Three Score Years And Ten

Episodes

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Broadcast
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Dancing Towards Death20160120

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

In this third episode, Richard is coming to terms with having exceeded his allotted Biblical span of three score years and ten while watching the world around him change out of all recognition and renewing itself in a way that he cannot.

He explains that he knew that the dissolution of his body had begun and he had started the dance to the grave when he noticed the skin on his arms developing the wavy alligator look of skin that was wearing out and coloured patches began appearing on his face like 'stains on old stone'.

In fact, he recalls, the process had started for him when he began to go bald in his twenties. He hated it and fought it in all the usual hopeless ways - buying pills advertised in a church magazine and combing what was left on top to the front of his head.

Caesar had been bald too and had actually started the comb-over fashion but, unlike Caesar, Richard's comb-over was never convincing and always looked sad to him. So one day he just shaved the whole thing off.

Now he suggests that losing his hair was a good preparation for ageing and for death - the final loss. "You could say that the skeleton is the ultimate baldy. That's how we're all going to end up so maybe I've been lucky to have had a bit of a rehearsal."

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

Dancing Towards Death20160120

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

In this third episode, Richard is coming to terms with having exceeded his allotted Biblical span of three score years and ten while watching the world around him change out of all recognition and renewing itself in a way that he cannot.

He explains that he knew that the dissolution of his body had begun and he had started the dance to the grave when he noticed the skin on his arms developing the wavy alligator look of skin that was wearing out and coloured patches began appearing on his face like 'stains on old stone'.

In fact, he recalls, the process had started for him when he began to go bald in his twenties. He hated it and fought it in all the usual hopeless ways - buying pills advertised in a church magazine and combing what was left on top to the front of his head .

Caesar had been bald too and had actually started the comb-over fashion but, unlike Caesar, Richard's comb-over was never convincing and always looked sad to him. So one day he just shaved the whole thing off .

Now he suggests that losing his hair was a good preparation for ageing and for death - the final loss. "You could say that the skeleton is the ultimate baldy. That's how we're all going to end up so maybe I've been lucky to have had a bit of a rehearsal."

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

Letting Go20160121

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He recalls being young, celebrating the constant shift and change of history and embracing every fad and fashion that appeared. So it has been a surprise to realise, almost without noticing, that he has joined the ranks not only of the old but of the old fashioned - the crazy shift of change embraced so eagerly in youth is the very energy that is now carrying him into the past along with steam trains and shopping-free Sundays.

He says, "Hardly surprising that some of us oldies become bitter and angry and feel like strangers in our own homes. Some think it's a modern disease, bred of the accelerating rate of change in our world today. In fact, the bitter old person is a constant in history."

Go back as far as you can and the old grumble about the young. In the century before the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Horace recorded an old man. "Tiresome, complaining, a praiser of the times that were when he was a boy, a castigator and censor of the young generation," he wrote.

It seems to be ageing itself that corrodes the spirit, not change as such, which is why growing old can be spiritually dangerous - anger against the young for being young, rage against the world for becoming an unfamiliar place, fury at change and its sister decay.

Richard's solution is "bite the bullet, hand over the reins and sit in the sun to enjoy what's left.".

Letting Go20160121

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He recalls being young, celebrating the constant shift and change of history and embracing every fad and fashion that appeared. So it has been a surprise to realise, almost without noticing, that he has joined the ranks not only of the old but of the old fashioned - the crazy shift of change embraced so eagerly in youth is the very energy that is now carrying him into the past along with steam trains and shopping-free Sundays.

He says, "Hardly surprising that some of us oldies become bitter and angry and feel like strangers in our own homes. Some think it's a modern disease, bred of the accelerating rate of change in our world today. In fact, the bitter old person is a constant in history."

Go back as far as you can and the old grumble about the young. In the century before the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Horace recorded an old man. "Tiresome, complaining, a praiser of the times that were when he was a boy, a castigator and censor of the young generation," he wrote.

It seems to be ageing itself that corrodes the spirit, not change as such, which is why growing old can be spiritually dangerous - anger against the young for being young, rage against the world for becoming an unfamiliar place, fury at change and its sister decay.

Richard's solution is "bite the bullet, hand over the reins and sit in the sun to enjoy what's left.".

Looking Back20160118
Looking Back20160118

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He decides that, despite his apparent control of his own life and everything he has been taught about free will, we must start by acknowledging that, to a great extent, our lives were propelled by factors that were never under our control. We didn't choose our parents, and they didn't choose their parents, nor anything else in the history that formed us into the kind of person we were revealed to be.

Richard recalls his thoughts sitting at the bedside of many people as death approached and he watched them being eaten up with regret because they had not made more of their lives, and now it was too late. Wrong roads taken, right roads not taken, relationships broken and still unrepaired, and troubled children who blamed them for their own failures. Regret can be the saddest part of ageing and it can add an extra burden to what is already a difficult time.

