Time is Sliding

Change in Fantasy, Climate, Religion and Death

August 25, 2021 Rob Baylis Season 1 Episode 2
Time is Sliding
Change in Fantasy, Climate, Religion and Death
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

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:

Midway, 2019.

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

0:02 Intro


Rob 

Hello time sliders. You're listening to Time is Sliding. And I'm Rob Baylis, podcasting about change. Now let's slide on. 


Welcome to Episode 2 of Time is Sliding. Each month I'm exploring aspects of the world that are changing over the precious time that is slippery sliding away. I interview ordinary and extraordinary people about changes in themselves, society and the environment on which we all depend. 


Episode 1 included part of the discussion I recorded exactly three months before my subject experienced the biggest change that everyone will experience: the end of life. Episode 2 features more of that discussion, partly because it's the last recording I have of my brother Phil, and partly because I think it deserves a wider audience. 


Despite the fact that Phil's health was deteriorating because of an aggressive cancer, he takes us backwards and forwards through time with his unique dry humour. I've called this episode Change in Fantasy, Religion and Death. Fiction, especially science fiction, along with Christianity were important to Phil so they provide the vehicle for this episode to explore change. 


In Episode 1, I described the circumstances of the recording and gave a brief biography of Phil. I won't repeat all of that as you can catch up on episode 1 if you haven't already heard it. But to recap, we chatted in Phil's house, socially-distanced, not because of COVID-19, but because he was having chemotherapy and so his immune system was compromised. 


Let's now slide on to the discussion itself. We start with me asking Phil about a time in the past that he would like to visit. Although this fantasy seems like a departure from an exploration of change through Phil's eyes, his response shines a light on huge changes in the world and in his own life. 


2:55 A visit to the past and forgiving opponents


Rob

What part of the past, or time in the past, would you like to go and visit?


Phil

Oh right. That's an interesting question. Might be interesting going back to have a good old chat with myself; as a teenager.


Rob

What would you say to that teenager? 


Phil

Hi. You won't believe who I am. Trouble is if you give them advice they’d ignore it. If we're just gonna visit, the second world war would be okay. But I don't want to get killed because that would kind of be a problem in sort of time paradoxes. 


Rob

So why would you want to go back to the second world war? 


Phil

There's a lot going on. You’ve got Spitfire pilots and all that glamour. 


Rob

So it's the glamour of it that you'd like? 


Phil

Yeah, I think so. They're all a bit glamorous, particularly in the RAF. But I mean, that's how it’s portrayed. The reality of it would have been horrendous. 


Rob

People flying off to their death, basically and, of course, causing a lot of death.


Mother

I don't think they thought that they were in the face of death. The pilots who got in the planes …. they just did it.


Phil

Yes. I think there's certainly an element to that. I mean, I've read the Last Torpedo Flyer by Arthur Aldridge and he just seemed to have no nerves in his body at all. And you're just thinking… I think he would not class himself as brave. He would just class himself as just doing what he had to do. Reading about what he's doing, and you're thinking, could I even contemplate that? And you know, we watched the film Midway last night. These bombers were going in to bomb the Japanese aircraft carriers. You know, it was pretty bad stuff but then all these Japanese people were shooting back at them. You just got tracers and everything flying past the planes and you’re just thinking any one of those, plus any of the bullets in between, would just put an end to anybody's life. And they were just doing it anyway. Midway, is based on a true story. So you're thinking a lot of that is probably exactly as it was. It's terrible stuff, really. But then, when you think about what they were fighting for, when you finally found out, you're thinking, why would you not? 


Well, you’ve got one chap from church who said he’d never forgive the Germans. He says, “you know, you can all forgive the Germans if you like but I was trying to kill the bastards all through the war.” I'll never forget that. And when you see some of these, sort of, real life films, you can say, “right”' well, you can sort of distance yourself from it and say, “you know, this is the past.” Then you can also see exactly why someone who had to live through it, and witness some of those events, would find it so deeply changing that they could never change back.


