New laws about retirement announced last week mean we can, if we wish, keep working till we drop. The news sits interestingly alongside Tim Henmanís awareness that time might be running out for him to carry off the Wimbledon crown.
For most of our lives, we live with this contrasting awareness. On the one hand, that we have plenty of time left. On the other, that opportunities for action or experience that are not seized now may be gone for ever.
The same paradox lies at the heart of God. God existed before time and is beyond the reach of aging and death. Yet all the religions agree that God inhabits every moment and that each minute of every day has eternal significance.
Itís important to live in that balance. Trying to get everything achieved by yesterday creates a frenetic life-style. Leaving everything till tomorrow produces a lazy one. Today, letís aim for a measured use of time and an appropriate balance which sees each moment in the context of eternity.
South Hams District Council are putting a section of Salcombe beach up for sale. For between £5,000 and £10,000, you could have your very own access to the sea. Little more though Ė the property is barely large enough for a lounger. Nor is it terribly exclusive - the plot is a well-used access route which owners would have a hard time stopping people using. Nor is it even very accessible Ė itís at the bottom of a 40 foot cliff which is also included in the sale. Last but not least, the property at high tide suffers from a severe case of rising damp.
Yet it is likely that there will be no shortage of bidders. Owning a bit of beach, especially where the neighbouring land is owned by the Duke of Cornwall, will no doubt enable the purchaser to feel a cut above everyone else. The new owner will be able to do what he or she wants with it, including creating decking, terracing the cliff and having barbecues, forbidden on the public beach next door.
The book of Genesis suggests that God gave human beings possession of the earth. There is a proper pride in the realisation that all its beauty and intricacy is there for us to enjoy. Itís ours. Sometimes we might even feel that this flower or tree, this particular formation of clouds or view of the countryside, was put there just for us. But along with such a sense of it all being a personal gift comes a deeper awareness, not of superiority, exclusiveness or power, but of sharing in something bigger than us which is there to be shared. Itís not just ours, there to do what we want with.
Letís today enjoy every opportunity to savour the delights of the natural world, but alongside that privilege, recognise and nurture an accompanying humility. It is said, after all, that it is the meek who will inherit the earth.
Every summer, when they are not so busy, Father Christmases from as far afield as Japan and El Salvador gather in Copenhagen for the three day annual World Santa Claus Congress. I wonder what they will talk about: what reindeers like to eat, or the look on the faces of children when they receive a gift and the pleasure it gives to be the donor? Will they share together a pride in representing a character whom the myth regards as totally devoted to giving to others, without any expectation of return?
Itís sometimes said that when children discard their belief in Father Christmas, their belief in that other man in the sky with the long beard goes with it. Indeed, if that is how they have been brought up to think of God, itís a good thing too.
But letís hope they donít decide that people who give to others without expecting anything back, also only exist in a world of fantasy. Thatís what God is like. Itís what Christian people, and people of other faiths and beliefs, are like, at their best. We want childrenís experience, not just of Christmas, but of life, to include real and frequent experience of such generosity.
Today, letís share with others our love and our possessions, without expecting anything in return Ė in doing so, we are enabling each other, and not just children, to experience God, a God who, far from being up in the clouds, is very much down to earth.
When the Spaniards invaded Guatemala and began to divide up the land among themselves, the Indians apparently made a joke of it at first. They shaped imaginary bundles of air with their hands and looked aggressively at each other: ďThis is my portion of air not yours, donít you try to get your hands on itĒ. And they fell about laughing at the foolishness of the foreigners.
Itís no joke now and they quickly learnt it was no joke then. The damage done to the world by people taking possession for themselves of resources that belong to all humanity is immeasurable. As May Day approaches, our thoughts turn to attempts to create a different world in which each offers their skills and labour for the good of all; and where the resources of the world are more equally shared.
Tomorrow in London, JustShare (www.justshare.org.uk) is organising events to encourage ďa fair deal for the whole worldĒ. More personally, we might ask ourselves whether there is anything we regard as ours which could more appropriately be seen as having a wider ownership.