September 2018 - Time



Time, like money, is a very flexible construct. Five pounds is perhaps a trifling amount were I to spend it on a couple of coffees or a bottle of wine. But were I to consider putting it in a charity box or give it to a beggar on the street, suddenly it seems all the wealth in the world and would call upon reserves of exorbitant generosity on my part. The same monetary worth suddenly takes on a wildly different economic and emotional value.

Chronological time seems to work in equally flexible ways. In our youth, time seems eternal. Eighty years is an unimaginable span. At twenty, the whole world is open to us. At forty, we are still climbing and exploring an open vista of opportunities. But at some point, the clock begins to count down, rather than forwards.

Strange though it may seem, it is mortality that gives life its meaning. It is an interesting thought experiment to notionally give oneself eternal life, and then try and make plans for tomorrow. Who could be bothered? As someone once said, everyone wants to be immortal, but most struggle to amuse themselves on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon.

At the moment, the average life expectancy in this country is a little over eighty years – a little less for men. My parents turn eighty next year. They are fit and active (volunteering, dancing, walking, and still in positions of leadership and responsibility), and whilst I can hope that this continues for some time, there are no guarantees (not if you take the average). I can make no assumptions, presume that I will be similarly healthy to the same age as my parents, but no more, and instead set a clock. Let's presume that I have thirty summers left, thirty Christmases, thirty cycles through the year. Thirty seems a fair amount, but it will soon be twenty.

Mortality is the driver that gives us purpose. Our finite nature is a gift of intention. Denial of our impermanent state is to choose a bland and directionless life. To accept one's mortality is to begin to truly live.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the September 2018 issue of The Grapevine