The thing about life is one day you’ll be dead

The thing about life is one day you’ll be dead


I was going to have a rant about the annual accounts from the Church of England (see news item 6 May on at and how much it costs us to keep Bishops – if someone can explain it to me without causing a minor stroke I should be grateful – but I resist for fear of reprisals and causing boredom to the casual visitor to my Weblog. But – I may be tempted to express a view if encouraged!

A full day in the library – third floor – is my little spot where I can people watch and look out over the gardens. Pretty solid rain today which some how makes everything look more alive and green!

I think that you may know that my area of study is narrative and older people. I have soaked up material about the self (some philosophers think that there is no such thing), person hood and its growth or otherwise through sin and grace, spiritual development after 55, the nature of story and biography. I read quickly and make copious notes – I still imagine that someone is going to interrupt me or that I shall have to rush off to a meeting – but no time and space is all mine. Wonderful.

I decide this week on a change of tack – to get stuck into some biographies and memoirs so that some of this theory might be grounded in the experience of those living with age. I still have a range of options but want to mix the narrative texts across history and personality.

This was today’s text which I have just finished reading! (only 220 pages). It is written by a professor of English literature in Seattle – so full of literary illusions- and is an autobiography of the authors own body and its ageing and a biography of his father’s body. They are 51 and 94 respectively . The agenda is to open up the facts of existence – we are given a lot of information about how our bodies age – but also to explore the fragility and ephemerality of life. In this narrative there is a beauty and pathos in the body and in the journey of discovery.

Shields is full of admiration of his father and his long life – and we wonder with him why it is that some people enjoy longevity and such a vibrant inner life while others wither and perish! What is the secret of this aliveness for him and for us?

There is an American explicitness to the text – try this for honesty:

My father is strong and weak and I love him and hate him and I want him to live forever and I want him to die tomorrow.

What follows is a meditation on mortality – shot through with stories about growing up, falling in and out of love, commitment, children and those fears and anxieties that beset us all. It gives the reader a way into thinking about age as both problem and possibility; diminishment and growth; liberating and restricting; to be welcomed and feared!

It is a rich narrative and cleverly interwoven opening up the geography of age in quite surprising ways – and what a title!!!

Now – those Bishops – what are we to say???

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