Day 181 has seen over the last 7 days, 32.05 miles walked ascending 1,591.16 feet, 19.48 miles cycled ascending 1,179.48 feet, a strength training session, some wonderful people met, followed by the reaching of the crossroads followed by the writing of this post inspired by a conversation had with my children, my own observations and those coming from a sermon in St Paul’s and St George’s Church in which I heard God talk to me through Jess’ most excellent sermon.

While travelling to the airport with Allie for her to head to the USA for 3 weeks, in order to continue her research towards her PhD, we met two wonderful people. We met Janis and Chris at a café in the airport. I learned that Janis’ Dad was also called Archie but also that her next door neighbour had had a brain tumour since 1988 and was still going strong! It is too easy to say ‘wonderful’ but then say that it was probably a different type of tumour, to find the negative. Instead I should and do see this as a positive after the friends made during treatment and lost on this journey. Yet here is a guy who is still going well after nearly 30 years. That was wonderful news indeed and after a hand over of flyers, a handshake and a fond farewell, Allie was off for her flight and I was on the bus heading for home, but I needed some exercise so jumped off and opted for a 5.64 mile walk from Haymarket to Newhaven along the cycle tracks. I walked with a smile on my face after the great meeting with Janis and Chris and as I walked back to the flat to start writing wedding invitations it suddenly dawned on me that at the time in which my prognosis was forecasting that Allie would have been writing funeral notifications, instead we were sending out wedding invitations and looking forward to a bright and happy future!

Yet over the last few days I have seen and heard much that has made me fear for our future. Not just mine but all of ours.

The Wonderful Janis and Chris
The Wonderful Janis and Chris

As a boy, I was never the brightest, I was never the strongest, I was never the fastest, I wasn’t the most musical, I wasn’t the most arty, I wasn’t the most theatrical, and I certainly wasn’t the coolest or the toughest. In fact I wasn’t terribly good at anything much other than hiding from life. But as I grew older I tried to find what I was good at. I threw myself into life and discovered that one thing I could do was organise things, and bring people together to make things happen. I learned the value of the team and it was the enjoyment of working within a team, and what can be achieved within a team, that, perhaps, drew me towards the army. I wasn’t a natural fit. In fact I fell at every hurdle, but with perseverance born out of a determination and a stubbornness to never ever give up, I eventually made it in, and after 2.5 years of soldier service gained the Queen’s commission from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst into the 1st Battalion The King’s Own Scottish Borderers. From that position of leadership in some of the world’s best teams, working within some of the most devastated societies in the world, fractured nations in which society had all but collapsed completely, I was able to make many observations which stayed with me for life. Once diagnosed with a terminal illness I found strength in that experience and found the will to fight for life and as I did so my eyes, ears and mind were wide open as I searched for hope. Hope from God, hope from friends and family, hope from the very society in which we live. But while I found hope I also found much to be fearful of, much that would make me pray for a positive transformation in the wider society as opposed to the regression I see all around me at the moment.

So I write this post with no training as a philosopher, or as a theologian, or as a psychologist, or in human dynamics of any kind, or in politics. I write this post as a very simple individual who has been blessed enough to be able to have the time to get out there while keeping my eyes, ears and mind open. My blinkers were removed 25 years ago and what I find troubles me so much that I feel I ought to say something in the hope that I will influence somebody, anybody, everybody to whom this post speaks, off the path fraught with many pitfalls on the way into stormy waters that they are currently on, and onto a path towards a happy, healthy, peaceful and productive future.

In writing this post I make many generalisations about society whether young or old because I have observed a significant closing of the gap between young and old. The young are constrained by the speed at which technology develops and the preceding generation are catching up or have perhaps caught up. As a result, for many, there appears to be little difference between young and old in the way we approach life. For many they will not reflect your view or position but for many the cap will fit and I pray that you will know if it is you, if it is you and hear it, pick up the cap, wear it and make a promise to join me in attempting a transformation as to how we collectively approach the future.

I believe that we are witnessing the start of the dehumanising of society towards an eventual collapse. What we are seeing right now, all around us is just the thin end of the wedge. I see this running through three themes which lead one into the other and into an eventual collapse.