Rob

It’s no surprise that there have been huge changes in society in the 7 decades since the 1940s. But reflecting on them can help us be grateful for some of the better aspects of the 2020s. For example, inequalities in women’s experiences are still present in society but feminism has made great strides towards a fairer society over those 7 decades. The same can be said about the enormous personal changes that many of us go through in our lifetimes. Like Phil, the person I was in my teenage years would barely recognise the person I am now.


Although there is always a war going on somewhere in the world, the 2020s are relatively peaceful compared with the 1940s. Some credit for this must go to the formation of the United Nations in 1945 out of a desire for peace and the avoidance of another world war. Similar reasons stimulated the evolution of what ultimately became the European Union. However, I think it’s important to repeat Phil’s point that attitudes such as hatred of another nationality still exist and can be deeply ingrained due to a lived experience in the past. This seems subtly different to racism but it’s certainly prejudice against a group of people based on generalisations, ignorance and depersonalising the other. It’s sad that some people find it impossible to change themselves to live in the present and not the past.


I’ll never forget a discussion I had with Professor Nguyen van Hung during a work-related visit to him in Vietnam in 1995. He’d lived through extremely heavy bombing of Hanoi by the USA during the Vietnam War. He’d lost relatives in that war too. I asked him how he felt about that 20 years on. Unlike the person Phil talked about, my professor friend said that he bore no grudges and that the past was not important. To him, good relations with the USA and US citizens was much more important. There are many who would benefit from adopting that perspective.


Recently, I’ve been wading through The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The book’s central message is that only the present moment is real and that both the past and future are illusions. Racism and other prejudices would surely die if that message could be accepted widely.


10:02 Imagination, Narnia and Careful with that Axe Eugene


Rob

We’re still in the past with the next clip but it’s a hilarious turn in the conversation thanks to our mother. Some listeners might wonder why Phil refers to Mom and not Mum in the clip. You might also have noticed references to Mom in Episode 1. Phil would sometimes rib me for saying Mom and not putting a u between the two ems. The reason for these different pronunciations is that one of our parents came from the Black Country in the West Midlands of England and the other from nearby in Birmingham. Mothers are known as Mom in both places. It’s not an Americanisation. By the time Phil was born 6 years after me, our family had moved away from the West Midlands and he was more exposed than I had been to mothers being called mum. Later on, it was probably reinforced after meeting and marrying a Lancashire person. The fact that Phil says Mom in this clip is probably because of a natural tendency we all have to adjust, dare I say change, vocabulary according to who is listening.


During the conversation, Phil mentions a chat via Zoom with his singing teacher and his singing partner. They were talking about what music, books and luxuries they would want to take to a desert island if castaways. British listeners will recognise this as following the format of a long running British radio programme, Desert Island Discs.


Phil

Well, I know where I get my imagination from. I was just thinking about that. I get it from Mom don’t I?


Jane

You do.


Phil

I keep making up stories just… mine are just more ridiculous.


LAUGHTER


Mother

I used to open the book to read him a story and, if I didn't like the ending, I used to make it up. Or say ‘further instalments tomorrow night’.


Phil

My goodness. So is that why Narnia finished with a car chase? LAUGHTER. It did sound a bit incongruous …there’s King Peter in a Lamborghini. 


Rob

This is all on the theme of change. 


LAUGHTER


Mother

You used to enjoy it anyway.


Phil

Well yeah, it was quite exciting. I chose them as my Desert Island Disc bookl today. I said I'd go for an omnibus edition of the Narnia stories and a solar-powered, digital, self-updating photo frame. Which I got away with.


Rob

Your compere for Desert Island Discs was quite relaxed by the sound of things. 


Phil

Mmm.


Mother

It'd be the most hilarious programme going.


Phil

Well they weren’t… they were a bit surprised by my second piece of music. 


Mother

What was that?


Phil

Be Careful with that Axe Eugene


LAUGHTER


Emma’s children ran in and said ‘are you alright?’ 


LAUGHTER.. 


