A Stumbling Christmas

A well-known historian asked me to sum up in a few words where the world is today, on the brink of Christmas 2018. As a Professor of the Past he uses many words to recall what happened, what really happened and what everyone would like to have happened – and then to try to make sense of it all. Watching a video clip supposedly of Trump as a young man, I saw several signs that he would develop into what he is, both the good and the bad. History is not always a good predictor. Mostly when people say that history repeats itself they are fitting the facts to the concept.

It is inevitable that older people will look to history to help them decide where and who they are. Experience, as I often say, is only as valuable as it is adapted to the present and the possible future. Used blindly, experience does immense damage; used well it is a candle to light the way. What does our candle tell us at Christmas (or whatever you call this season) 2018?

First the Rocks. Our path is littered with them. They trip us at every turn. They may not be big boulders, although some of them are, of course. They are big enough to make us stumble. And stumbling is the word I would use to describe the world right now. Small issues, opposing views, disagreements, these have always been the lot of humankind. There are more of them in an increasingly complex world. What used to be a word on the phone has turned into a digital form requiring evidence of existence. I have to provide several life certificates each year.

Then the Course. During my lifetime my course has been crystal clear. Help win a war, albeit passively due to youth, struggle to study, get a job, fight for leadership, save for old age, achieve equilibrium of life. The course for people like me was quite straightforward even if sometimes tricky. The course for my grandchildren is different. It has smooth patches but they are over before they have been recognised. Laws, rules and, above all, pace, make the old dirt track muddy. Moreover, the fog of pollution is matched by the fog of enterprise option and work direction.

And the conclusion? You cannot conclude a world like ours today. You can speculate, and we should do so, much more than we do. Our votes in the future won’t be for or against Europe. They will be for or against human survival and the form it will take. Physical and mental developments promise freedoms we have not yet envisaged. Our moral steer to handle these is being almost totally neglected. The old beliefs still work for some and long may they do so – provided they are peaceful, society-enhancing and believer-based.

Our reasons for stumbling are more than pace and hiccups. They are a lost moral sense that was once concomitant with religions that are now less believed and less pervasive. Their direction was often wrong but their underlying message of personal conscience, personal responsibility and personal contribution to society worked brilliantly for a time and at a stage of human development. Without the incentive to develop and mature a conscience, we have let the idea slip away.

Reflection takes time, though not much. It also takes effort – a lot. Above all it takes discipline to sit and think beyond the material pleasures of life. We find that as people get older they can become more interested in philosophy and in who and why they are. Doing so may stave off dementia. If that works or not, reflection is the basis of a conscience whether religion-based or humanist.

My conclusion for Christmas 2018 is to ask myself: “Am I doing all that I can for other people and enjoying it at the same time?” It is a simple question but the answer is complicated. A quiet ponder over the festive detritus may help me – and you – to find the answer. On balance it must be ‘Yes’.

All of us at Terrific Mentors International wish you a very Happy Christmas. May all blessings, from whatever source, fill your heart. And may your mind ponder what you are all about.

Our Daily Paradox will be somewhat intermittent over the holiday period. Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to do her best to see that we don’t go totally off air.

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