a. An idyllic childhood – climbing trees, building dens, running wild, wading ditches, frogspawn in ponds, lizards in fields, caterpillars on bushes, tracks bikes, football in the street, cricket knocking the ball over gardens, pet rabbit, rats, mice, crow, snakes, slides on the ice, burnt brown by the sun, riding horses bareback, endless long days in the fields with the buzz of insects and electricity of the sun.
b. A loving family – no abuse, indoctrination or limits to the love, freedom, care, encouragement, and protection. A father, a Mother and two sisters in a safe home. Unconditional.
c. Love – to love and be loved, the endorphins, the hopelessness, ecstasy, fears,warmth, commitment, happiness, churning stomach, hopes, adoration and joy.
d. Parenthood – the delight, love, warmth, joy, cuddles, fears, terror, altruism, constant worry, fulfilment, pride, wonder and awe.
e. Friends – to share with, laugh with, cry on, support and be supported by, confide in, love, argue, debate, be understood by, with empathy and compassion, and know that we are always there for each other no matter what. When the times are tough we are standing side by side to face whatever.
f. Career – to work at something that you believe in, to make a difference to the world, to feel valued, to value and care, to make a positive input, to spent the best time and energy of your life doing something worthwhile, to gain enjoyment, fulfilment, make friends, conquer yourself, set goals, achieve more than you believed possible, reach higher, overcome fear and feelings of inadequacy, to prove yourself, challenge yourself, stay true to yourself and flourish. To retain yourself in the face of the grindstone that wears you down. To retain your humour, vision and aims and work to achieve them. To be human in the machine. To value your colleagues and students and give and receive. To work for that better world for your grandchildren’s children.
g. Reading – to devour the words and wisdom, the experiences, fantasies, hopes, dreams, imagination, stories tales, visions, ideas, thoughts, feelings and heights and depths of people, cultures, ages, of all humanity that has ever been. To be transported there to live it vicariously with all the joy and despair, horror and love. To have the greatest ideas, lives and desires of the greatest people who ever lived at your fingertips. To travel to impossible places, think the unthinkable and have your horizons stretched to beyond the limits of our universe, all time and your own imagination. To yearn with the people that only exist in words and see places through their eyes. You live a thousand lifetimes.
g. Creating – to take the vacuum in your head and fill it with swirling thoughts, visions, ideas, pictures, sounds and feelings that need you to release them to take form. To unleash things that have never been and watch them take shape before you, out of your brain, out of those neuronal firings. Now a part of what was you is alive and grows into something else that others may look at and wonder at what madness lurked inside your mind. Compelled to let it all out before the pressure blew your head apart. To add to the beauty, thoughts and dreams that fill the world. To express and look, to hone, articulate, communicate and wonder; to reveal and even wonder at yourself. To understand a little more, feel more, communicate and feel sated.
h. Travel – to stand on the rim of gorges, up steeples, minarets and mountains, watching sunsets over seas, people milling in strange clothes, to observe, watch, exchange a word, a smile, respect and communicate in friendship. To see wild-life, rivers, trees and beauty so breath-taking it leaves you intoxicated. To put your life in its place, expand your mind with loveliness, restore your faith in humanity, see all that is good, wonderful and all that is destroyed and sick so that we find ways to mend, understand and repair. To visit history and relive it, see the heights of man’s imagination, the wonders of nature, the marvels of living things. To explore and taste the vastness, newness and variety. To enrich and renew oneself and realise we are but bacteria on the face of a huge ball in space. It is ours to wonder at, protect and be guardians of so that all who follow – plant, animal and man may breath it in with ecstasy as we have done.
I. Music – to have felt that vibration pass into my mind and interact inducing emotions, feelings, energy and pleasure. To have that excitement and power pulse through to touch your spirit and raise you up. To experience sadness, love and excitement. To be in tune with the vibration of the cosmos and thrill to the expression of other minds.
j. To collect – to amass around you and inside you the memories and artefacts of a life lived to the full. Each book, LP, CD, memory, photograph, and possession is an element of a journey made, a person found, a secret discovered, an emotion exchanged. And I surround myself with the relics of a life that was worthwhile.
I am in the centre of all this. Encircled by family, friends, colleagues, and the debris, flotsam and jetsam of a journey that began when my eyes first opened on this universe sixty five and a half years ago. It will end when they close for the last time. I hope with those last thoughts I might judge whether I have done enough and close those eyes with the knowledge that it was the most marvellous experience any man has ever had the privilege to have partaken in.
What an incredible universe, what a family, what love, friendship, beauty and opportunity. And I have the health, means, luck and sheer serendipity to have all that – enough to fill a million lives.
All we have to do is ensure we live each second to the full and seize every chance that comes our way.
Love to you all – build the positive zeitgeist – Opher