I love my job at the BBC. I get to meet the most interesting people. They don’t often inspire a blog, but yesterday got me thinking.
I met Chris Green who is the author of a book: SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. Which is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan.
Chris was being interviewed by Steve Yabsley (Listen again). In the interview he talked about how different cultures have respect for age, something we lack in a culture of youthful beauty over wisdom and experience.
To me, a mid-life crises is the realisation that you might die with your ‘light, talent, brilliance, fire etc. still inside you; or worst, you’ll be in a rocking chair at an old folks home thinking about what you didn’t do!
Afghanistan is quite a place to suddenly look at your life and get the sense of your real self, undiscovered and waiting to be born. People travel to find themselves, you can only really understand yourself when you see yourself in opposition to something else. Afghanistan is a place of strong contrast, a place where it’s hard to survive. You must get a real sense of what’s important.
There is a panic that everything has to happen in your youth as you get depleted of energy as you get older.
To me you have a choice. You can look at your life as if every event took something from you and depleted you, or you can see every event as giving something to you - wisdom hopefully, if you’re brave enough to reflect. But I believe it can give you real life force. Everything that has happened to you up to this point took life force and created life force. The things you do because you love to do them create a vitality and a love of life. I have seen people in their twenties who look dead in their eyes and people in their nineties who look like they are in love with life. Everything that has happened to you has brought you perfectly to this moment. It is a blank page, but you’re not, you are the life force that brought you here and that life force can grow rather than deplete you.
To me, true beauty is someone who is in love with life, and that light shines out of their eyes. You can feel it, it’s tangible.
Later in the afternoon on the BBC, Claire Cavanagh talked to a woman at the Chelsea flower show who was 101. She said she comes to the flower show every year and wouldn’t miss it. I think she drinks up the life force in those flowers.
The greatest regret of the dying is not what they did do, but what they didn’t do - and letting the ass hole with a survey into their room, as if a life satisfaction survey is the last thing you’d want to do before you die … just saying!
Living life fully is always a leap of faith.