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Laurence Inman’s Blog

THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING

26-06-2008

Arnold Bennett

Really. It’s all here. Well apart from how to get rid of an unwanted car.

Arnold Bennett is not my favourite author. I’ve given him a fair try. Come to think of it, I might have read all his novels at some time or other. But they haven’t really impinged that much, if you know what I mean. With me, books have to well and truly impinge or I think I’ve wasted my time.

However, there is one of his books which I’m always dipping into. I picked it up in a second-hand shop years ago and I doubt that many copies are still in existence.

It’s a slim volume called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.

I keep it with the other books I have to dip into regularly in order to assure myself that it’s worth getting up in the morning: The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell, Montaigne’s Essais, the Penguin Seneca, the Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, Maxims By Francois La Rochefoucauld, all the writings of Chamfort and (naturally) Hazlitt.

Arnold has a gem on every page. Just look at this:

'Philosophers have explained space. They have not explained
time. It is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it,
all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily
miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You
wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with
twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of
your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly
singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as
the commodity itself! For remark! No one can take it from you. It is
unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you
receive.’

All these blokes have been on my mind because I have been able (after an operation to remove the lens from my left eye yesterday) to prepare for doing some proper running for the first time since Marks and Spencer made me eat sixteen of their Greek bio-yoghurts with black cherry compote every day.

Running, as I’ve probably hinted before, is the complete answer to everything.

Worries and perplexities and fears and regrets and hopeless desires – they all disappear into vapour as you tap along at nine miles an hour, keeping your air-intake at the exact balance needed to keep you away from OD (Oxygen Debt.)

And I know that once my sutures have sealed properly I’ll be in pretty good shape, because I ran my dog Bill ragged in the park last week. He’s seven, which in human years is....still seven; time goes by at the same rate for him as it does for me.

The operation, by the way, was done under a local. I think they give you what they think will be just enough stuff to last, because I definitely felt those last two needles going in. At least I can use that expression I’d rather stick pins in my eyeballs and appreciate what it means. (Sorry if you’ve just had your tea.)

So I’m sorted. Running – just right. Gardening – perfect. Career – who cares? Writing – I don’t want it to end, so I’ll just keep going. Addictions – nil. Relationships – I’ll let you know when the kids finally grow up.

I should get a job on one of the glossy Sundays telling people how to live.

It’s easy, really.

One foot in front of the other. Breathe in and out. Let your mind become a seed in the wind.

(To see Laurence’s last article in which he tried – and failed – to give away a car, click here)

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