Not many people cite or quote holy texts any more, but a deep human appetite for words of transcendent, mystical wisdom lives on. Twitter is full of people regurgitating inspirational quotes by secular saints (loadsa Gandhi, of course). Once in a while a Facebook friend is afflicted, and of course I block them at once. But we’re probably all guilty, so here goes. When the atheist, anti-marriage writer HL Mencken got wed in a church his friends protested. He replied, ‘Like all other infidels, I am superstitious.’ And that would seem to me to be a pretty good, down-to-earth quote to describe the faith position of most people today. I’m not ashamed to offer you that.
Mencken also said this: ‘Old age ain’t no place for sissies.’ Never truer in this age of protracted, intractable dying. As the years pile up we need more and more courage to face and negotiate the inexorable. There’s no doubting who this country’s real heroes are.
Heroism comes in different guises. I very much like its guise in this letter to the Oldie magazine.
SIR: Working people frequently ask us retired people what we do to make our days interesting.
Well, the other day, my wife, Helen, and I went into town and visited a shop. When we came out, there was a traffic warden writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and I said, ‘Come on, sir, how about giving an OAP a break?’ He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him an idiot. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn-out tyres, so Helen called him arrogant. He finished writing the second ticket and put it on the windscreen with the first. Then he started writing more tickets. This went on for about 20 minutes. Just then our bus arrived, and we got on it and went home.
We try to have a little fun each day now that we’re retired. It’s important at our age.