As I look out across the landscape of my own life there have been times of success and hope, and times of failure and despair. I wonder just how many blokes out there struggle to rebuild their lives after a disaster. How do we transform the rubble and devastation caused by the earthquakes and tsunamis of life into hope for the future?
In the nineteen-eighties, there was a popular sit-com, ‘Dad’s Army’, based on the activities of the Home Guard during the Second World War. It has been much repeated on the TV over the years. You could readily identify, either in your own life or in what you have observed in others, with the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies in many of the characters. As with most sit-coms there was an element of truth in the ridiculous scenarios which were painted. I loved the variety of personalities portrayed, and the almost impossible task that Captain Mainwaring had of shaping that disparate bunch of volunteers into an effective platoon.
It was my namesake (Fraser) who dramatically delivered the wide-eyed catch phrase ‘We’re all doomed!’ The circumstances of life can come against us and immobilise us. Strong and bitter winds can blow us off course, producing a feeling of lostness. Storms can arise and shipwreck our hopes and dreams, leaving us with a sense of failure and confusion, wondering where we go from here. I think we can safely say that many men are feeling a sense of that in the current pandemic.
In order to distract from all this, there will be men who take refuge in pursuits which are not helpful, playing computer games late into the night, flirting with addictive web sites, drowning sorrows with a few too many beers or finding a sense of relief in drugs. At best all these escapes can offer is temporary respite from life’s pressures. At worst, they increase the likelihood of relationship breakdown, deeper entrapment and yet more feelings of failure to deal with. Men are notorious for not wanting to face up to the reality of what they have become. They would rather run away into the bushes to hide or wear some kind of fig leaf to cover things up.
But life is not a precise science. It is not something we can easily control. There is a strong likelihood that unforeseen things will crop up. As I write this, we’re all wondering when the current pandemic will end, longing for a time when things get back to some sort of normal. But what if it doesn’t? What then?
I heard on the radio this morning about Garry Mabutt – a former star of Tottenham Hotspur – who has been making telephone calls to club supporters during the pandemic. He was making his 1000th call. It inspired me to make more effort to ring friends and keep connections alive. The alternative is to just hunker down and drift along, unwittingly opting to live our lives with a high degree of unfulfilment and disappointment. Do we want to leave the planet regretting our lack of connection, our failures and under-achievements, or would it be better to leave a legacy in the lives of others? If we opt for the former, then it may be that Fraser was right, and we are all doomed.