speaker, consultant, coach

Living life backwards

“This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.” -- Martin Luther


It’s not all sweetness and light, but spend any time with people in their latter years, and there’s a solemnity that transcends the friction that we’re apt to create.


To put it succinctly, they’re at peace.


But, of course, we think that that time will come but, in the meantime, we’ve to strive for as much as possible in the hope that we too can find a place of acceptance.


I don’t buy it: it’s just another story that we’ve manufactured to: (a) give our life a sense of purpose (living should be more than enough); and (b) because we’re too afraid to let go of the existing narrative.


I think it was Richard Rohr who said, “How we see the world is how we are”. Just imagine if we saw the world through a different pair of eyes.


Take one issue that seems particularly apposite, namely simplicity. It doesn’t matter how much I read about it (I really like the work of The Minimalists), I don’t see any company or individual embarking on a journey of simplicity. If anything, with the changed economic position (in the UK) everyone seems intent on reverting to the good old days. How I wish it were otherwise.


The point that I’m trying to get at is that we desperately need to change the narrative, informed by our elders (who always seem to be the forgotten underclass). I know it’s not going to come from the political elite -- they mean well but lack conviction -- and yet unless as a race we’re prepared to turn our life’s story on its head and revert to a much more embryonic way of living, I fear we’ll continue to tread a path of predictable anxiety where we no more know our place in the world than did our parents.


I know I’ve mentioned them before but my late grandparents, Lorna and Peter, will always remain deep in my heart not just because they were kind and loving to me and my brother but they showed what was possible in living with nothing whilst still making sense of their lives and their place in the world (God bless you both). If I could jettison my current life and live theirs I know I would be a better person for it (they lived off the land, made do with what they had and loved each other more deeply than any other couple I’ve ever known). And I suppose that’s my challenge -- trying to live in a consumerist world where greed, money and success stand atop everything else.


On a practical level, perhaps we would all do well to spend more time with our elders. I’m convinced we would learn a lot more than reading the next best seller in whatever space that currently floats your boat.


Printable version

Thank you.

Though i am running out of "elders"
and have trouble thinking or acting like one myself.
there are, fortunately, many wiser than myself.
And i define "elder" not as old, but as wise.
One of my "elders" died at 32*, another at 29**, and one at 23.***
Some, from pre-British India, were teenagers.

*Simone Weil; **Etty Hillesum: ***St. Terese of Liseaux.