They did as well.


Mother

Did they?


Phil

Yeh. “What was that?” Bex was alright.


Rob

The version of Careful with that axe Eugene that Phil chose is a live version on Pink Floyd’s 1969 album, Ummagumma. Over nearly 9 minutes, it builds up from a quiet, serene but eerie start to a dramatic crescendo of human and then guitar screaming, eventually ending as eerily as it started. The fact that Phil chose it is partly down to me because I introduced it to him. It’s also another indication from Phil of how musical taste may not change significantly compared with other things. I talked about this in Episode 1. Phil’s other choice of Desert Island Disc, Allegri’s Miserere, also cropped up in Episode 1.


14:21 A visit to the future, technology, working at home and climate change


Rob

I’m not sure I was being fair to Phil when I asked him to look to the future in the next clip. He was uncomfortable to start with, for obvious reasons, but he soon relaxed as we moved on to a brief discussion about tackling climate change.


Rob

So moving from the past to the future. Where in the future would you like to go and what do you think it will be like in 2050, for example?


Phil

Where in the future would I like to go?  Hmm, not sure… probably… er …yeah…not sure about the future. You know, part of me says, you know, it might be nice to jump forward six months. Part of me says, it might be nice to jump forward a century. Because my own future is so uncertain, it's difficult to… to assess that objectively. 


What do I think it will be like in 2050? 


Phil

Warm!


Rob

You don't think humanity will sort out climate change?


Phil

Oh, I think it probably will, eventually…but…


Rob

In time?


Phil

I think we’ll all get a bit warm first.


I think other technologies will present themselves. I think there’ll be emergent things that happen… even because of COVID-19, or working at home, that sort of thing. But I’m not totally sure whether that's good or bad for the climate.


Rob

Working at home is an interesting one because … I think people will attend fewer meetings physically. 


Phil

That’s got to be good. 


Rob

Using Zoom or whatever is a lot less energy intensive than physical meetings. I think that's definitely going to be a change although I think people will slip back into physical meetings as well. But not so many, I think.


Phil

No… well it will change in hospitals as well. I mean, you’ve got doctors. You can shove them in a cupboard now with computer screen and they can do a whole outpatient clinic on the video. And you’re thinking well that’s saved an awful lot of … you’ve now got a load of real estate in the hospital you're not using for anything. And you've got a load of patients and ambulances and stuff not going hither and thither. So that's got to be a good thing.


Jane

It is interesting that Phil's got a phone consultation on Thursday and you would never have had a phone consultation in this situation prior to COVID-19…but is there anything that needs to be face to face? Probably not. So therefore that's something that's come in that will be valuable to happen again in the future. Some I think you do need to see face to face, but there are others that … 


Rob

Well, I suppose a physical examination… there is no substitute at the moment.


Jane

No. Absolutely not. 


Rob

But when it's just talk. 


Jane

Yes, exactly. But it would never have been even considered. You would have been given a physical appointment and you would have gone in for it. Then you would have sat and chatted, and then you'd have come away.


Rob

My eyes well up each time I hear Phil considering a future just 6 months after our discussion - and him not being able to imagine it. As he said, his own future was so uncertain at that time. The certainty came 3 months later and I can’t help wondering, in vain, if Phil might have been able to change his route, or even his timetable, had he been able to project his mind forward 6 months. Creative visualisation is a technique through which a person uses their imagination to form vivid mental images of what they want their future to be. It can change emotions as well as make the desired future more certain to happen. OK, Phil was very ill and my musing won’t bring him back but I do feel that the mind can help overcome many physical challenges - even though I think Eckhart Tolle might argue with that. I grew up with the phrase ‘mind over matter’. There’s plenty of information elsewhere about creative visualisation so I’ll include a link to a psychology article about it in the episode notes.


