It started this morning, sitting, as we do on a 'weekend', in bed, with a cup of tea, reading, reviewing, talking, relaxing. Because it is my duty to keep an eye on our finances, unusually - and rather boringly, you might say - I used some of this time to run through the 'state of the nation' that is our finances. Living, as we are doing by choice at the moment, off only one income (my wife's), this review is rather more focussed than normal; dare I say more ruthless, at the moment. Anyway, ticking off the various unavoidable items, like the rates, heating and lighting; deciding on the 'essentials' and earmarking those costs which could be eliminated, was how this particular session went. We then fell to looking further ahead to full retirement and the likely income from our pensions, such as they will be.
Every time we fall to talking about pensions, I am irresistibly drawn to musing about the first of my four different private pensions, which exist by virtue of changing employers. My first pension was with a well known steel company, for whom I had worked for the first eleven years of my tax-paying life, which was 'frozen' upon the merger with another engineering concern. Consequently, the company's ownership and name changed along with the introduction of a new pension scheme. The process of reviewing whether to leave my original pension frozen or move it into a private fund was aided by someone I 'knew' who worked with a mutual insurance company at the time. Given that this was in the midst of the Thatcher era and the new market economy, advice was abounding that pensions would become more mobile as the work force became more mobile and everyone was getting on Norman Tebbit's proverbial bike!
Whether or not I forgive my 'friend' for whatever proportion of responsibility he could himself reasonably shoulder for this advice, is however, pretty irrelevant, I think. This is because the next prompt in my morning of prompts occurred whilst I ate my breakfast and watched the second half of a very interesting hour-long documentary on BBC1, "What's The Point of Forgiveness?", presented by the Historian, Bettany Hughes, which took a brief look at the history of this virtue, which emanates from the apocryphal words of Jesus, as on the cross he cried "forgive them, they know not what they do...". In her thesis she presents the alternative to forgiveness as being the vicious cycle of revenge, which inhibits recovery, engenders pain and does not allow us to move on.
So, I ask you... no, I have to ask myself first, how can I complain when I am able, as I did an hour ago, to sit in our sun-bathed garden, ringing with bird song, cup of coffee in hand, in good health and with the freedom to write what I want to say on almost any subject in this blog, here, now, any time it pleases me to do so. How can I feel vengeful toward someone about a pension shortfall, when there are people out there in the world, who can forgive acts of inhumanity that defy belief; that have caused the loss of life, the torture of innocent people, the deprivation of the most basic of human rights affecting whole communities, populations... there is therefore no need to answer this question. But one question does remain.
That question is simply this: how can I, in spite of all the good fortune I have had in my life, in spite of the fact I am no longer an angry young man - for which there may have been a little justification early in my life - and in spite of the fact that the sun is shining; how can I follow this advice and ensure that, deep down inside my soul, I can genuinely forgive anyone, who is guilty of anything, whether it be a simple thoughtless slander or the most unspeakable inhumanity. I feel this is the question I should continually ask myself and strive to achieve the only result that common sense points toward with undoubted clarity. It is so obvious to me that to forgive someone is to take the wind away from their angry or irrational sail; make it pointless for them to consider acting in such a way again, rather like a petulant child who, in moments of insecurity, challenges their parents by pushing at the boundaries, trying to get a reaction; when they don't get it and the parents show forgiving, but calm and disciplined resolve, they gradually adjust their behaviour. It has to be said, however, that if it were the easy option, we'd all be able to forgive.