There's no delete or rewind button in a human life, though we often wish there were. That's what we said. That's what we did. That's the kind of person we were.

But, he concludes, the remedy for irreversibility is the capacity to forgive and to be forgiven. And it has to include the hardest kind of forgiveness - self-forgiveness.

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

Looking Back20160118

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He decides that, despite his apparent control of his own life and everything he has been taught about free will, we must start by acknowledging that, to a great extent, our lives were propelled by factors that were never under our control. We didn't choose our parents, and they didn't choose their parents, nor anything else in the history that formed us into the kind of person we were revealed to be.

Richard recalls his thoughts sitting at the bedside of many people as death approached and he watched them being eaten up with regret because they had not made more of their lives, and now it was too late. Wrong roads taken, right roads not taken, relationships broken and still unrepaired, and troubled children who blamed them for their own failures. Regret can be the saddest part of ageing and it can add an extra burden to what is already a difficult time.

There's no delete or rewind button in a human life, though we often wish there were. That's what we said. That's what we did. That's the kind of person we were.

But, he concludes, the remedy for irreversibility is the capacity to forgive and to be forgiven. And it has to include the hardest kind of forgiveness - self-forgiveness.

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

Perish Resisting20160122
Perish Resisting20160122

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He reflects on the way time steals everything from us - "our youth, those we love and last of all it comes for us". What disconcerts him most is how the "unstaying feet of time" seem to be speeding up as they pursue him towards his end and he wonders if Time is trying to cheat him of what is left by fast-forwarding it like this.

The positive side to this apparent increasing acceleration of his life is that it has made Richard determined to cherish what remains. Not to moan about the cold days and long dark nights of a Scottish winter, but to savour them. Not to grieve over the fact that there may not be many springs and summers left, but to heed the words of Dylan Thomas and learn to catch and sing the sun in flight before, for him, it sinks forever.

He admits, "Time has been generous to me so I can bear its impatience now to see me gone, but it doesn't stop me wondering and obsessing about time itself and the way it devours all its children."

Now he is determined not to worry about what comes next but to live his life in such a way that his death will be an unjust fate.

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

Perish Resisting20160122

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

He reflects on the way time steals everything from us - "our youth, those we love and last of all it comes for us". What disconcerts him most is how the "unstaying feet of time" seem to be speeding up as they pursue him towards his end and he wonders if Time is trying to cheat him of what is left by fast-forwarding it like this.

The positive side to this apparent increasing acceleration of his life is that it has made Richard determined to cherish what remains. Not to moan about the cold days and long dark nights of a Scottish winter, but to savour them. Not to grieve over the fact that there may not be many springs and summers left, but to heed the words of Dylan Thomas and learn to catch and sing the sun in flight before, for him, it sinks forever.

He admits, "Time has been generous to me so I can bear its impatience now to see me gone, but it doesn't stop me wondering and obsessing about time itself and the way it devours all its children."

Now he is determined not to worry about what comes next but to live his life in such a way that his death will be an unjust fate.

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

What Next?20160119

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

What happens after death is the great unknown. But Richard argues that death itself is our friend and we should reach out our hand to it because, whatever we believe or do not believe about what happens to us after death, most of us will need courage to face it at the end.

Courage is not being unafraid. It is to be very afraid, yet to overcome our fear and refuse to flinch. It is the best lesson life teaches us.

He suggests that, while Death is a necessity if we want to keep the earth habitable, this necessity is spiritual as well as physical. Apart from the boredom of living forever, without the prospect of death there would be little to spur human achievement, because there would always be time to get round to it later.

He concludes, "Maybe that's why Jesus told us to work while it was yet day, for the night was coming when no one could work. Death is the friend who prods us to do something with the one life while we have it and not waste it hanging around."

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.

What Next?20160119

Bishop Richard Holloway, with the aid of great poets and writers, looks back on his life now that he has passed his allotted three score years and ten and wonders what his decreasing future holds and how best to cope with it.

What happens after death is the great unknown. But Richard argues that death itself is our friend and we should reach out our hand to it because, whatever we believe or do not believe about what happens to us after death, most of us will need courage to face it at the end.

Courage is not being unafraid. It is to be very afraid, yet to overcome our fear and refuse to flinch. It is the best lesson life teaches us.

He suggests that, while Death is a necessity if we want to keep the earth habitable, this necessity is spiritual as well as physical. Apart from the boredom of living forever, without the prospect of death there would be little to spur human achievement, because there would always be time to get round to it later.

He concludes, "Maybe that's why Jesus told us to work while it was yet day, for the night was coming when no one could work. Death is the friend who prods us to do something with the one life while we have it and not waste it hanging around."

A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.