Christian Comment, October 2017

The other day, whilst in my study attempting to apply myself, and mop up some of the work outstanding on my computer – routinely ignored in the busyness of life and other distractions – I was listening to Radio 4 in the background (at sufficiently low volume so as not to actually disturb me). During my effort to concentrate, I vaguely heard the beginning of a reading from a book, a book that sounded very familiar indeed. I dashed across the room and turned up the radio. I listened intently as the reading progressed.
I couldn’t quite locate it, where, what am I listening to? It was very interesting, and soon it emerged what the narrative was – it was about an event that utterly changed the life of the author.
The book in question is quite old now. It is called ‘My Year Off’ and its author, Robert McCrum is writing about his experiences after he suffered a stroke, or rather a ‘Brain Attack’, which is a better description so the author informs us. McCrum was forty-two and newly married when the trauma struck.
I have this book, hidden on a bookshelf, one I had almost entirely forgotten about. I searched up and down the bookshelves in the study and eventually found it. Blowing off the dust I began to read. The computer went to stand-by.
I will admit I feel a bit queasy as the author describes the Brain Attack and much of the medical descriptors he employs to define the complexity of what he suffered. Illogically I worry that by reading about this, I too, in some rather strange way, am tempting fate.
McCrum is in no-way making a theological reflection. But it is a reflection, and a reflection of a man who whilst suffering severe physical trauma, spends much of his time recovering reflecting about his previous life, and inevitably fearfully contemplating his future. It is a book written by a man who, pre-illness, is confident, rich, intelligent and successful, who has a reputation to consider, but who is now forced to make some very serious and earnest revaluations of what is important.
McCrum survived his unexplained ‘Brain Attack’ and revaluated what was important, what was not, what is a joy and important – and what is superfluous, irrelevant and pointless.
One of the things he decided was pointless, was to worry about his own mortality, deciding to enjoy every last moment of this life with those whom he loved, taking none of it for granted. I would go further than this and say that one of the problems in our modern times is the propensity to trust in our own infallibility, the fragile construct of ourselves, that can be shattered in the briefest of moments.
Jesus had a lot to say about how to live well and what in life is important. But, I immediately think of St Paul’s letter to Timothy – 1 Timothy 6:17, and I could not have put it better myself.
‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’.