Vitruvius Chai from the ‘Barkeep Philosopher’

Vitruvian Man
Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps, given our ‘connected’ world of the internet, smart phones, social media et al, people should be less insular in their outlook; far more educated about or concerned with wide-ranging diverse issues. But too often it would seem to me, many people are constricted by, or confined within, an ever narrowing addiction to matters of self-interest…

Perhaps it’s because of our busy lifestyles. How often do we actually get (or take) the time to sit and really think about things? Many of us have high pressure working lives, along with equally hectic domestic arrangements.

Add family responsibilities, hobbies and interests into the mix, then you start to understand all the hype and clamor around that modern-day nirvana, the mostly illusive, work-life balance. It’s all a bit of a juggling act, even for the greatest time managers, and I’m not one of them!

I suppose I do have the luxury of partial retirement to my advantage however; I’ve always been something of a thinker and reader, it’s a trait I inherited from my Father I suppose. He was usually a man of few words but, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found most of those words to be wise ones. He was the type of chap that, despite the fact I sometimes displayed youthful ignorance about an issue, and/or disagreement with his viewpoint, more often than not, he actually had the answers I was searching for. It’s just that I needed to work them out in my own head and in my own time. It’s a personal trait that now often rattles my wife, my family and/or my friends but that’s another story.

As I’ve already said, it’s all about the balance and, Leonardo da Vinci‘s now famous Vitruvian Man illustrates this. His Renaissance image, although drawn to exemplify the blend of art and science in proportion, also provides a perfect illustration of how we all need some balance of desires, results and viewpoints in our lives. It isn’t healthy to be too single-minded, let alone unreceptive to the views of others. Being unduly or overtly focused, on one particular subject or another, is something of an enigma detrimental to inclusive social cohesion.

Da Vinci once said: “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” That statement resonates with me because I’ve always believed; until you’ve had some close experience of death, you don’t really start to fully understand your own life, never mind where you actually sit in a sociocultural context.

But why would I think like this? Considering William Ernest Hocking, the author of The Meaning of Immortality in Human Experience wrote; “Man is the only animal that contemplates death, and also the only animal that shows any sign of doubt of its finality.” It’s that finality of our existance, the realisation about shuffling off this mortal coil, that presents you with an ability to examine life in a far more rounded manner.

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our own time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had…(Elisabeth KüblerRoss)

Dealing with, and being around, so much death during my career as a police officer, has given me differing prespectives to most. My own near-death experince in a road accident back in the 1980’s, along with the untimely demise of some very close friends, prior to the conclusion of their alloted three score years and ten, has provided me with what some would find strange priorities in life. Ones that differ immensly from most other people.

All these thoughts were brought closer to mind, and instigated this post, when I read an article in The Guardian recently, which incidently, came to my attention due to the powers of social media. The subject matter was reviewing a thought provoking book by an American author, Bronnie Ware.

Top five regrets of the dying: A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is – I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life? (

“Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention” sang Frank Sinatra (and The Sex Pistols as it happens) however, without those regrets, would I really have learned from the mistakes I’ve made in life? I doubt it.

To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s life. It is no less than a denial of the soul – Oscar Wilde

Introducing the book Top Five Regrets of DyingBronnie Ware, the author, wrote on her website: –

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.”

She said that when people were questioned about any regrets they had, or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. The five most prevalent are listed here…

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

All are expanded upon in both her website and the book and as she says; “When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

Cry woe, destruction, ruin and decay: The worst is death, and death will have his day. ~ William Shakespeare, King Richard II. Act III, scene ii

Grumpy note: If you don’t understand the title of this post, try thinking a little more laterally and, for those who frequent The Fisherman’s Arms; the first to unravel the thought process and deliver a more simple version of it will earn a beer on me!

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