My two new hips and right knee have had a tough work-out and are doing well.
On our heroic trek from Edinburgh to London in 2010, to the astonishment of passers by, I was obliged to pray like a Muslim every three hours or so and stretch my hips to obtain some relief. That is history now. All I have to contend with is flagging energy levels. I am not thirty-five any more so get used to it, Tom: “You are fortunate to be alive!”
Joy in the Face of Obstacles
Five walkers with us – a real joy, for they are family and close friends. As Belloc wrote: ”There’s naught worth the wear of living than laughter and the love of friends,” and how true that is. And the older we get the more we appreciate family, close mates and laughter.
As the farmers have tried to turn their fields into Fort Knox with wire, collapsed fences and resolutely growing crops over paths, progress has been, at best, a struggle.
If the Wiltshire local authority actually do have someone whose job us to look after footpaths, then I suggest they might usefully seek an alternative career, say shelf stacking at Lidl, for they are useless!
We always try and smile at the occasional walker and occasionally we get one back. I often wonder why the three in ten glower at the ground and ignore our cheer. Maybe they are having a very hard time and resent our good humour.
Raising Our Game
I used to think that sharpness and cleverness were foremost virtues. Now I believe kindness trumps them hands down.
We can so easily become irritated by people. Some bring out the worst in us: people we find plain unlikeable and we quickly attribute to them the lowest motives for everything they do. These individuals have a rare talent for pressing our anger buttons and making us scowl. Spend just a little time with them and our worst instincts come bursting to the fore: sometimes its personal, and sometimes we’re infuriated by someone who commands just a fleeting moment of authority over our lives. When was the last time you were angered by a call-centre operator instructing you to “hold”? When did you last have a happy session with a traffic warden poised to give you a ticket?
Very few people actually set out to be gratuitously rude, unpleasant, unhelpful or stupid. At least their irritating behaviour makes sense to them: it’s usually a cocktail of their genes and upbringing all mixed up with the role they have to play. We must try and ensure that we don’t express irritation in return, for that escalates into anger. That’s the way of the world; we have to raise our game.
One method President Lincoln used to defuse his anger was to write a “hot letter”. He would pour out all his anger and vituperation, and then after he had cooled down, he would file the letter “unsent”.
In the 1981 film On Golden Pond, the character played by Henry Fonda angers his daughter (played by Jane Fonda, his real-life daughter). Katharine Hepburn (Jane’s mother) tries to bring harmony:
“Sometime you have to look hard at a person [Jane] and realise that he’s doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way, that’s all. Just like you!”
I am sure that if you asked everyone you know if they are engaged in some sort of battle, they would say “yes.”
I read somewhere of an inscription on the tombstone of Dr Jenny Cohen in Highgate Cemetery: “Be kind: for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Good on you, Jenny!
We know all about our own battles. Perhaps an acknowledgment that everyone has their own personal battles might lead us to an onset of tolerance and kindness.