Some thoughts on turning 60
Ken Rookes, July 2010.
“Old enough to know better, and young enough to do it again.”
At sixty, one is entitled to reflect upon one’s life, at least a little.
I’m not finished with life yet,
in fact there’s an awful lot I want to do, and see, and discover.
but I’m probably about half-way there. Perhaps a little more!
I am learning that Life is a great journey of discovery,
often exciting, and always with the promise of more.
What a wonder it is to be human!
The more one learns, the more questions there are to be answered,
and some of those questions that once seemed so urgent
don’t seem as important as they once did.
I was blessed to be born into a Christian family
and to be raised within the bosom of the Church.
It was through family and church that I engaged
with the disturbingly beautiful story of Jesus,
and learned the values that I still hold dear:
among them love, compassion, grace, generosity,
truth, reconciliation, justice, courage and hope.
For this I thank my mother and father, my wider family,
and those other saints who, across six decades,
have shared their faith with me
and who lived out that faith
in their friendship and their love.
As I have grown older I have learned that faith can be elusive,
a slippery thing; and I have become far less certain about the great questions
of ‘life, the universe and everything;’ to quote Douglas Adams.
And I have learned to be at peace with uncertainty.
When I was younger I learned to question;
to be sceptical of institutions, and to mistrust the rich and the powerful;
many of whom live in fear, and who propagate lies
to shore up their privileged positions.
As I have aged I find I have become even more distrustful,
and, I think, more angry;
and I find myself yelling at the images of our political leaders
as they flash across the illuminated screen.
There is much in the world that makes me angry,
and many wrongs remaining to be righted.
I recall from some deep and almost forgotten recess of my mind
the motto of the Methodist Order of Knights,
(of which I was a proud member in the 50s and 60s):
Live pure, speak true, right wrong,
follow Christ the King, else wherefore born. 1.
I am determined not to lose completely the passion for justice and for truth
of my almost-forgotten youth.
I have discovered the beauty and the wonder of the journey,
or the pilgrimage, using the language of the Basis of Union;
a beauty and wonder to balance the accompanying struggle and pain.
I have concluded that the beauty and the wonder and the joy
are worth the sadness, the struggle and the pain.
I have learned to play with words, and with pictures, and with songs,
enjoying the shining challenges of some, and the sometimes sad beauty of others,
windows, as they may be, to mystery, and to the divine;
and I am grateful for my many teachers.
I continue to find joy and delight in the unexpected;
in the child encountering a puppet,
in the exploration of a new pop-up book
and the always-new surprise of an old one;
and in friendships, intimacies, and gestures of affirmation.
I like to think that I have learned at least a little of grace and of love:
Love which unites
and grace that puts aside the failures and mistakes
to enable imperfect people to stay united.
I am deeply grateful to Jane, for 32 years my partner in much learning and discovery.
I am grateful, too, for Thomas and Anna
who also taught me about myself and my need for grace.
I continue to make mistakes. (Pause for laughter)
I am embarrassed by them,
but I am learning the freedom that allows me to fail again, and again;
trusting once more in that store of grace implanted deep within the core of the universe,
and praying that others will not be overly hurt by my failures.
Poet Michael Leunig writes of two dominant feelings, languages,
activities and motives:
fear and love.
I am learning not to be afraid,
and I try to resist fear in all its attempts to limit my living,
or to limit my loving.
Thank you for those stages of my pilgrimage that you have shared with me,
and thank you for coming to share this celebration.
You and many others have been instruments of God’s Spirit,
whether or not you were aware of it;
you have taught me much and my life is richer for it.
Where I have been a slow or reluctant student I apologise
and will continue to trust in your grace.
May we all continue our unique journeys of learning and discovery,
and, in the words of poet Bob Dylan,
may we all ‘stay forever young.’
1. Based on Gareth and Lynette by Alfred Lord Tennyson.