Hallo again to all.
One just doesn't expect Keith Richards* — yes, that one — to utter a sentiment so striking that it remains in one's head. Actually, the sentiment was quoted by his wife, who was interviewed in a recent issue of Vogue, whose pages we were idly turning whilst in a doctor's waiting room.
'That's what we all look like'. Beyond the simplistic Goth styling — having assumed that was all to Keith's affectation — was everything that lay behind the Elizabethan conceit of a skull on one's desk. Yorick, Et in Arcadia ego, and all that.
This skull-on-the-desk sounds a sober and sombre business, but we've found that the more we bear in mind the thin thread that life hangs on, the more precious time becomes. It affects the choices we make for what we do with our leisure time, with our talents, such as they are, with our money — and our bad moods, for that matter.
With all this business of time and 'the night cometh', one can get rather Prot, equating quantity of work — some measurable pile of accomplishments — with currying favour with God. An awareness of vita brevis can breed a grim puritanical personality, the last thing that adds gaiety or grace to life. The nineteenth century, for example, abounds in examples of relentlessly pious persons doing their duty to the deserving poor, a far cry from Our Lord's proclamation that He came that all of us might have more abundant life. Living with an awareness of the shortness of life, we're quite certain, isn't about hustling about doing sterile 'good works'.
It's a very Anglican business, this matter of living with a sense of death and a keen joy in life. It requires one to find the via media between those two great realities. We do our best, but how easily we can slip, 'killing time' in silly and insignificant activities (Here I am, enjoying abundant life!) or labouring too strenuously, to the point of wearing ourselves out (Here I am, producing nobly before the night comes!). Neither produces the sort of balanced life that enables the best-equipped saints in the service of Our Lord.
It's the birthday of one of us tomorrow (and that of the mother of another one of us), so perhaps it's not surprising that our thoughts turn to the marking of time and the musings of mortality. Birthdays are joyous reminders that 'We're still here'! And being here, in our aging carapaces, is a blessed place to be. We say that, knowing that for many not living in the cocoon of first-world comfort, aging comes earlier. And life is tougher. But we hope that even in the toughest of lives, the marking of time still brings moments of sweetness amidst all the sheer unfairness of life. The skull binds us all together.
Someone once wrote that gravestones mistakenly highlight the dates of birth and death, rather than the dash between the years.The dash is the important thing; the life lived between the bookends of the beginning and the end.
We'll do our best to go on dashing, as it were, with all of you in the good fellowship of this battered but still beloved Anglican Communion. (But we shan't be wearing a ring with a skull.)
See you next week.
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