‘Dear Brian’: Read Brian Eno’s letter to his 21-year-old self

‘As clever as you think you are you could benefit from a little more humility’

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 24 March 2023 07:55 GMT
(Getty Images for Kaspersky)

Brian Eno is one of a number of friends and fellow artists to contribute to a project by Reverend and the Makers for their forthcoming album, Heatwave in the Cold North.

To mark the release of the band’s new single “A Letter to My 21-Year-Old Self”, frontman Jon McClure asked fans and friends to write their own letters imparting wisdom to their past selves with an exhibition held in Sheffield last night.

Read Eno’s letter below:

Dear Brian,

As clever as you think you are you could benefit from a little more humility. You hold very strong views but I suspect that this is often because you admire the other people who hold those views and hope that some of their worldliness will rub off onto you. Sometimes, you must admit, you haven’t thought those matters through very carefully, and yet you argue for them as though you’ve spent years thinking about them.

Although none of that is unusual in young men, it is unseemly in you. Your gift for absorbing information, and your good memory, make you able to chatter convincingly about lots of different things. That is amusing and people like you for it. What is not so good is the certainty with which you then communicate the mishmash of semi-random titbits you’ve gulped down. You would do well to listen a little more to others who have had lifetimes of experience - instead of a few evenings of reading books.

This is not to say book knowledge is to be sneered at - but neither is lived experience, of which, it must be said, you don’t really have much.

Have you ever asked your parents what their lives have been like, and what understandings they might have gathered on the way - having passed through, among other things, an economic depression and a world war? No - I thought not. They aren’t readers like you so you can’t understand what they might know, what kinds of things they might understand. If it isn’t written down you don’t think it counts. You might want to consider that most of the world, and most of history, has been populated by people who learned things in other ways.

So my advice is: a little more humility! Try it: you’ll like it. Stick to your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.

Your old friend Brian (74)


Heatwave in the Cold North is out on 23 April.

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