Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pause for Thought
The Zoe Ball Show
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, February 18th

My father and I would talk a lot in the car when I was young.

Like his own father, my dad had a habit of confecting his thoughts in such a way that they seemed like pronouncements - "sayings", if you will - as if he were working on his own version of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book.

I suppose my dad and grand-dad had had teachers who spoke in this manner or maybe ministers in church - who said a few brief words which summed up longer explanations. Let the young guy figure out what it means later.

One of his pronouncements I can still remember:

"Robert”, he said, “you will get to a certain age where you realise you don't amount to much. You will discover that thought to be very liberating."

At the time it didn't seem an awfully hopeful pronouncement. As a teenager I suppose I hoped to amount to rather a great deal.

In a few days, on Ash Wednesday, we will be holding three services of Holy Communion throughout the day in my two churches south of Edinburgh. At the beginning of each service there will be an opportunity for men and women to come up to the altar rail. I will dip my thumb in a mixture made up of ashes and a little olive oil and make a small cross-shaped smudge on each forehead and say just eleven words:

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return".

It seems a little negative, innit? Until, of course, you grasp that what the priest is saying is that this earthly life is made up of a few resources and a finite amount of time. A couple of billion breaths, twenty-five years of active parenting, forty years of work, fifty years of covenanted relationship with a spouse, six dogs, seventy five holidays. All of it valuable. Valuable insomuch as it is executed and experienced by somebody with a finite amount of time in which to do it.

So get up off your knees, then. The time you have and the people you have within your orbit are hugely valuable and very special.

Use that time well and fully.

An audio link is available HERE for a limited time. PFT begins at 0:16:48 near the start of the audio bar.