Heraclitus , the Greek philosopher who lived about 2,500 years ago, is credited with saying ‘There is nothing permanent except change’. That’s true for many aspects of existence but, whatever you believe in, the end of a person’s bodily life is permanent. We’re all sliding down our life’s helter skelter at various speeds until our time comes. What we can’t do is emulate the lyrics of that famous Beatles song, Helter Skelter, and go back to the top after reaching the bottom. Not even reincarnation brings a dead body back to life.
When someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the bottom of their life’s helter skelter is within sight. But even with the dubious benefit of a doctor’s prognosis, we are unlikely to know when we will arrive at that permanent stop.
My brother, Phil Baylis, died in 2020. He only survived for 7 months after a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer. He didn’t know precisely how long he had left but he knew it was not going to be years.
Phil’s cancer symptoms, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and reactions to the treatment were forever changing. He and his wife adopted the phrase ‘one day at a time’ as their guiding principle. (I reminded them about the John Lennon song with that phrase as its title). Some days were better than others but the twelve-hourly paracetamol battle with Phil’s spikes in temperature was one thing that didn’t change much.
It’s in this context that I recorded an informal and socially distanced discussion with Phil almost exactly three months before he died. I had previously told him about the podcast I was developing on the theme of change and he was up for it. Despite tiredness and weakness brought on by low levels of haemoglobin in his blood, he was happy for the recording to go ahead on the day we’d agreed on.
It hasn’t been easy for me to be objective or control emotions whilst listening to and editing the 3 hour recording after Phil’s departure. What has kept me going and made me laugh out loud, often, has been his infectious and dry sense of humour, sometimes gallows humour. It really tickles the ears and I hope that listeners will enjoy that.
Episode 1 of Time Is Sliding includes the first part of the discussion with Phil along with my commentary. It considers the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 'grief cycle' of change alongside changes since the 1960s in attitudes to race, gender, money, prosperity, the environment and each other. Climate change, computing, population, the modern phenomenon of choice overload such as in coffee shops, corporal punishment and policing are covered too.
It's meaningful to me that the first episode of Time is Sliding is being released on 25th July 2021. That's the first anniversary of the recording session with Phil. Next month's episode includes the second part of the discussion with Phil.
Thanks for listening.
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