Stop the Clock by Gordon McLauchlan
A memoir on aging with dignity, grace and humour is the subtitle of this charming little book.
I waited for this book in anticipation and savoured it twice before putting it down. As one grows older it is possible to view the world without the impatience of youth. There are many different views. Gordon McLauchlan always had this ability to stand aside and view the world clearly, spicing his passages with quotes from ancient writings. In a similar vein I now enjoy the Monday morning Herald passage by Matt Heath. Stoics are my favourite ancients. What you cannot change just has to be endured. Life goes on regardless.
Gordon McLauchlan wrote as a social commentator. He was published widely, contributing to many newspapers and magazines. He wrote social and political histories with possibly his best known the New Zealand Encyclopaedia published by Bateman. His work could be controversial. In 2019 he was awarded an NZOM for historical research. He passed away 11 January 2020 at the age of 89.
Knowing oneself and writing out your thoughts is an excellent way to truly KNOW yourself, almost like stepping outside and watching your own reactions from afar. Honest understanding of yourself and your behaviour is essential as we age because the world changes so rapidly as we watch with apprehension. McLauchlan did just this - with sharp wit and warm humour.
Gordon knew he was coming to the end of a full and enjoyable life so he shared thoughts of growing old with his own ease of communication. The pattern of successful aging begins immediately we are born. There is no escape, but happiness and contentment depend on the journey you take to the end. Self-delusion is of little help.
If you are in need of a lift for your spirits, read this book. It will give you plenty to think about from very different perspectives, and plenty of laughs. It is critical to grow and adapt as we age. McLauchlan was an unashamed agnostic, but granted religion its place in other people’s worlds. His refreshing thoughts covered many aspects of social life and community living in this modern day New Zealand but he referred often to his private collection of sayings, with quotations and friends pithy thoughts spicing his paragraphs as he wrote. The warm humour about politics and social interaction are cleverly drawn and current today.
His discussions combined Aristotle, Socrates, Lloyd Geering and Elton John’s Rocket man as a kaleidoscope of life without self-delusion. Gordon McLachlan scoffed at being enclosed in an old people’s home with only elderly for company. Kindness hope and love for all things shine through this work. As he acknowledges his approaching demise he emphasises the old adage “To thine own self be true”. This is far from a depressing read. In fact it is constantly refreshing and emphasises the need for every individual to develop deep personal resources within themselves. As we grow older we need to accommodate aloneness without an unhealthy reclusiveness. Grow older gracefully but arm yourself with humour, intelligence and acceptance. Learn to be content. Expect grief and embrace it.
If you are overwhelmed by apprehension towards old age, try this book. There is plenty of hope within. Constant curiosity and continued learning builds up a brain reserve which helps towards a fulfilled life according to research. When things go wrong they only make life more interesting.
Ask yourself how you want to face your old age. Gordon McLachlan offers many slants on attitudes to follow. Old age will come if you are lucky enough to keep living in this lovely country, born after the Great Depression, after the destructive powers of the wars, and learning now with the pandemic that we can work as a kind cooperative team of five million.
Life is a terminal condition. As we age there has to be acceptance of encroaching physical limitations and slowing memory. Our diet, exercise and mental well-being become more and more important to us. In old age we truly appreciated the injustice of young lives cut short through war or accident.
Nearing the end of his life, in full knowledge of this, Gordon writes with humour as his best defence against his crumbling body. He reminds us that the tsunami of information we gather from modern devices comes without understanding to most recipients. Our grandchildren’s history studies seem like current affairs in our life time! We are definitely old when our descendants outnumber our friends. But we don’t surrender to aging. According to McLauchlan old age should be a time for fulfilment, of enjoyment and contentment, not resignation. Wisdom comes from a variety of sources and every individual has value.
This book outlines many pointers to help us enjoy our final ten or fifteen years. It is all a matter of attitude. The end of life is inevitable. Read and enjoy.
Reviewer: Sonia Edwards