Are these the 3 Themes of Every Human Journey?
Apparently we are most likely to reflect on our lives at the turn of a new year or when we reach a milestone birthday. Well, a new year has come and a few months ago I turned 50—so I’ve been reflecting! And the discovery I’ve made is that these decades of adulthood, with all their myriad details, have really been the unfurling of just three main themes.
Have a Little…
The first theme emerged for me in a nightclub in 1990. Having come runner-up in a statewide DJ competition, that night I was one of four featured DJs for a big club night. I was 18, playing alongside guys who’d go on to international fame as record producers. My dreams were coming true, my name was on posters… and yet I felt empty inside. And so what I now see as my faith years began—looking for something that would bring deeper joy and purpose. Long story short, I became a Christian, which changed the trajectory of everything to come.
Where there’s Life there’s…
The next theme began in a suburban street in 2011, and posed questions to the discoveries I’d made in the faith years. That day my wife and I packed my sister-in-law’s car full of baby stuff we’d never get to use—a pram, highchair, baby clothes, toys. And as the symbols of our unanswered prayers had been driven away, the hope years had begun—wondering what would now become of us and what could be passed on. The unexpected result was my writing some books on what to do when life doesn’t go as planned, and a decade helping others start again from their own broken dreams followed. This was never in my career plans.
And the Greatest of these is…
I had realised somewhere along the way that money or success wouldn’t bring fulfilment, but that (cringey cliché coming) love would—not the schmaltzy, puppies-and-daisies love of the daytime soap operas, but the gritty kind, of commitment and sacrifice. What I didn’t know was that this theme would get its own season too, focussed on that most overlooked of loves—friendship. I’ll even launch a charity this year focussed on it. My decade ahead seems set.
Thinkers have long wondered what our deepest need is. Plato thought it was knowledge, Epicurus thought it was pleasure, the Stoics virtue, and Nietzsche power. The apostle Paul said it was faith, hope and love. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at life panning out as it has around these three deep longings, so universal I’m hardly the first to see them emerging across my lifespan. And I can’t recommend a better new year’s goal than to reflect on which one we need most now, and start a quest to find it.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show (listen here)