BBC Radio 4 - Thought for
23rd May 2001
Good morning. My American-born wife is eager for us to go and hear Bill Clinton at the Hay-on-Wye Festival next week. I have resisted for pecuniary reasons, but I do admit to a sneaking desire to find out how the former leader of the free world is coping with life after the White House. Quite nicely – it seems – with his lucrative programme of tours and speeches. But still, it must be a far cry from the heady power and influence of being a US president.
Meanwhile, our own former leader, Lady Thatcher, has been involved as part of the Conservative Party’s election strategy.
But, for me the issues regarding the planned departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United are even more interesting. What is the future role for someone after being such a phenomenally successful manager? Is it possible for him to provide input to his old club whilst not interfering with the initiative of the new incumbent?
All of us, in some aspect of our lives, have roles as leaders - whether in our families, our jobs or in our social circles. Inevitably, a time comes for us to adjust that role – children grow up; employees become partners; and others are more eager and able to take up the social duties.
Of course, we owe it to them to provide the best circumstances for continuity and progress, but how can we best achieve that? Hinduism’s Bhagavad-gita stresses that we must carefully analyse our motives. If we are affected by a desire to perpetuate our prestige or position of power, we may fail to act in the best interests of those we claim to care for.
And, it’s important to recognise that no longer being active does not mean we are no longer concerned. Action is not the only way to express our care. Sometimes care (or love) may be better demonstrated in recognising that our charges have matured, or that there are others who have now the skills and energy to carry on where we left off.
India’s ancient literature, the Puranas, recommend that we learn from nature’s examples. It says, “Birds rear their offspring by touch; fish do it by looking at them; and turtles lay their eggs in the sand, return to the sea and raise their young just by meditation”.
At different times, we all have to apply these processes in dealing with our responsibilities. Sometimes, we must be pro-active, hands-on and fully involved. Sometimes, we are the witness, perhaps offering advice and support from the sidelines. And, sometimes, all we can do - or should do - is to think lovingly of them and offer our prayers and best wishes.© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.