In her novel, "The philosopher's pupil", Iris Murdoch attributes the following thoughts to Rozanov, the philosopher of the title:
Looking at his early childish writings,
he could see how much he had learnt in fifty years.
Oh for another fifty!
If human life were longer, art and science might be much the same,
but philosophy would be an entirely different matter.
Writing on the eve of my 50th birthday, this has huge resonance for me. In a number of important aspects, it feels as life is only just getting going. It is only fairly recently that I have established clear and sustainable patterns for Bible study, and I find myself mourning the lost years even if, speaking rationally, they are probably not as lost as they feel now. Still so much to learn about building a strong prayer life, of relating sensitively and constructively to others. And yet, unless I'm one of the small number of people who make it to a century and beyond, life is now over half way through.
OK, let's be positive for a moment. Through my work over the years, youngsters have learnt mathematics, trainers are upskilled with my help, teachers starting from a low mathematical background have been empowered to come into teaching, church music has been stronger, both at the time and sustainably afterwards. Two branches of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics / Mathematical Association are going from strength to strength some years after I helped to found them, the second of which being very much my initiative. As an education lecturer I bring to bear a wide variety of examples, and am able to relate well to youngsters, with a clear theoretical approach which relates strongly to the practicalities of the classroom, practising what I preach in terms of using a variety of teaching styles - and reflecting when that doesn't work very well.
So, with the first half century just about to be behind me, a good opportunity to look backward and forward, and to dedicate myself anew to God's service. As previously indicated, it's not clear what the future holds except that I can't continue doing what I'm doing long term. So, I trust in God's almighty power - albeit, being frank, this is not an entirely easy thing to do.
Anyway, celebrations spread over a period! Have already been able to celebrate with Wendy and Daniel last week, thank you to all who came to my 'at home' yesterday (and James who arrived a week early....) and look forward to celebrating with colleagues tomorrow and with family and friends back in the UK in September (so long as my residency permit comes through on time!) Any suggestions gratefully received...
And just one thing before I finish. A big thank you to David Mansergh, a friend from Sherborne St John, the church I was attending before coming to Tanzania. You will find his comments scattered through my blog entries going right back to the beginning - thank you, David, for your loyalty and kindness. He now worships at Christ Church Cambridge which recently had an extensive sermon series on Job. So, picking up on this blog entry, David suggested I might like to listen to the sermons which are downloadable from their website, easiest to search by date knowing that the series started on 12th April this year. I've listened to two so far, and I have to say, they're jolly good, entirely faithful to the text whilst making the subject matter relevant today. Off to Uganda on Friday so I'll take a few more with me. If I do end up persuaded that the book needs all of its 42 chapters I'll let you know. Meanwhile, thank you for reading, may not have an Internet connection next weekend but I'll be writing again soon.