My wife Marguerite retired a few weeks ago. She was looking forward to it, but just as it happened we had a succession of funerals to attend. It was as though we were given a reminder: with retirement, death approaches.
My own retirement was some time ago, in 2002. I was younger, but in poor health. In my mind I was crossing things off the list of things I hoped to do in the future, since I would never be well enough.
It is a while since we had to consciously brace ourselves for the worst before watching the evening news.
We, who live in areas which are free from conflict and lawless anarchy, are not used to feeling the grip of that cold ‘something’ which is the fear of real and immediate danger. Perhaps we should be used to terrorism by now. It has become the norm in many countries.
Richard Dawkins has achieved another piece of self-publicity. A woman said she would face a real ethical dilemma if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome. He replied ‘Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice’.
Naturally there was an outcry, and Dawkins published one of those non-apologies that we often get from public figures these days.
‘Church launches bitter attack on PM's 'incoherent' Middle East policy’, said the Observer on 17th August:
The Church of England has delivered a withering critique of David Cameron's Middle East policy, describing the government's approach as incoherent, ill-thought-out and determined by ‘the loudest media voice at any particular time’.
The criticisms are made in an extraordinary letter to the prime minister signed by the bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, and written with the support of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
In a recent post I mentioned the fact that the study of anthropology began with nineteenth century atheists who struggled to understand why our hunter-gatherer ancestors all over the world made the same crazy mistake of imagining the existence of gods, for whom – according to those anthropologists – there was no evidence.
Some of the literature of that period was very patronising, with views that today would be considered racist.