Monday, 31 August 2009

“…By bread Alone”

Many writers have compared human life with the seasons of the year. Our physical lives tracing their path from spring through summer to autumn and finally to winter – “the season of the slippered pantaloon” as Shakespeare described it in “The Taming of the Shrew.” However, life expectancy in Shakespeare’s day was far shorter than it is today. The change is dramatic and is a measure of the progress medicine has made in treating and caring for our physical bodies.

Due to that and to improved economic circumstances for many, the length of the seasons of our lives has changed. When first thinking about this I was intending to say that only our autumn and winter had changed but now I am not so sure. It seems anomalous but I believe whilst autumn and winter have lengthened considerably, conversely spring has in many instances grown shorter. Children seem to become young adults much more rapidly than even fifty years ago. To me this is a great pity, especially as our other seasons have grown longer. Having to face longer summers and much longer autumns and winters would logically seem to need a longer spring too in order to properly prepare ourselves. On the contrary, many young people at the age of 16 or 17 seem to be much more grown up, knowledgeable and sophisticated than I was at their age. Or are they? Is it just appearances deceiving us? Are they really still children at heart and completely unprepared, especially emotionally, for what awaits them when summer comes? I think this may be true and if so it would explain the growing immaturity that seems apparent in many adults.

So often we human beings focus our thoughts and our researches too narrowly and I believe the way we have tackled Shakespeare’s “Ages of Man” in this scientific age, demonstrates the weaknesses of that approach. We have made physical life so much more comfortable for ourselves and through the knowledge gained about drugs, medicines, nutrition etc., we have extended physical life considerably. Our success is manifested by the increased size of geriatric wards in our hospitals and the difficulty pension schemes are experiencing in funding longer living pensioners. However, what about our emotional and spiritual lives? Were we to spend one tenth of the effort and money on understanding our emotions and spirituality that we spend on research into our physical life, this world would be a much happier place.

I dream that one day the various scientific disciplines will wake up to these huge research gaps and begin to do something about them; that they will recognise the urgent need for greater balance in their efforts. The biblical caution that “man cannot live by bread alone” is frequently quoted but in scientific research is totally ignored. It is little wonder therefore that this lack of balance in scientific research is reflected in a clear lack of balance in human social organisation and understanding. We deify science, which is almost exclusively materialistic, at our peril. We are not intended to live our lives just on the physical level alone and by doing so we create huge inner conflict that reflects itself in external conflict – hence all the wars and the needless and irresponsible loss of young lives in those conflicts.

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