In the midst of life we are in death, and vice versa

graves and snowdropsThis morning’s run (day 167) took me through the churchyard of St James’s church here in Bramley. I’ve always loved running through graveyards (in bright sunlight, obviously, I’m not sure I’d be so keen on a dark night): the stark contrast of on the one hand a profound sense of being alive, here and now, with my strong heart pumping and my strong legs powering me along, and the centuries of human dead surrounding me in a silent reminder that it will not always be this way and I’d better be making the most of it. 

I was particularly moved this morning by the spring flowers covering the older graves: recent graves have their bouquets and wreaths, of course, but some of the gravestones date back centuries, their inscriptions lost to weather and moss, and there’s noone left to mourn them. But they’re not left bare. Instead at this time of year they stand in a sea of snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses. It’s a beautiful image of new life and hope in the midst of death, a metaphor for the very faith the church represents, if you like, and this morning it brought me a tremendous feeling of peace. 

I’ve just put to bed the 50th episode of The Extraordinary Business Book Club which included a moving quote from Michael E. Gerber, who’s now 80. Here’s how he replied when I asked him for his best piece of advice for anyone writing a business book: 

I would say look at yourself more seriously. Stop thinking about how you’re going to get by and start pondering what you’re going to leave behind. That’s not a financial question. It’s not an economic question, even though that’s there of course, but it’s in fact a social question. It’s an existential question. Who am I? Why am I here? What is this all about? Until you bring that to bear on everything you do every day, you’re simply succumbing to a state of mind which allows you to avoid asking those questions because they’re too difficult to answer.

We’re all working towards an exit strategy (or as Michael himself nicely put it, a ‘liquidity date’), at the end of the day, and it’s good to remind yourself about that sometimes. Look after your strong heart and your strong legs while you have them – because they’re a privilege, not a right – and direct them purposefully.