it can be. How taxing on your relationship. It feels like I’m expected to talk with unqualified positivity when someone asks me if I’m ‘enjoying being a dad’. I’m enjoying parts of it. I’m enjoying watching him grow and learn. I’m enjoying getting more and more feedback from him. And I’m looking forward to the time where we can hold a conversation. My life is better for having him in it. But it’s also less my life.
And that’s the thing about it. In a few months I’ll turn my attention to Our Fathers, a new play I’m working on with Nick Bone and Magnetic North, which is about communication between fathers and sons. When you have a child you are willingly giving up part of your life - or at least agreeing to live for someone else rather than for yourself. And it’s more intense than the commitment you make to a partner because a partner neglected might leave you but they certainly wouldn’t starve to death. This little boy relies on me and his mother one hundred percent of the time for one hundred percent of the things he needs. His physical and mental self will develop according to the things we feed him and the things we tell him. So what do you do with such responsibility? How do you make sure that your child grows into a balanced adult? How do you communicate effectively with him? Do you tell him what to think or teach him how to think, at the risk that he will end up coming to the ‘wrong’ conclusion? My father and Nick’s were both clergymen and we are both now unbelievers. What if my son, when he’s older, has a fundamentally different worldview than I do? Will we still get on? Will he respect me? Will I respect him? At this stage as you can tell, it’s far more questions than answers.
For the time being I guess I’ll just try my best to enjoy the bits I enjoy, take pleasure in his company and remember something that we seem programmed to forget; IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If I do that for long enough maybe he’ll grow up happy. Which is all I really want.