Writer and comedian Ruby Wax OBE has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about mental-health issues and in 2013 gained a Masters degree in Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University. Here's what would happen if she ruled the world...
I couldn’t tell other people how they should behave
I mean, it’s nice of them to ask me to rule the world, but I’m kind of busy. I’d let people do what they want, whatever makes them happy. It’s pretty narcissistic to think I could spread a message. The human race is a mystery—I only know what works for me and for the people I love.
I’d encourage curious minds
If I could name the key to happiness, I’d say it was curiosity. Curiosity keeps your mind from disintegrating as you get older. Closed minds, the immovable among us, are the ones in trouble. My parents were so completely incurious they could have been bookends. Einstein had a great quote: “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must see the world anew.”
I’d have masseurs available 24 hours a day
That’s the greatest luxury there is. Not the ones where they just rub a bit of oil into you and stroke you gently. No, I like it when they dig their elbows hard into all those tricky spots and make me feel free. I’d also have a private jet to take me to the Maldives and other beautiful islands.
I’d surround myself with scientists
They could tell me all about their latest findings and that would make me happy. I once sat next to Brian Cox, but he was so good-looking I couldn’t think of anything clever to say. I particularly love neuroscientists because at least I can understand a little bit of what they’re talking about.
Kids wouldn’t be hothoused in school
It’d be great to get children to pay attention in ways other than constantly reminding them their lives depend on their grades. So teachers would look at what gets a particular kid’s attention and use it to inform learning in all subjects. For instance, why did they like a particular painting? What was it that interested them? Can we use that interest to enthuse them in other areas?
People might realise that they’re frazzled
They say that by 2020 it’ll be stress-related illnesses that wipe us out. The difference between being human and being frazzled is this: your printer goes wrong and you shout and feel angry. That’s normal. But if that feeling lasts all day, it’s indicative of something more serious.
I needed to buy a carpet recently, so I went through the entire Google list of carpet suppliers, compared prices, ordered a lot of samples, didn’t buy one and moved onto lampshades. Someone didn’t invite me to a dinner party and I wondered if I should jump off the roof. That’s frazzled.
Watch Ruby's inspirational Ted Talk:
My hopes would lie with the next generation
Perhaps they’ll learn how to step back and acknowledge that the cortisol levels are rising when they feel angry and find ways to manage their emotions. So when really big decisions need to be made, they can consider all options and negotiate rather than fight. Terrorists are just people who haven’t got anything else going for them.
I would be able to drop into any university lecture anywhere in the world
I’d wake up and think, Oh, I’ll do a bit of astronomy today! Stanford University in California has a programme that allows older people to come to their lectures for free, and the more opportunities there are for people to hear the most brilliant minds at work, the better.
As featured in February's Reader's Digest