Phil seemed optimistic that new technology and practices would reverse the climate crisis after it gets worse. Over the last 30 years, many politicians have expressed faith in technological fixes being available in the future when they don’t want to take immediate action. I don’t think Phil was in that same mindset and I hope that the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, isn’t either - despite what he told the BBC in May 2021. In an interview with Andrew Marr he said “I’m told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make (to get to net zero emissions) by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies we don’t yet have.” Well I don’t know…this is me speaking now… I don’t know which scientists Mr Kerry has been listening to but I join with others in arguing that we already have the technologies but it’s their deployment that needs to be accelerated along with people making changes in their diets and modes of travel.


I have to say that I’m less optimistic than Phil about adequate action being taken to mitigate climate change before it’s too late. Pledges made, and not made, by governments in preparation for the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November 2021 show that they are not treating climate change as the emergency that it is. For a start, pledges don’t necessarily lead to action that will deliver on those pledges. But even if the pledges and targets made by governments by April 2021 are actually met, the Climate Action Tracker estimates that they would result in global average temperature rising 2.4°Centigrade above what it was before the industrial revolution. That may not seem much but it’s still dangerously high compared with the 1.5 degree safety threshold that almost all climate scientists have agreed on as OK-ish.


We are now in the most critical decade for action with at least 50% of greenhouse gas emissions needing to be cut by 2030 to have a chance of stopping climate change escalating out of human control. Some impacts of climate change are perilously close to tipping points past which there will be nothing that can be done to stop their consequences. Some tipping points have already been passed. If you haven’t already watched the Netflix documentary, Breaking Boundaries, I challenge you to watch it and watch it with a child or at least someone under 30 if that’s not you already. The film graphically explains climate change and other ecological tipping points along with their current status.  If that’s not enough, the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said on the 9th August that the report published by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on that day "is a code red for humanity.” I’ll repeat that - “a code red for humanity”. To have a good quality of life in the future, a code red means that everyone will have to make some hefty changes in what they do.


Another aspect of the COP26 conference in Glasgow chimes with the discussion that Phil, his wife Jane and I had about attending meetings and medical appointments. The Polish National Centre for Emissions Management has calculated that the average greenhouse gas emissions caused by a person attending a 12-day international conference like COP 26 would be 2,300 kg, that’s 2.3 Tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents and about the same as each of around 30,000 delegates having a return scheduled airline flight from Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, to Glasgow. It’s also about the same as the carbon dioxide emissions of the average Indonesian for a whole year. A similar conference undertaken on line would result in emissions averaging 36kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per person. That’s less than 2% of the average for a physical conference and includes emissions associated with home gas and electricity consumption, computer manufacture, networks and data centre usage. That certainly makes me question the sense in having a fully physical climate change conference even though it’s clear that some face-mask to face-mask negotiations are likely to be essential.


Maybe this is the point where I ask you, listener, to give me your thoughts on what life will be like in 2050. What will have changed to deliver a liveable future for the generations that follow you and me? You could put this as part of a review of the podcast along with a rating in your chosen podcast platform. Alternatively, please share your thoughts via Twitter and copy to @TimeisSliding (all one word with T & second S as capitals). It’s in the Episode Notes too.


26:00 Science Fiction, psychohistory and predictive psychology


Rob

Let’s move to the next clip now. In it, I asked Phil to talk about his interest in science fiction and what changes the genre has predicted. Typically Phil, he started with a joke and made out that I didn’t get it.


Rob

Science Fiction. That's an area that you used to be into. I don't know whether you still are.


Phil

Yeah. I still like science fiction. 


Rob

What science fiction do you think has actually happened?


Phil

A lot of it really. I've been reading stuff from the 17th century so a lot of it's now happened.  GIGGLES.


Rob

So it was 17th century science fiction?


LAUGHTER


Phil

Yeah, I think I just made that up. 


LAUGHTER


Jane

I got it. 


Phil

Thanks darling. 


Jane

You’re welcome.


Phil

Well, if you think about it, Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… what’s strange about a submarine being able to be under the sea for a long time these days? We’ve got a lot of the Asimov stuff… or certain bits of it … and he even talks about global warming and how we get over that with public transport. So there's some interesting stuff and you can see how people get to where they get to. I've always liked Asimov as probably my mainstay of science fiction. 


