Sunday, 16 February 2014

Living with Limitations

From "The Pilot" of 1994 comes this piece by Martin Inman about living within our limitations.
Annie Parmeter (my partner), who died in 2009, had a progressive heart disease, and would be out of breath and needing to lie down even after climbing a short flight of stairs, which exhausted her. For her, life was about learning to live within limitations, although she did not sit back; she sometimes pushed those limitations as far and hard as she could, or use tools like mobility a scooters to improve her quality of life. But she was aware that there were some things that were completely beyond her, and she was careful to avoid those situations, which usually involved a great deal of psychical effort for her, although no more than I (or most people) could do without a second thought.
We all have limitations, whether physical or intellectual, and the words of the Delphic Oracle "Know Thyself" are wise ones. We should use what talents we have and not fret endlessly about what might have been. And we can also, because of our own limitations, enjoy the more those who have the talents which we do not possess. I love music, but I struggle to sing a note in tune, and I could not play the violin or piano, and when I see it done, as with my girlfriend Katalin playing those so well, I can be grateful for her talent.
By Martin Inman, Hospital Chaplain, 1994
BROWSING in Boots' music department the other day I came across some recordings of the late Tony Hancock's television and radio .programmes. They brought back quite a few happy childhood memories. One of the highlights of my televisual week as a child was seven o'clock on Monday evenings when "Hancock's Half Hour" was on. Even as a lad of ten or eleven I could appreciate the timing and elegant lugubriousness of a man who was surely one of the greatest comic geniuses of our time.
Who can forget such immortal lines as "You're asking for a punch in the cake-hole, mate," "Stone me," and "Have you gone raving mad?" Hancock didn't write his own material but, his delivery and his facial expressions made them masterpieces of comedy.
Tony Hancock died by his own hand in 1968. He took his life because he could not come to terms with the limitations of his talent.
Hancock was a quintessentially English comedian. That was what he was good at. That was where his gift lay. However, he wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be successful all over the world, particularly in the-United States.
Against the better judgment of his friends and colleagues he did some work in America. He flopped disastrously. His peculiarly English brand of humour, though hugely popular and successful in Britain, proved to be quite unacceptable to American audiences.
Tony Hancock could not accept his limitations and as a result found life intolerable. So he put an end to it.
Suicide is always a tragedy. However, it is doubly so when the person who ends his own life is enormously talented and able to bring joy and laughter into the lives of so many. The ability to make people laugh is surely one of the greatest gifts that God bestows on his children. Moreover, unlike many comedians, Hancock never resorted to smut and filth.
Had Hancock lived he would, no doubt, have gone on enriching our lives with laughter. He would have been 69 years of age by now and would quite possibly have become the Grand Old Man of British comedy. All that has been denied us because Tony Hancock could not be satisfied with what he was.
The lesson of the tragedy of Tony Hancock for us is, I think, quite clear. If we cry for the moon, if we continually pine for what we cannot possibly reach, we are in great danger of wasting whatever talents we have and of failing to reach those goals which are accessible to us.
God has given talents to all of us. But he has also given us limitations. Humbly learning to live within those limitations is just as important for successful living as utilising our talents to the full.

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