Chris Evans spotted that I had written this morning’s Pause for Thought for his show while on a train to Bradford yesterday. I was up there for meetings and hadn’t had time the day before to do the script. So, it was fitted in on the train journey between reading a book manuscript for which I am to write a foreword and reading papers for the meetings ahead.
It’s not always straightforward knowing what theme to pick for these thought pieces. I didn’t know who the special guest on the show was going to be and the heavy themes had already been addressed by other contributors. So, having received a text from my anxious daughter last week asking me when the clocks change (and is it backwards or forwards?), I thought I’d say something brief about ‘time’. I also managed to quote three people: anon, Albert Einstein and African friends:
Someone once said that you can’t change the past, but you can waste the present by worrying about the future. The great Albert Einstein teasingly (but not very illuminatingly) stated that ‘the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once’. My African friends laughingly say that in the West we have watches and clocks, but in Africa they have time.
My point was that time is all we have – it’s precious. As I put it succinctly (we only have 330 words):
I have no idea how much longer I have to live: I might still be going strong at 90… or I might not. I have no idea. But, whenever it happens I want to know that I did my best to use time to the full. Which isn’t a miserable thought about packing life with serious stuff; it’s also about living and laughing and working and playing.
Now, that could be misunderstood. For most of the world’s population life is not very funny, but is a struggle to stay alive. So, am I just being frivolous, over-comfortable and inappropriately hedonistic? Well, this is how I concluded the piece:
We’re heading towards Easter and we will be reminded that Jesus only had around three years of public ministry. But in that time he got a following by people who loved and laughed and partied and wept and suffered and lived life to the full. As a follower of that same Jesus, I don’t think anything has changed.
That is a serious point. One of the questions we are meant to ask when we read the Gospels is who were the people who responded positively to Jesus and who were those who were threatened by him and (ultimately) nailed him? And why? Read the texts and we find that the sort of people who were rejected by the religious establishment welcomed Jesus – maybe they had nothing to lose. But, given the reputation they helped Jesus get (“a glutton and a drunkard” who mixed with all the ‘wrong’ people), it is not surprising that these were the people who knew how to party.
One of the questions I frequently asked of clergy and PCCs was: When do you party? When do you celebrate God, his world and each other? One of the shocking things about visiting some of the poorest people in the world is that they know how to celebrate and laugh and share what they have – which is often time, themselves and the food they manage to get. No anxiety about protecting all their ‘stuff’. (Or queuing for two days to be the first to get the new iPad 2 from London’s Apple Store – when you could probably just walk in tomorrow and pick one up without any detrimental effect on life or limb…)
So, the ‘time’ thing is really just a way of suggesting that we get our lives and busyness into perspective. We aren’t here for long – better make the most of it. I don’t want to reach my death bed and state proudly that (a) I managed never to get tired or (b) at least the house and car were always clean.
PS. A friend once helpfully suggested that the way to remember which way the clocks go is this: they ‘spring’ forward and they ‘fall’ back (as in ‘autumn’). And that was fine until I realized that it is perfectly possible to spring backwards and fall forwards. So, I’m still confused. I think it’s forward and we lose an hour’s sleep tomorrow night.