For centuries wisdom was handed down from one generation to another in the form of simple sentences which were taught to children and grandchildren. It can be a fruitful practice to take one of these maxims as one’s thought for the day, reflecting on it at intervals.
Here are some of these words of wisdom:
When one door shuts another opens.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
A stitch in time saves nine.
As you sow, so shall you reap.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Never judge a book by its cover.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
An empty vessel makes much noise.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.
People who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.
Actions speak louder than words.
All good things come to an end.
A ship in harbour is safe; but that is not what a ship is for.
Opportunity did not knock until I built a door.
The other day I came across an entry in my journal, dated 4 January 1973:
One is alone, and in the end one must go into that inner room, close the door, and face the four reflecting walls that speak back to one. Is the sin against the Holy Spirit that of the individual who refuses to grow, to accept reality and the possibility of change?
Today would have been James’s 95th birthday. He died quickly and peacefully at home just a fortnight ago, on a warm Autumn evening, 26 October, comfortable, cared for, and surrounded by love.
Continue reading 11 November 2022
‘Death is indeed a fearful piece of brutality. There is no sense in pretending otherwise,’ Carl Jung wrote on the death of Emma, his beloved wife of 52 years. But, he added, ‘from another point of view death appears as a joyful event … in which the soul attains its missing half. It is a wedding.’ To this day it is the custom in many parts of the world to hold a picnic on the graves of departed ones on All Souls’ Day. Such communal rituals express the feeling that death is really a festive occasion. When we die our deeds – how we have lived our lives – will follow along with us, and so it is important that, at the end, we do not stand with empty hands! Such a reflection reminds us of the importance of each one of us living our lives to the full, fulfilling our individual destinies.
As we enter our seventies it can be a useful practice after meditation just to sit quietly and reflect on our lives, on our journey thus far – and what may yet be in store. It is important, as we approach the end of our lives, to fill our water-pots for the journey that lies ahead, in which we shall have to learn to let go of all familiar props (including everyday worries and anxieties) and accept whatever awaits us. If there is nothing beyond death, nonetheless it is important to know and feel we have lived our lives to the full. And if there is a continuity beyond this life, then it is important to be ready for the next stage of the journey.
At intervals in life it is important to do what Robert Frost described as ‘taking time out for re-assembly’. A visit to the country can often be nourishing to the spirit, for Nature is in itself deeply healing. Taking long walks and eating quietly on one’s own are also beneficial. It can help to make a note of whatever significant dreams occur during such a period of retreat (making sure to write them down at once before they vanish.) We must not try to solve them like crossword puzzles; but, rather, take them with us for long walks and reflect on what each is trying to tell, for such significant dreams come from a very deep part within us where all wisdom is stored. And for all couples occasional times of withdrawal can be crucially important. As Khalil Gibran wrote of marriage, ‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness.’