26 January 2022

‘Threescore and ten I can remember well:
Within the volume of which time I have seen
Hours dreadful and things strange …’

Moving on at 70 … ‘but I am not a rat, and neither am I in any race’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The King James Version of the Bible tells us: ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten’ (Psalm 90: 10). Other translations can lack the elegant cadences and rhythms of the Authorised Version, so that the NRSV, for example, says: ‘The days of our life are seventy years.’

Thankfully, the Psalter in the 2004 edition of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland retains a poetic approach to translation, and reminds us: ‘The days of our life are three score years and ten.’

Psalm 90 goes on to tell us:

‘and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

Or, as the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer puts it, ‘or if our strength endures, even four score, yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow; for they soon pass away and we are gone.’

Does this mean that living to the age of 80 entails much difficulty and pain?

Many Biblical turns of phrase found in the King James Version were picked up by Shakespeare. In Macbeth in 1605, for example, we have:

Threescore and ten I can remember well:
Within the volume of which time I have seen
Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night
Hath trifled former knowings.

I have reached that benchmark of ‘threescore years and ten,’ and I have been reminded in recent weeks by some friends of this story that pops up every now and then on social media platforms, including Facebook pages:

I asked a friend who has crossed 70 and is heading towards 80 what sort of changes he is feeling in himself? He sent me the following:

1, After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.

2, I have realised that I am not ‘Atlas’. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3, I have stopped bargaining with vegetable and fruit sellers. A few cent more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4, I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5, I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already told that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.

6, I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7, I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say ‘Thank You.’

8, I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9, I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10, I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat and neither am I in any race.

11, I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12, I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships, I will never be alone.

13, I have learned to live each day as if it’s my last. After all, it might be my last.

14, I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be!

To all these, I would add one more that is, perhaps, the summary of all that has gone before:

15, Take time, as often as you can, to tell those you love that you love them. And listen to those who tell you that they love you, whatever words or deeds they use to say this.

Why do we have to wait to be 70 – or 60, or 80 – to realise things like this?

Why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?

It’s never too early … and it’s never too late.


J.V. said...

How very true and calming.
...approaching 70...and yes, living by many of these rules already.
It brings peace.
Patrick, thank you for sharing your knowledge and travel reports.
May we all soon be able to travel freely again.
Jana V, Sydney, Australia.

pfyfe5067 said...

I quote:
I wrote and published this on 29.7.17 and it is also in my book “ handful of sunshine, pocketful of rain “
Rashmi Trivedi
Author of “ woman everything will be fine “ and “ handful of sunshine, pocketful of rain “