Contemplating the underrated nature of an idle life; or ‘Eat, drink and be merry- tomorrow we die’

 “I must say, my children have taught me all the worthwhile things that I’ve learned. Everything that’s of value ultimately I’ve learned by watching them, being told things by them, learning how to behave towards children – or trying to. It’s a fantastical, mystical, amazingly rewarding experience. And if you behave well, kindly, patiently, intelligently unpatronisingly towards your children they give you so much back; they give you forty times more than you give them in terms of attention, of love.”
These aren’t my words, they were in conversation with John LLoyd and it was at this point the interviewer replied with these
 “They haven’t yet reached that horrid age where if you mention a poem they go, ‘Poetry’s sad. Get a life.’ ”  My son responds to me in a very similar vein, on a daily basis.
 I had been listening to Radio 4 this morning, and John LLoyd was sharing some of his life experience with the listener on Desert Island Discs. I love that programme and it is my ambition to interview  Kirsty who presents it currently. Anyway, John Lloyd was unknown to me, but I have unwittingly been aware
of some of his work as his career has been in producing radio and television.  Listening to him was a joy, as he affirmed much of my own position philosophically:
“Nobody has any working philosophy for life. It obsesses me, this. If your lawnmower doesn’t work you either take it to someone who can fix
it, you fix it yourself or buy a new one. The same with an aeroplane.You wouldn’t get in an aeroplane that only had one wing. But when i tcomes to human nature, people just accept their faults: “Well, I fucked up my marriage, I can’t talk to my kids, my dad hates me. But I am the way that I am. I’m greedy, selfish, fearful, lazy, spiteful – and you can’t change human nature.” Why don’t they decide, “Well, what’s wrong here? That road rage stuff I do every single fucking morning just makes me feel unhappy and tense” – why don’t they get rid of it? With marriage, after the honeymoon period, everyone starts yakking on about how they’ve married a lunatic, a slattern, a drunk or whatever, and they just moan on and on and making excuses for themselves. They’re always looking outwards and see how wrong everything else is, but if they fix themselves first, the problems start to go away. I can’t control the world. “
After experiencing clinical depression, John chose to read his way out of the deep well of meaningless he had fallen in to.  He read psychology, religion, history, every field of human interest, and a consequence of that reading led him to his subsequent success inproducing  a television series Q.I.  It also led him to the epiphany of ‘ Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we die.’
I found further insight from him by reading an article from 2005 (The Idler) in which he reported that ;
“Jonathan Swift said, ‘May you live everyday of your life,’ and that’s important. Anyway, this article about what he thought the meaning of life was inspired more letters to the Telegraph than any other subject and a few days later a double page was given over to readers’ response. Amongst these insightful, truthful and touching stories was a letter from one guy who wrote that he too had looked for the meaning of life. He had studied religions, science, philosophy, name it, and his conclusion about life was the one question – “Why?” and only one answer:
“To love.”
I know that I bang on and on about this stuff, but it is because IT IS IMPORTANT!!!
Here’s some more of John Lloyds wisdom, I have found a new hero!
“What education should be about is endless curiosity about the nature of the world. I’d make Philosophy and Human Behaviour acompulsory subject. I wouldn’t bother to teach History; I think it’s pointless. History is just the record of human crime. It’s battles anmurders and pogroms, but there’s a secret history and that’s the record of human goodness. The little acts of kindness aren’t recorded anywhere. Little deeds of altruism: The lady in the baker’s shop who runs after you saying, ‘Here you left a fiver on the counter.’ That sort of thing is never recorded, but that’s what actually keeps the world going.”
I am that lady in the baker’s shop, and so are you.  Little acts of kindness. Rock on John Lloyd.
Thanks to BBC Radio 4 for creating Desert Island Discs, and for interviewing John Lloyd.
Thanks to The Idler magazine which has a very interesting conversation here;
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3 thoughts on “Contemplating the underrated nature of an idle life; or ‘Eat, drink and be merry- tomorrow we die’

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