Shane Warne is a philosopher

The Australian spin-bowler Shane Warne has heroic status as a sportsman. He took more than 700 wickets by the time he retired from Test cricket in 2007. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game.

But few people would see him as a role model. He was banned from international matches for a year after he failed a drugs test. His marriage collapsed after endless affairs. He nearly got married to Liz Hurley, but he kept on sexting other women and now it's off. He dyes his hair. He's lewd, loud, crude, arrogant, unrepentant. He eats mainly baked beans.

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And yet many of us should, in important areas of our lives, be a little more like Shane. He is an ideal figure to learn a set of vital lessons from. He is, in his own not insignificant way, a philosopher.

1. Listen to Bridgette

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Believe her

His mum, Bridgette, was asked for comments after one of the many sex scandals. 'Shane is a nice boy', she said, 'he just has a little trouble keeping his pants on.' It's the most charitable, least hysterical of responses to a sexual scandal one could imagine. It also gives us a measure of the woman. She is quietly and consistently sure that Shane is deeply loveable, and that his slip-ups don't matter all that much. She shields him from the possibility of ravaging guilt.

Of course, there are many people who ought to feel a lot more guilt than they do (Shane is among them). But there are plenty of people whose central problem is that they lack the inner ballast that can only come from having been cared for by someone like Bridgette in their early years. As a result, they are beset by self-doubt, they are unable to seize the initiative, they are unduly worried about gossip, they are fragile, paranoid and prone to take to heart all the unkind, mean interpretations of their own behaviour made by the world. Bridgette is Shane's mother but she is also an exemplar, fascinating to behold, of the vital role of unconditional love in a flourishing life.

2. Go right up to Elizabeth Hurley

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Many men might worry they wouldn't have much chance of getting together with the deeply posh English actress and model Elizabeth Hurley. Especially if they were a bit scruffy and coarse like Shane. But he gives the impression that it never occurred to him that he might not be in her league. Shane's mother described her as 'quite nice' - almost good enough for her son. And he believes it too.

Of course, most people don't have to worry about how to make a pass at a celebrity actress. But our issues are still often concentrated around a debilitatingly low degree of self-confidence. We are lonelier than we should be. We feel unworthy of trying to talk to the charming character who manages the gym, or the clever one who leads the in-house legal team. Overreach can be embarrassing. But that doesn't mean that under reach isn't for many of us also a real and constant danger.

3. Be childish - everyone will understand

Warne is unusually confident that other people will forgive him for his foibles. When he says, 'we are all idiots sometimes,' he's not just mouthing a platitude. He really means it; he is at home with his own infantile shadow self.

When footage comes to light showing him with two models fooling around with an inflatable phallic middle stump, he knows that a moralistic person might be tut-tutting somewhere out there, but Shane feels that they are nevertheless just like him at their core. Only they never have a chance to invite Coralie and Emma (both 25) home.

He seems shameless. Actually, he is realistic. Few of us have had fun with two friends and an inflatable phallus. But almost everyone has done some very strange things or at least wanted to do so very badly - if only they had had the courage. When he gets caught, Warne is consoled by his sense of the universal nature of his wayward desires. He knows it's inconvenient of course. There is a furore. There is some boring moralising. But deep down, Warne is convinced that no-one really condemns him in their hearts - because they are like him. So, he can hold his head up the next day.

There's a useful truth here. We tend to be very much more ashamed of ourselves than we should be because we exaggerate the uniqueness of our desires and longings. We simply can't believe that other people have their own version of essentially the same kind of stuff that goes through our own minds. We labour under a punishing, but false sense, of our own abnormality.

Naturally, not everyone needs to learn from Shane Warne. If you are already very self-satisfied and hyper-confident, you shouldn't go to Shane's school of life. But most of us are not like this at all. Our problems lie elsewhere - and Warne is a corrective to them. We are excessively cowed by guilt, too worried about bothering other people (even for good reasons), too hesitant about approaching people we like the look of and too reluctant to press ourselves forward when we should. We could do with some inspiration from Warne - though Shane himself could probably use some hints from Emma Watson and Sigmund Freud.


The School of Life