From the desk of Paddy Miguel come the musings of Gob O’Shite
Unreliable memories, fanciful tales and outrageous lies
“I am myself the matter of this blog; you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject.”With apologies to Michel, Lord of Montaigne
When you write your curriculum vitae you mention all the positive aspects of your career so far and your ambitions for the future.
Your eulogy similarly looks back over your successes and glosses over any failures. After all, one shouldn’t speak badly of the dead.
An autobiography – or one’s memoirs if you prefer – record your accomplishments, milestones, failures and facts but very little about your thoughts, your hopes, your feelings.
All the stuff I know, I learned from someone else so when I die that knowledge is still available, it doesn’t die with me.
Knowing that a tomato is a fruit is knowledge. Not putting a tomato in a fruit salad is wisdom.
So what happens to all the wisdom I have garnered during my time on this spinning clod when I finally depart? Will all the heartaches and joy, all the pleasures and pain, just evaporate along with my final breath?
All the sights I’ve seen, all the words I’ve heard, the people, the places, the smells and flavours, the memories, happy and sad – does all this disappear in those dying moments?
If so, then what’s the purpose of recording them? Revealing to you, the reader, my path through life, the pitfalls and obstacles overcome, the triumphs and the disasters that have befallen me, may be entertaining but it will not be a road map. Telling you how I felt at a crossroads in my life will not help you decide when you arrive at that same crossroads.
Therefore my reason for writing down what I know must be for me not for posterity.
On St Valentine’s Day 2019, a lovely little man called Brian poked two fingers up my bottom. Then he invited the young medical student at his side to do the same and confirm his diagnosis, cancer of the prostate. I wondered where the rest of my life was going.
I remembered a couple of verses from a poem called ‘The Indispensable Man’ by the wonderfully named Saxon White Kessinger, an American writer and poet.
Sometime when you feel that your going Would leave an unfillable hole, Just follow these simple instructions And see how they humble your soul. Take a bucket and fill it with water, Put your hand in it up to the wrist, Pull it out and the hole that's remaining, Is a measure of how much you'll be missed.
Saxon White Kessinger was born in Idaho where there is a large Basque community. In fact, her second husband was a guy called Pete Uberuaga. The poem was first published in the Nutmegger Poetry Book Club in Danbury, Connecticut in 1959.
President Dwight D Eisenhower used to carry a copy of the poem in his pocket as a reminder.
This lesson in humility is so different to the ‘be the best you can’ and ‘you are the centre of the universe’ teachings of today’s Life Coaches.
I decided that if I didn’t want to disappear without trace I had better do something about that hole in the water.
A few months later I was celebrating my 71st birthday on the island of Syros in the Greek Cyclades and as I lay on the beach I wondered what memories were worth preserving.