1. Selfishness which leads to:

2. The loss of faith in the team, the wider team, the whole team which leads to:

3. The building of walls.


Over the last few months I have heard many things in the media and from people young and old that I speak to that have highlighted for me a very concerning trend and course that many in society seem to be travelling on. This course is fundamentally turning away from the lessons of the past, from the collective wisdom of the past, turning away from the benefit of hindsight, claiming instead that the old ways are the wrong ways, that society shouldn’t be shaping or dictating what I ought to do. Instead I am going to do what I want to do. The words I and ME are becoming the prominent word in much that I hear. I see respect for the wisdom of the elder and respect for those in authority diminishing. I hear too often that my rights are more important and outweigh any responsibilities that might come with those rights. That it is not, ‘what can I do for others?’ but instead, ‘what can everyone, others, the state do for me?’ What can I have? What can I take?

I am seeing a fast-paced world seeking nothing but self-gratification through easy fast food lives, through poor diet, a lack of exercise and no patience for anything that makes one think or examine oneself. I am seeing individuals becoming increasingly lost to society by the fast food of visual and audible stimulation. Blinkered by screens and headphones drip feeding brain food of little nutritional value, instead I see individuals losing themselves in constant fast moving, hard-hitting, low input entertainment. Individuals becoming increasingly uncomfortable with themselves. Scared of their own company and as a result pushing away those around them and filling the resultant silence with noise and visual stimuli that is probably of little moral or aesthetic value and likely fails to stimulate deep thought and an examination of oneself, one’s direction and one’s responsibilities. With their eyes fixed to a screen and their ears lost underneath headphones, they effectively drift through life blinkered from the realities of the world we live in, yet expecting to be given everything. Take, take, take, take, take, take from friends, take from family, take from the state, take from the environment, take it fast, take it quick, and take as much as you can but give nothing back. The very idea of duty, of service, of team, of responsibility is lost to many.

What I see is a society that is turning increasingly away from the lessons of the past, of humanity, of the very language and responsibilities of society, of the individual to the whole, the whole team and that is turning away from the collective wisdom of the elder and towards the bright lights of the cool. That the new ways are better than the old ways. I can see the attraction. Certainly the old ways require effort. The new ways are so much easier and give instant but short-lived gratification.

Loss of Faith in the team

What I see is a society that has no patience for real life but is, as a result, becoming increasingly unhealthy and increasingly unhappy. A society that turns further and further from the truth, from the reality that health and true happiness requires effort, real effort. So they take take take, and take some more, yet give nothing back. They have many wonderful soundbites that give them a short-lived belief in a better society. Soundbites on subjects such as diversity, poverty, hunger, health, the environment, a better society, a strength in union, in the team, but the reality is that beyond soundbites, when required to be doing anything about it beyond protesting in the streets and complaining about their lot rather than stop, unblinker their mind, eyes and ears, nothing happens. Like the dog walker refusing to pick up after his dog claiming it is not his problem, someone else will pick it up, and like the many who walk down the street throwing their litter anywhere other than in a bin thinking that someone else will pick it up, nothing happens. Acta non Verba is my mantra, actions not words. Instead of rioting or moaning about it conduct a transformation of oneself. Ask yourself what real direct action one is doing to actually improve the situation about which you protest. How many have actually volunteered at foodbanks or at sports clubs, or at a soup kitchen, or at a homeless shelter or overseas to bring education to the poorest? How many are actually taking action themselves to avoid becoming a health statistic and a burden on the NHS? Yes protest about it but don’t riot about it, take action to actually physically improve the situation, be transformational in ourselves. Eat healthily, take regular exercise, look after our friends, family and neighbours and find a focus, an issue about which you care so deeply and take affirmative action to improve it. Acknowledge and start to act upon our responsibilities towards one another. Stop taking, start giving.

One can only truly find health and happiness if one is to reinforce what society can collectively do for us by investing in ourselves through healthy lifestyles and others in our society.

Building Walls

If we as a society continue to build walls between the collective wisdom of our elders and the hundreds of years of experience of things gone wrong, of lessons learned, and ourselves, we are in danger of destroying our environment and the very societal structures from the individual responsibility up that sustain us as the human animal. We are in danger of destroying the very moral, hierarchical, social, environmental and physical structures that our very survival at the individual, national and international level requires. The well from which we take is running dry. Our increasingly unhappy youth, our failing health, and our international tensions are proof, yet still we seem to look to see how much more we can take. I was shocked to hear the complete lack of reaction from the studio audience of radio 4’s question time when a politician of the Welsh Assembly openly declared that she lied, ‘all politicians lie’ she said. I, as an Army Officer, if I bounced a cheque or lied I demonstrated a complete lack of integrity and would not only be punished for it but would also have to work incredibly hard in order to win back the trust of my soldiers. I am flabbergasted that society finds it perfectly acceptable for our leaders to lie, to rely on soundbites, to communicate only through social media rather than face to face, to build walls that create division within society, wider society and our responsibilities towards that which we seek to shut out. We refuse to learn the lessons of the past. For thousands of years we have been building walls, both literal and metaphorical but have never solved a single problem in so doing. We have merely exacerbated pain, suffering and division. The Amorite wall, the walls of Athens, the Great wall of Gorgan, Hadrian’s wall, the great wall of china, the walls of Constantinople and the Berlin wall. None achieved the desired result, just made things worse, and yet still we build walls.

