Columns

September 30, 2015

Can parenting get easier as they grow up? If only it did…

It gets easier as they get older’. I cannot begin to tell you how often I heard that when my children were very young. Whenever I sighed with exasperation, worry or fury, someone would invariably pat me on the back and offer those words in solace and in solidarity. They were right: it does get somewhat easier as they get older. My boys are now ten, seven and four, each one a little man with character, opinions and wilful determination. They have already spread themselves across the world, marking out their territory in a unique way. Our eldest is a rock of sense, a sensitive child who cares deeply about life, love and the surrounding world. Despite their rows, he dotes on his brothers. He is our worrier, someone who needs constant reassurance that the things which matter will endure…

 

September 23, 2015

When it comes to healing body and soul, there is no quick fix

It is such a beautiful virtue yet there is so little patience left in modern life. In our culture of immediate gratification, we want everything now or not at all. Why wait when, with the click of a mouse, the whole world can be yours in an instant? We live life in the fast lane, where nothing less than ‘high speed’ will suffice. The art of waiting, watching and persevering are for those who can’t keep pace. Slow down and you will simply be left behind. The truth is that, even in our culture of immediacy, everything worthwhile demands patience. Everything that lasts, that is worthy of love and that renders life meaningful is the product of patient endurance. Only life in the slow lane can deliver eternal rewards…

 

September 16, 2015

Let your mask slip to reveal the tenderness we all possess

This above all: to thine own self be true.’ Shakespeare’s immortal words provide the key to a life of liberty. They open up the possibility of living without fear. From the dawn of reason, we take refuge behind our masks. We cultivate a certain self-image and project it to the world. We do so in our appearance, clothes, hairstyle and body shape. Each morning, as we stand before the mirror, we see a person that must be ‘made up’. We see the raw material that must be masked if our image is to be maintained. So we undertake a ritual of …

 

September 9, 2015

Even in times of change, it is nature that will steady us

They say the world is in flux, that the old certainties are being swept away. The things that we cherish, those which testify to who we are, no longer command respect or allegiance. Some things, however, do not change, and it is to those we should look in times of turmoil. As I write, the September sun is pouring its precious light upon my desk. It is low, warm and less dazzling than it was just a month ago. It hangs there in the sky as if suspended by a silken thread. A September sun is not meant to give you a tan. It is not meant to bring the world to bloom. It is the last salute of summer, a farewell kiss from a loved one for whom we yearn all year long…

 

September 2, 2015

Silence offers lots more than simple peace

There is a secret to happiness, peace and harmony. There is a secret to productivity,
success and personal growth. That secret is silence and it is available to anyone anywhere and at any time. When I last wrote about silence, I received an overwhelming response. Many readers were overjoyed that this natural capacity could produce such startling consequences. To sit in silence, they found, is to experience life in all its splendour. We live in a world hooked on distraction, one addicted to noise and commotion. Unplugging from that world is the antidote to agitation and anxiety. It is the key to…

 

August 26, 2015

Why autumn years are a gift to behold

As I write, the rain is falling and it is noticeably cooler. The leaves are slowly turning yellow and the grass is not so eager to grow. We are entering autumn, that season of decay whose beauty reveals the splendour of old age. We live at a time when old age is shunned, driven out of sight and out of mind. In a world that prizes youth as the acme of human life, the elderly are very often forgotten or left behind. It is a world in which physical perfection is the principal goal and where those in decline simply cannot compete. We spend a fortune attempting to…

 

August 19, 2015

I was awestruck that my boy of four knew ‘no man is an island’

One thing you don’t expect to get from a four-year-old is a philosophy lesson. And yet, where else but from the mouth of a child does real wisdom flow? Where but in innocence is truth to be found? I have met with great minds, people who have pushed humanity along the path of progress. From my present perspective, however, none could hold a candle to the simple yet extraordinary insights of a child. In one small sentence, they can capture the essence of beauty, goodness and reality. I was standing in the kitchen minding my own business when, out of the blue, …

 

August 12, 2015

Only one time is important and it is now

There is a beautiful short story by Leo Tolstoy called The Emperor’s Three Questions. Published in 1885, it tells of an emperor who believed that if he were to discover the answer to three questions, he would never fail. The questions were simple but could be answered in countless ways. What, he asked, is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with, and what is the most important thing to do at all times? …

 

August 5, 2015

A moment of clarity that has brightened my world forever

Sometimes, just when you least expect it, you encounter something that changes everything. It could be a movie, a song or a painting. It could be a sunrise or a sunset, a
flower or the sweet scent of summer. On such occasions we are, as they say, ‘blown away’. Somehow, we see the world differently, and our attitude towards it is never the same again. It is what Buddhists call a moment of enlightenment. The movie ends and you sit in silence as the credits roll. You feel the pull of reality but you refuse to budge. Inwardly, you have been transformed by…

 

July 29, 2015

How the song from Babe has lit up my life

Golden moments don’t happen often, but when they do our lives are redeemed. In the midst of all our problems, in the course of the daily flow, they remind you that human life is something sacred. The lining of our world is pierced by a ray of light and you connect with something deep and lasting. Recently, I experienced a moment like that. My boys and I…

 

July 22, 2015

Only you can build the very firmest of foundations

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he’. That beautiful line contains all there is to know about how to lead a happy and successful life. We search so hard for the secret to health, wealth and peace, yet we search in vain when we ignore the inner self. What is the inner self? We endlessly refer to the ‘self ’ but can we ever really know what it is? We can point to the body, but not to this thing we call the ‘self’. And yet the self is what I am. It is that miraculous thing which…

 

July 15, 2015

What did the Greeks do for us? Everything

What have the Greeks ever done for us? It has been said repeatedly in recent weeks that Greece is the ‘cradle of democracy’. Much more than that, it is the cradle of civilisation. It is hard to believe that such a small Mediterranean country was once a powerhouse of science, mathematics, politics and philosophy. It is difficult to comprehend that Athens was once the intellectual capital of the world. It gave us our political system, but it also shaped our cultural and scientific outlook. My first lectures at university were in Greek philosophy. I remember…

 

July 8, 2015

Disney realised how imagination is the key to our magical world

There is a beautiful moment in the wonderful film, Saving Mr Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. The movie is based on the true story of Walt Disney’s attempt to obtain the film rights to the book Mary Poppins, written by uncompromising British author PL Travers. Just when everything seems lost, when Ms Travers decides she has had enough of Disney’s dream, he visits her home in England. In this beautiful scene, …

 

July 1, 2015

Where are all my toys? To my shame, I can’t answer

It lay listless on the grass, a discarded object now classed as litter. I stopped and pondered whose it might be. It was a simple teddy bear, yet it bore all the signs of something that had been much loved. Loved yet now abandoned, cherished yet now forsaken. There it lay, face down in the dirt, a once-­treasured possession forgotten and forlorn. As I stood and stared, I thought of…