You meet all sorts of people on the beach, and every one of them has a story. They might not know it, they might think that their story is far too dull to interest anyone or, even if it’s an amazing saga of adventure and discovery, they may not want to share it. But sometimes they know it’s worth telling, and so they do. This morning I heard one such story, one man’s simple but profound account of his gradual walk away from depression and sadness, to peace.

He’s a bloke I see most mornings, as he walks into the sea and I plod along on the sand. For two years we’ve been nodding at each other, Gareth and me, then graduated to a wave, and then a ‘hello’, but now we’ve had an actual for-real conversation. Usually he’s with a friend, and they have their routine and I have mine and ne’er the two will meet, until today when he was alone and we walked off the beach together. He’s a cheerful kinda chap, and that made his story all the more intriguing and welcome, his smile taking the place of any psychobabble or do-goodery, his insight simple and straight forward – no gossipy chit-chat, no small talk, straight to it. I was sitting with a pal and as he walked towards us, still wet from his swim, he held up his finger and his thumb, a mere smidgeon apart, calling “When I’m down here I feel this small.” and in that simple sentence, in that smile, in the cheerful voice, in his words “this small” I heard real joy. Joy that he is that small. That the world is so huge. Real joy that the universe is beyond imagining, deep joy at the reality of our amazing existence in an unknown and immeasurable cosmos.

We perched on the dune and talked, and laughed and my dogs had a go at a German Shepherd (twits) and the clouds rolled in and the drizzle started. We didn’t care. I know that all three of us were buoyed up, encouraged, and our day was set up with a little nudge of energy. Well done, that bloke!

When I came home I sat for a few minutes thinking about the beach. It’s a strip of sand, lapped by the grey old Irish Sea, nothing startling, there are no palm trees, and most of the time it’s rain sodden and blowing a hoolie, but for many of us, it’s a special place. And I thought about Gareth’s delight at feeling so small when he’s down there. He gets it. He understands that to be small, to be tiny, to be a mere speck in the vastness of human history, is not to be insignificant. It’s only when we understand how tiny we are that we can begin to glimpse how great creation is. Only then do we ‘get’ the miracle of us being us. Only then can we really delight in the world around us and our own place in it.

Paradox, eh? What a paradox it all is. I lead a simple life these days. Regular readers know I ain’t no saint. I have my off days and my grumps, and I get things wrong all the time, but the simpler my life is, the less I get wrong. The simpler my life is, the deeper is my joy. If I don’t try to get things right all the time, I get fewer things wrong. If I don’t strive so hard, I achieve more. If I’m not trying to be happy now, and now, and now, I find instead a still peace, a deep joy.

Gareth is a quarter century younger than me but he’s caught up, hasn’t he? And he will keep on catching up, as I continue to be 25 years older and more experienced than he is. Paradox, paradox. I realised this morning that it’s taken me 73 years to learn how to be 73, and that if I keep on learning, and being open to new thoughts and new conversations, with a little bit of luck by next year I will have learned how to be 74.

I hope that the 74 year old me will be a bit wiser than the one typing this. If not, what’s it all about? Surely every day should be a little step towards wisdom? Oh, you may not call it wisdom, because that’s become a bit of a churchy word, so let’s just say that every day should be a little step towards maturity, self-knowledge, joy, God.

The greatest paradox is that smallness is significance, simplicity is profound, humility is strength, vulnerability is power, understanding is joy. Our lives aren’t made better by our success or the money we have, or even the works we do. Our lives are fulfilled when we find joy. Like Paul said in his letter to the Philippians : “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

On reflection, the greatest paradox of all is none of the above. The greatest paradox of all is God. God, without limit and beyond understanding, made Man. The Creator of all, crucified, vilified, spat upon, tortured by the ones he created. The God of redemption and forgiveness condemned to death. Death defeated by life.

Where else in all of history is death defeated by life? Where?


2 thoughts on “ Paradox

  1. Love this calming beachy blog. I keep forgetting it’s the Irish Sea!! 💞🌊🧜‍♀️

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s