As I write it seems to me that as we continue to suck from the well of life, as we continue to take but give nothing back, as we continue to find a lack of integrity, a lack of honest communication, a lack of humility, a lack of empathy, and a lack of a sense of duty, of service, of responsibility towards each other and the wider world, then the hose from which we suck is starting to deliver nothing but stinking, toxic air. The well of life is running dry.

We must be transformational in ourselves and in our society. We must know that it is only by learning from the mistakes of our past, by listening to the wisdom of our elders, by taking off the blinkers of fast brain food provided by digital screens and headphones, by opening our eyes, ears and mind to the realities of what is developing around us, and asking not what you can take but what you can give, that will be the route to a healthy and happy future. Stop talking about it and start doing it. Fight for life for yourself and for others. Invest in a faith in God or invest in society and give of yourself to it. Get out in God’s wonderful creation and walk or cycle or run or climb or paddle, but do it without blinkers and listen. You will be amazed by what you see and hear and will find total peace, and not only that you will find increasing health and happiness. Eat your 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Don’t cheat, do it. Avoid processed foods and take time to cook from raw and fresh ingredients for yourself. We are what we eat, so eat well and we will be well again. The more we poison our bodies with poor diet and a lack of exercise, the more we seem to be poisoning our minds, and with it, as we blinker ourselves behind screens, headphones and devoid ourselves of a sense of responsibility, we seem to be dehumanising society. Instead invest in your family and friends. Have humility and empathy for others and with this I of course am meaning society. Love your neighbour as yourself and ask what you can do for them. Find a focus, something that upsets you, or disturbs you, or concerns you, or inspires you, and focus on it. Do whatever you can in work and in society to make things better.

Insist on our leadership finding their moral compass and learning the lessons of the past. We have learned the lessons of communism, we have learned the lessons of socialism, we have learned the lessons of the division caused by a lack of empathy and we know what the human animal, by its very genetic code, needs to survive. It needs a society with a hierarchy, a structure set on rules and regulations with a social support network that communicates face to face, not by social media. Capitalism can support this society but not when money becomes the master. It needs to be underpinned by a democratic system founded on the need to set the conditions for a strong society, but it can only do that when it is founded on a strong bedrock of an impeachable moral code in which our leadership is held to account on the principals of integrity, honesty, genuine communication, humility, empathy, a sense of duty and of service, and a sense of our responsibility towards each other and the wider world.

We have been here before. We have taken the wrong path before, many millennia before, and we have seen societies collapse before. Let us strengthen our bedrock and engage ourselves in a transformation at the individual, team and societal level. Let us stop building walls, instead communicate honestly, with integrity and an honest desire to improve the lives and life chances of ourselves and all those around us through positive action.

There is still time but we need to move now.

Society is based on interlocking relationships and is all about social interaction so ‘Take time to think, it is the source of power. Take time to play, it is the source of perpetual youth. Take time to read, it is the fountain of wisdom. Take time to pray, it is the greatest power on earth. Take time to love and be loved, it is a god-given privilege. Take time to be friendly, it is the road to happiness. Take time to laugh, it is the music of the soul. Take time to give, it is too short a day to be selfish. Take time to work, it is the price of success. Take time to do charity, it is the key to heaven.’

And finally I pray:

‘Lord of all creation, we stand in awe before you, impelled by visions of the harmony of man. We are children of many traditions – inheritors of shared wisdom and tragic misunderstandings, of proud hopes and humble successes. Now it is time for us to meet – in memory and truth, in courage and trust, in love and promise.

In that which we share, let us see the common prayer of humanity;

In that which we differ, let us wonder at the freedom of man;

In our unity and our differences, let us know the uniqueness that is God.

May our courage match our convictions, and our integrity match our hope.

May our faith in you bring us closer to each other.

May our meeting with past and present bring blessings for the future.