Sometimes, people like Frank Herbert, they put a little twist on. He's got planets called ‘We Made It’ and things like that. So that's kind of fun. And again, Frank, Herbert, it was Dune and Dune Messiah were my favourite books of that.


Rob

I remember you liking those.


Phil

Which is particularly sort of a religious thing, the way that he sort of …how everything worked around religion. So it was an interesting …he went off the boil In the end. He died actually. 


LAUGHTER 


Rob

I shouldn’t laugh… but going off the boil… that’s going off the boil with a vengeance. 


Phil

Going off the boil big time really. So yes, he died in the end, which was probably the safest for all of us. Because the stories were getting a little bit tenuous, but the first two were good. I think I read the first five and I was thinking what's all this about? Gotta improve. Dune, Dune Messiah. Oh no, Dune Messiah was the second book. Children of Dune. Dune, Dune, Dune and Dune. They were a sort of quartet of female singers. That sort of thing. So the books get longer and longer as you get through the series as well. I've never really understood that.Yeah, so I got a little bit fed up with those. 


I've really liked the Asimov and so I re-read, last year or the year before, all of the Asimov Robot stories, which includes all the Foundation Trilogy, a series in something like six parts. If you read it in the chronological order, as opposed to the order they were written, it kind of brings the whole of the universe together. That was all good. It's good to see how things changed over time, and how things were incorporated and things stopped happening. And it was good. 


Rob

What were the key changes in it? 


Phil

Well it was all about something called psychohistory. So it kind of ties in with …you know, you have a chat with Josh about psychology…and psychohistory was the ability to predict the behaviour of populations based upon previous indices. So, the whole point about Foundation, and the Robot series, was to ensure the survival of mankind. Whereas you could see that mankind was not going to survive, if left to his own devices. So this chap called Hari Seldon, who invented psychohistory… and you hear about it from Josh… about some of the things he talks about predictive psychology and things like that. He (Hari Seldon) arranged things so that, although at the time it may not seem that the best thing had happened, ultimately it did and civilisation survived. I’ve forgotten how long they had to get through. Something like three millennia, or something, because that was the danger point. And you just think about global warming, and some of those things and the fact that global warming could be pretty bad for us…and there's probably ways of getting around that which are probably not particularly acceptable to a lot of people. But yeah, it's interesting. 


Rob

What ways of getting round of it?


Phil

Oh no, I can't think. I remember his transport thing. He had a belt drive. So basically, there was no traffic. He just had these big belts, and you’d start at the bottom and get onto the slow belt, and then you’d get onto a faster belt, and a faster belt until you'd be leaning into the wind at 70 miles an hour on the fastest belt. Then you’d have to basically hop yourself off again so that you could get off where you wanted to get off. That's how transport happened around the city and everything. These belt drives and that was public transport. Interesting thought.


Rob

And that was a solution to climate change was it?


Phil

No. That was just the way they arranged to get round. They're not books about climate change. So it’s just the way they got around the city. And you'd look at these travelators and that's exactly what they do, apart from the fact that you don't have a travelator next to another travelator. But you can jump on a travelater and just pretend you're running.  


A number of these things have sort of come in. I don't even know … so he was writing these things in the 40s and 50s but they wouldn't even have escalators in those days, let alone travelators. 


Rob

That’s interesting. I would have thought escalators have been around for a long time. Probably in America, more than here. 


Phil

I don't know. You'd have to look it up - when did escalators first arrive anywhere? Actually, yes, they’re quite old aren't they? In the London Underground? 


Rob

Yes, yes. They had wooden treads.


Phil

… because that was one of the problems… because … was it the fire in Kings Cross? Someone had thrown a cigarette on it, set fire to the escalator. 


Rob

Is that what caused it? 


Phil

Yeah. So we must have had escalators for some time. So he probably got his inspiration from that. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to come out the London Underground on stairs would you?


