Sunday, 9 March 2014

The answer to life

The answer to life ... coming up....

Firstly, last week I was able to produce one out of three blogs.

Normally, I am very disciplined and get the blogs out without much hitch but last week my priorities had to change temporarily: my wife, Moira, was away in London on a training course for the weekend - this always throws the timetable because I need to put more time into my children. They come first. The younger came down with some bug that's been doing the rounds as well - he eats well, enjoys mummy's milk, eats very little sugar and has a generally robust constitution from the meat/fruit/nuts/human milk diet: he slept through the viral attack, enjoyed a few high temperatures that help to burn out viruses, and after a couple of days was back to his normal self. Then the elder went quiet and similarly, in a listless state coupled with extended sleep fought off the bug.

When life's issues crop up, it's so important to put first values first. My first values are - my children and my wife (in that order as Moira is more capable of understanding illness and how to deal with it compared to the youngsters!), then my clients, then my writings, then anything else I do.

If a person decides that they need to get fit but do so at the cost of their family time, ignoring pressing familial needs and professional demands to do their run or get to the gym suggests that family is of lesser value than personal fitness. If that's sincerely the case, fine - but is it really authentically the case?

The answer to life ... coming up...

Women often work till the last minute until giving birth. What are they doing? Stressing their body and stressing their baby and setting themselves up for an intervention. Upon reflection, postpartum, can they say that they were glad to have worked those extra few weeks rather than allow themselves to relax as their nature requires? Do we look back with fondness for the extra work we did professionally rather than spend time with our partners or children? Will we be on our death bed thanking the Lord for the overtime we did? Or will we be regretting not being there for our partner or children?

So writing took a big redundancy last week.

The Answer to Life

Last Saturday I was teaching the young Daniel (aged 10) - great sense of humour has the lad, so we often have a giggle.

He was working on a maths problem and, like many intelligent people, he jumped straight to the answer doing some algebra. That elicited a response from me:

"Well done on seeing the answer. Now, let me tell you something very profound. This is very important. In maths,  the answer isn't important." I stared into his eyes to make sure he was focused on the word. I repeated the concept and then he got it - his eyes bulged with confusion and a slight smile broke on his lips.

"Think about this," I added. "What's the answer to life?"

He shrugged, his eyes still open and bright.

"Death. We know what will happen in the end. We die."

He nodded slowly.

"But the important thing is what we do in life, isn't it? It's the process that's more important than the answer - death ...  It's what we do now - what we do tomorrow - that's important. Not the end. Not the answer. The answer is always death. Right, we know the answer to life, the universe, and everything - it's death. So, let's focus on the more important bit - living."

Naturally, I related that back to his algebra - the audit trail of showing his working out was more important than the final line.

And the final line leads back to what choices were made to get there.

Stephen Covey exhorts us to consider a funeral - our funeral - and to imagine what people would say at it, indeed what would be our eulogy? What processes and choices do we wish to be remembered for?

"I lived and died."

"I lived and I raised three healthy children who all are financially stable and in good relationships, I balanced my budget and left a £20,000 legacy to a local charity, I hiked across Dartmoor and travelled to Norway, I wrote a book of poems about my family; I was an active member of my golf club with a handicap of 7; I once had a conversation with the Prime Minister. I loved the same partner for thirty years and leave her great memories of our holidays and the house we renovated and extended..."

Think of the end, by all means - we know what it will, inevitably, be. But then focus on the bit in between coming here and exiting - life itself: the choices, the events, the people we meet, the interactions we have, the stuff we accumulate or pass on, the smells, the sights, the feelings, the laughter, the joys and disappointments, the achievements.

Life is but a process from birth to death - like two notes on a music manuscript, but it's the space between the notes that create the meaning (paraphrasing Alfred Brendel there).

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