A Legacy of Thought
Having been a fairly avid listener to the 'legacy tracks' feature on Radio 4 for some time, I started thinking about the legacy of 'ideas' that our parents bequeath us - whether or not we know it.
One thing I've come to understand is that we often misunderstand things our parents say when we're young, especially when we don't have the critical capacity to think about them adequately, let alone challenge them.
We also need to realise that everyone's ideas, including those of our parents, tend to evolve and change over time. I would hope that my parents gained in wisdom over the course of their lives, and I assume they thought differently about certain things when they were, say, 50 or 60, as compared with when they were 30 or 40.
For the sake of clarity it might be an idea to write down the key ideas we'd like to pass on to our children as part of our legacy. Here are my current top 20. Tomorrow I'll list the following 20.
1. Pursue enlightenment rather than material wellbeing. The enrichment of the soul is far more valuable than worldly goods.
2. Accept the help, advice and support of others, but don't be dependent on them for survival and wellbeing. Take responsibility for yourself.
3. Learn the difference between falling in love and enduring love. Don't imagine that the endorphines-induced bliss of being 'in love' is sustainable. Don't overlook the dark side of other people, any more than you should overlook your own.
4. Don't imagine that the 'pursuit of happiness' will provide you with happiness, which tends to occur when you make the wellbeing of others your priority, and possibly make it your life's work. Don't be a martyr, however. Pursue work that's meaningful and fulfilling. Happiness is an indirect consequence rather than a direct goal.
5. Don't sacrifice your own wellbeing for the wellbeing of others. Take care of your own physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual health in order that you can help others with theirs. Become a three-dimensional and self-actualised human being.
6. Understand that the only highs worth having are natural highs. Avoid artificial stimulants and substance abuse. Eat and drink in moderation. Avoid strong doses of religion, and only use it as a temporary crutch if all else fails.
7. Realise that sexual pleasure is not necessarily the same thing as emotional intimacy and intensity. Making love is good, but isn't necessarily the same thing as loving.
8. There's nothing wrong with recreational sex, as long as its participants recognise it for what it is.
9. Learn to meditate, and take time to meditate, as a means of growing in spiritual intelligence, experiencing satori, and controlling destructive emotions. Learn about Zen. Zen is meditation, and a pathway to satori, reality, and oneness.
10. Discover your true self, and become your true self.
11. Learn about philosophy and religion, in order to understand other people - their beliefs and motivations.
12. Familiarise yourself with the works of great thinkers and writers.
13. Familiarise yourself with the uses and abuses of politics, economics and political thought.
14. Develop your capacity for creativity and creative self-expression.
15. Discover your true voice in speech and writing. Also in music and other forms of artistic expression, wherever possible.
16. Enrich your soul and spirit by experiencing and enjoying a wide range of music. Whenever possible learn how to play musical instruments, learn how to sing, and join with others in creating music - for pleasure rather then reward.
17. Pledge yourself to non-violence and the avoidance of harm to others.
18. Learn the arts of self-defence, such as aikido.
19. Learn the value of true friendship and links with others.
20. Learn the value of time on your own.
To be continued . . .
Widdecombe and 'Strictly'
I've been meaning to write something about Milan Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", which I'm currently reading - but that's going to have to wait. Instead I just need to mention Ann Widdecombe and Strictly Come Dancing, which seems to have the nation in its thrall.
Widdy made the cover of G2 this week, under large headlines - "This sort of prolonged frivolity I haven't had in years."
It turns out that she's never, ever, enjoyed frivolity, and is only now turning to it in her retirement. And why not? I hear people say. Maybe because there's a problem with "having fun" when it's done through being or becoming an egocentric attention-seeking media whore with no dignity, no shame, and no sense of embarrassment at having no talent whatsover for the thing that she's meant to be doing and is causing people to laugh out loud.
Decca Aitkenhead published a highly sympathetic interview, however, in which she said,
I last met Ann Widdecombe when I interviewed her 13 years ago. Although already out of government, she was still in her Doris Karloff phase – practically boasting about being "short and fat and ugly", and stridently anti-image, anti-celebrity, anti-vanity. But my suspicions were aroused when she got her office to call three times in the following week, to enquire about when the piece would appear. Hmm, I remember thinking. Not quite without vanity after all, then.
The more she talks, the more one can see quite how far she has had to shut down, to protect herself . . .
She will concede a certain sadness at how the career she chose, and for which she sacrificed so much, has lost much of its grandeur and dignity in her eyes. "Parliament was an institution of enormous standing when I was aspiring to go in. It isn't now. When I first went in we had very significant people there. I mean, in our intake there was a brain surgeon on the Labour side, a consultant gynaecologist on our side, we were taking in quite a high level, not a whole load of career politicians. And you look at parliament now and you cannot see the top lawyers, the top medical men, the top businessmen. They are not there."
. . . her basic approach to political life . . . essentially consists of telling people what they should be doing.
Obama and Congress
I was going to write something about the defeat of the Democrats in the mid-term elections, but the whole thing is just too awful. I can't even raise the energy to think about Obama's problems and his triumphs. The whole American political system is appalling, and even the Democrats are well to the right of European conservatives such as Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron and Clegg. As for the Tea Party . . .