I haven’t listened to Radio 4 for a while and assumed that Thought For The Day had long since ceased to be. Probably the only programmes destined to last for ever on Radio 4 – assuming Radio 4 lasts for ever – are The Archers and Desert Island Discs. However, I was mistaken. Thought For The Day is still alive and kicking, and ‘tasters’ are available here:

I often wondered how these speakers actually came by their Thoughts. Did they wake in the middle of the night before the broadcast with the whole thing mapped out in their heads? Or labour for months beforehand in wonderful, book-lined studies, with old-fashioned typewriters, surrounded by unwashed coffee cups and balled-up bits of paper?

Mostly the insights one wakes up with in the middle of the night turn out to be gibberish in the cold blue light of morn, although I did once get the Meaning of Life – or one of them – in a sudden flash. Driving down a narrow country lane (not the safest of circumstances for a Road to Damascus experience) it came to me that The Two Worlds Are One. And I still have those words, but only the vaguest of notions of what they signified. It wasn’t something you could think about, you see. It just was, it was a knowing. But of course, you can’t go around having knowings all the time. Sometimes you have to do the dishes and hang out the washing. For all but a fraction of your life, all you are likely to be able to manage is thinking.

Last night I woke up with a Thought. Only one, but here it is:

That sometimes you are powerless to forestall disaster, and that this is the hardest thing of all to get your head round. When you read books, when you see films, there’s always something the characters can do to make things right. The road out may be through Hell itself, but there always is a road out. But in real life sometimes you just have to stand back and watch the person you love rambling towards that precipice, singing a foolish little song to themselves, and knowing there isn’t going to be much left of them if they go over.

Which is quite gloomy, but then I thought – we all have many lives, and we – or our potential selves between lives – design our next lives with care, and maybe with help, so as to continue the process of learning and refinement. And so it seems to me the person wandering towards the edge intended to go over – or not, as the case may possibly be – when designing this particular life for themselves. And the person forced to watch disaster unfold also intended to be there. You intended to be there. What better lesson for the ego than that for once there should be no road out, that here is where it happens, here is where you stand and wait.

It seems to me that you and I and our small group of friends, relatives and acquaintances are involved in a kind of dance through time. We meet up, life after life. Sometimes you are my father, sometimes my brother, sometimes my child, sometimes my murderer and sometimes my friend. Sometimes you play a walk-on part – that person who dropped the jar of marmalade in the supermarket that day; that person who stood next to me at the bus stop one sunny Spring day – and sometimes we share the lead; sometimes you may miss a life, or I may, but we will always meet up in the end. So let’s just hope that:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Julian of Norwich

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