Time is sliding explores aspects of the world that are changing over the precious time that is slippery-sliding away as we hurtle down life’s helter skelter. The title is an acceptance that the slipperiness of time for us human animals leads to change in our ourselves and what we do. This can often be an adaptation to ongoing changes around us. Climate change and the Covid19 pandemic are two major examples of external changes that necessitate change in ourselves. Each monthly episode features an interview with an extraordinary or ordinary person about changes in his or her own life along with changes in society and the environment on which we all depend. The psychology of change keeps slipping in as a recurring theme.
Mary Clear, death doula and kindness propaganda gardener
This episode is a natural progression from the previous two because it starts on the theme of death and dying. It then moves on to cover the community growing phenomenon known as Incredible Edible Todmorden. This has garnered a great deal of attention from across the world and is sometimes described as propaganda gardening. The common thread that connects these two themes is kindness. You’ll hear about all of this from Mary Clear, the chairperson of Incredible Edible Todmorden. She’s a great speaker and a fun interviewee.
Mary received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2011 for her work in the community. Whilst this was awarded under the British honours system, she’s certainly not an establishment figure. Her Twitter profile (@thelonggoodby) gives a much better indication of who she is. This is what it says: “Dreamer - activist - Death Doula, a woman on the edge of adventure. I sleep like a baby. I am afraid and brave. I believe in change and kindness.”
A few years ago, Mary along with Hannah Merriman and Sue Robinson established the award-winning week-long Pushing up Daisies festival of death and dying in Todmorden. This ran for a few years and you’ll learn more about it from Mary including the reasons why it hasn’t continued. Here's a link to video recording of highlights of the Pushing Up Daisies festival in 2017. It was made by the Lien Foundation, a Singaporean philanthropic organisation that seeks to inspire social change in Singapore.
During this episode, Mary explains what a Death Doula is and talks with passion, compassion and wisdom about the work she’s involved in to support the dying. This includes helping people to have open conversations about the many aspects of death and the processes of getting there. Mary mentions that she trained as a death doula in Lewes in East Sussex, England. Membership of End of Life Doula UK can only be gained after a death doula has completed a training course or is a current trainee.
On Incredible Edible, you’ll hear about its aims, what it does and its guiding principles. One of the most important of those principles is kindness. ‘Vegetable tourism’, little libraries, doing rather than talking about doing, paralysis by fear, how to bring about change around you, and in yourself, litter-picking, breaking rules and taboos about eating eggs all enter the conversation.
Before the interview, I found the following quotes from Mary:
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted".
“If you don’t want to do anything, just follow the rules.” (TedX talk 2012). This is elaborated on in this episode.
There are some great one-liners that come up during the interview too. Here’s some:
"Every day above ground is a blessing."
“Kindness is contagious. When money doesn’t step in the door, another piece of magic happens.”
“If you talk too much, you will be paralysed. Fear paralyses people.”
Mary’s activism is rooted in Todmorden, a Yorkshire market town that’s very close to Lancashire physically as well as in its collective mind. It’s nestled in the Calder Valley that runs through the South Pennine hills of England. Todmorden has a population of around 15,000, around 10,000 fewer than when it was a bustling cotton mill town during the industrial revolution.
The interview with Mary was recorded in her own home because our plan for a covered but open-air setting was too windy on the day. During the same week in August 2021, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its scary assessment of what is in store for humanity if it doesn’t change its ways.
See https://timeissliding.earth for more information.
Change in Fantasy, Climate, Religion and Death
Can cancer, and the knowledge that the end is near, sharpen our perspectives on change? Is war ever glamorous? Should an enemy continue to be an enemy after a war? Might our thoughts be clouded when trying to picture a near future that we might never see? Is there a role for creative visualisation in changing the outcome of change? Do we need technologies not yet developed to contain climate change? Can science fiction throw a light on changes that might happen or have already happened? What’s Adam and Eve got to do with how a Christian perceives death? Was it stifling the expression of my brother’s feelings to show concern that I might be upsetting him with the way our conversation had gone?
This episode raises these questions and I hope the answers are apparent to listeners through these chapters:
A visit to the past and forgiving opponents
Imagination, Narnia and Careful with that Axe Eugene
A visit to the future, technology, working at home and climate change
Science Fiction, psychohistory and predictive psychology
Death from a Christian perspective; expressing feelings
Along with episode 1, the episode is framed around the second and final part of a discussion with my brother, Phil. I described him and the background to our discussion in Episode 1 of Time is Sliding - Time sliding away: viewing change from cancer’s helter skelter .
The discussion was recorded almost exactly three months before Phil experienced the biggest change that everyone will experience: the end of life. The result shows Phil's humour shining through the fact that he was very ill, tired and weak. It also provides a series of soundbites, with commentary, illustrating the changes experienced by one person and the society around him over the last 50 or so years.
Books mentioned by Phil:
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, First published between 1950 and 1956.
Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater, translated from the original French by F. P. Walter, 1869
Isaac Asimov, The Robot series & Foundation Trilogy including Phil's thoughts on psycho history.
Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965
Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah, 1969
Frank Herbert, Children of Dune,1976
Arthur Aldridge with Mark Ryan, The Last Torpedo Flyers. The True Story of Arthur Aldridge, Hero of the Skies, 2013
In my commentary, I felt that Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, 1997 was relevant to the conversation.
Films (a.k.a. movies) Phil mentioned:
Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet, Netflix Documentary, 2021
Phil's Desert Island Disc:
Careful with that axe Eugene_ from the Pink Floyd album ‘Ummagumma’ released November 1969
Episode photo of Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
Viewing Change from Cancer’s Helter Skelter
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.
Rob Baylis, July 2021
This episode is an appetiser for a new podcast called Time is Sliding. Each month, we'll explore together aspects of the world that are changing over the precious time that is slippery-sliding away as we hurtle down life’s helter skelter. You’ll hear extraordinary and ordinary people discuss changes in themselves, society and the environment on which we all depend.
The first full episode is called ‘viewing change from cancer’s helter skelter’ and stems from the biggest change that everyone will experience - the end of his or her life. It’s particularly meaningful to me because it’s the last recording I have of my brother Phil. Cancer killed him almost 3 months later. That’s my reason for releasing the full episode on 25th July 2021, the anniversary of the discussion.
I hope that you’ll want to hear Phil’s take on changes imposed by illness along with changes in attitudes, technologies, behaviour, music, entertainment, punishment, choices and the environment. There’ll be more of the discussion, on different topics, in episode 2.
If you knew Phil, I hope that hearing him will touch you again with his thoughtfulness, intellect and humour. For those listeners who never met him, I hope that you’ll also enjoy his perspectives and the laughter we shared in the face of the bleak changes we knew were ahead.
To steal and modify a catch phrase of Timothy Leary, I hope that you’ll turn on, search out and drop in to Time is Sliding. Be my guest by subscribing or following via your usual podcast provider.
Until 25th July, zai jian, au revoir, arrivederci, adios, auf wiedersehen, vaarwel, cheers.
Rob Baylis, July 2021