A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Pure philosophy here, but I make no apologies


It was a beautiful day.

The sun was shining from a pure blue sky, reflecting on the tiny ripples that disturbed the surface of the lake and the two men of the cloth, Josiah and Michael, sauntered along as if they were in their concept of Heaven.

And in a way they were.

See that family of ducks,” pointed out Michael Stocks, bordering on 80 years old and still hale and hearty and perfectly capable of walking along the water’s edge with the occasional assistance of a cane walking stick.

Josiah nodded. “They seem happy,” he smiled. “Sometimes I wonder if it would be better if we were all ducks!”

What we’re seeing is a drama that reduces creation to its finite reality,” murmured Michael. “Those ducks, even the older ones, and they’re not very old in human terms, are unaware of their beginning, and neither are we. And maybe it’s a darned good job that we can’t remember the awkward nine months in the womb...”

I can barely remember anything from my first few years of life,” agreed Josiah, “even though there were some pretty unpleasant things going on in my life.”

I have been told,” nodded Michael.

It’s just as well, I suppose,” said Josiah, almost shuddering. “Look at that poor old thing,” he added, pointing.

There was a scrap of feathers and dead meat where the rippling lake had edged it out of the water and onto what passed as a shore.

It’s probably a grandfather to the ducklings,” suggested Michael. “It’s sad to see it, but it happens all the time. Some eggs hatch and some old gammy-legged ducks pass away. It’s the way of life.”

And death,” nodded Josiah.

I rather suspect that over the millennia during which our species has lived and walked and talked it’s how we’ve come to define our parameters,” suggested Michael. “We see birth in happy squawking little ducklings happily swimming along and we see death in tattered feathers on the shores of existence. A beginning and an ending. And the same thing defines us too, and we assume it must define everything.”

I don’t understand,” murmured Josiah.

There must have been a beginning to creation, and there must perforce be an ending, in much the same way as ducks climb out of their shells all perky and bright only to die of feeble old age a couple of decades later.”

So you approve of Genesis?” asked Josiah, “of the Creation in seven days? Of the wonderful garden? Of Adam and Eve and the serpent spoiling everything? Of original sin?”

Michael paused and leaned for a moment on his walking cane, and shook his head. “I have been forced to conclude that it’s all so much nonsense,” he said, “and don’t be shocked! It doesn’t take a great deal of thought even though philosophers have poured over ancient texts and wheedled all sorts of fancy theories out of them almost since they were written. But in the microcosms of our lives we can’t hope to be able to see the whole! Beginnings and ending are obvious all around us, a family of ducks, perhaps, swimming past the decomposing remnants of a hoary old fellow! That doesn’t mean that the Universe works that way or even that the big bang scientists have hit the nail exactly on the head, because they’re searching for beginnings like men always have. They’ve looked at the ducks and concluded there must have been a moment in time when everything had its beginning, but then, like us, they haven’t seen the whole picture. But what if the hugest reality isn’t like that at all?”

You’re saddening me,” sighed Josiah, “I wanted it all to be true, the garden of Eden, the purpose of life, and most importantly the meeting of our loved ones in the Afterlife.”

I’m sorry,” murmured Michael, “but which part of your lovely departed wife would you like to meet in your Afterlife? The bits and pieces that surgeons removed in order to try to save her life, or the woman, or what was left of her, when she died?”

Josiah could have spat. “Not at all,” he barked, “but her spirit! That’s what I will meet I hope, one day, her spirit, the essence of her, the soul that raced to Heaven to be with our Lord.”

Along with millions of others who make that journey every day,” said Michael, “but you keep your faith, my friend, for it is a comfort. I’m an old man now and maybe see things only dimly through eyes that have become enfeebled with age, though it seems to me that reality is brighter than it ever was. I think you’ll find if you start an inquisition of clergymen of all faiths and beliefs that very few of them actually believe the mysteries that they preach, though they do believe, as do I, that there can be good in life, and evil, and that good is best. And they also do believe in helping those who are most in need of help, the poor, the hungry, the tormented. But they don’t do it in the name of a god they’ve dismissed as fanciful but in the name of what they perceive is right and decent.”

Is this how the Bishop lost his faith?” asked Josiah, accusingly, “by listening to your talk of ducks and death and believing it?”

Michael Stocks laughed. “Not at all!” he exclaimed, “it was I who listened to him and saw the sense behind his words! We can’t all remain forever in the stone age using stone tools and tipping our spears with flint! No, we must try to see through the conflicting chaos sprung on us by philosophers, and find our own truths there. And mine is simple. Life and the world is what we see, exactly that and no more, but what we see of everything is such a tiny part we can’t hope to extrapolate the little and get any real understanding of the whole!”

And the Bishop taught you that?” asked Josiah.

He helped me see it, that’s all. As did the world itself, the winter storms, the summer suns, the ducks and ducklings, the stupidity of men, the loveliness of women...”

So what am I to take from this break in the Lake District?” asked Josiah.

Michael smiled at him, his wrinkled face like one great burst of happiness. “That you are the Reverend Josiah Pyke, and there is still a great deal of good that needs doing, or the darkness of evil might take over… and that is always a real threat whilst there are men and women with selfish hearts and clutching, grabbing fingers. That’s my advice, for what it’s worth.”

Josiah paused.

I wonder, he asked himself, does it … could that answer all my questions and dissolve all my doubts? But Ophelia … I need a Heaven to greet her in when my time comes because … because I love her!”

I loved my Ophelia,” he whispered.

I know,” sighed Michael, “for I loved my Glenda a long time ago, and I still love her and see her in my mind, clear as day and just as beautiful as she ever was… that’s my Afterlife, these years I’ve not so much mourned her as loved her in my mind, that’s my Heaven and there’s no shade of Hell anywhere near when I speak to her in the dead of night and tell her again and again just how much I love her...”

And that’s it?” asked Josiah, “as simple and lovely as that?”

Michael nodded. “Let today be the first day of the rest of your life and you’ll be all the happier for it. I promise. And don’t let the smog and clouds of ancient philosophy spoil one moment of it. I don’t.”

I like that,” breathed Josiah, “the very first day … I really like that.”

Time, methinks for a coffee or a dram,” smiled Michael, heading back to Lark Cottage, “which would you prefer?”

© Peter Rogerson 11.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

Author's Note

Peter Rogerson
I've made a typical error (typical for me, that is) and mixed up names of two characters. I eblieve I've successfully put it right. I called the Reverend Michael Stocks Michael Stubbs, who is about to join Josiah's daughter in Holy Matrimony...

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Added on April 11, 2018
Last Updated on April 14, 2018
Tags: lake district, walk, ducks, life, death, creation, philosophy



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..