Josh

Why not?


Phil

Because you'd be exhausted by the time you got to the top.


Rob

Well, there are some, or there were some, that had stairs only. 


Phil

Oh, yeah, I know. They’re still there. 


Rob

There were others that had lifts only. 


Phil

Oh really?


Rob

Well  I think…I say …lifts only and stairs only. They probably had lifts and stairs, but no escalators.


Phil

Yeah, I've been… they’re still there without escalators.


Rob

Those lifts were very rickety. They must surely have replaced them by now but they were really bad when I lived there.


Phil

Right


Rob

Felt like I was putting my life at risk. 


Phil

Because you probably were.


Rob

It’s interesting that climate change came up again in the context of sci-fi and particularly Phil’s reference to Asimov’s adoption of psychohistory and predictive psychology. Could these tools help humanity tackle climate change and other problems on the basis of what can be predicted from previous behaviour? Phil didn’t feel up to going into detail but psychohistory exists as a synthesis of psychology, history, social sciences and the humanities. Critics have called it pseudoscience but it may just be helpful in understanding humanity’s predilection for self-destruction and how to counter it.


34:56 Death from a Christian perspective; expressing feelings 


We turn now to Phil's perspectives on death based on his Christian beliefs.


Phil

Taking the Christianity thing, you know, it's all God's fault. He could have stepped in and stopped all this. But then again, why should he? You know, we all live in a fallen world and this is part of what it was all about in the beginning. Him saying, you know, you wanted to be in charge of everything so go for it. It’s what you'd say to a child really. You know, if a child keeps on wanting to do something you say, right, well, okay, so be it and you deal with the consequences. So why not me?


Rob

Well, some people would look at it, what have you done to deserve it … compared to other people who have done something to deserve it?  But nobody deserves it.


Phil

Well the argument would be in Christianity, everybody deserves it. So there. GIGGLES


Rob

So why does Christianity say everybody deserves it?


Phil

Because of Adam and Eve, and eating from the tree of knowledge, and disobedience, and, basically, that's what created the world to change from a perfect garden with a perfect life to one that was tainted, where, you know, Adam was, you know, they're saying, well, we're all naked. And he said, well who told you that? He said right, if that's the way you want to play it, then OK, you can be in charge of this, you can know good and evil, and you can deal with the consequences of it. And that's how it all started. What's it called? Well, it's called the fall isn't it? We all suffer from that. The only difference is that Christians would say that Jesus died for us so that we're saved anyway. And through His grace, and grace as opposed to… because Grace is something that is given and not something that you can… it's not an entitlement. So you can't feel entitled that you can end up in heaven and everything, but it's something that can be given to you,  and if you believe in Jesus, then it will be given to you. You know, when it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter that I’m ill. Because it's just a transition


Mother

A process of getting through. 


Phil

Yeah.


Rob

So you believe in something beyond death? 


Phil

Oh, yeah. (I) don’t believe in reincarnation like Buddhists.


Rob

That must be reassuring. 


Phil

To a point. GIGGLES Yes, to a point. 


Rob

Would you rather it not be happening right now? 


Phil

Well, it's never a good time for it. So yes. But then I'm thinking if I had to go through this when I was 70, or 80, or 90, it'd be pretty bloody miserable. But probably quite quick. So perhaps not so bad.


Rob

I think our dad went in a shocking way. But actually, he didn't suffer. 


Phil

No, well, not for a long. 


Rob

Well I don't think …he probably didn't really know what was happening to him did he?


Mother

No. One minute he was speaking, trying to reassure me that he was alright and the next minute, he was silent and that was it. Whilst they were carrying him out of the ambulance, they realised he was in the process of dying. He was certainly unconscious by then.


Rob

I didn't want us to go into this, sort of …


Phil

Christianity.


Rob

No, no, I don't mind that. It’s… I just don't want you to be… this is quite a topic to be talking about really, isn't it? 


Phil

But it’s change. 


Rob

It’s change.


Phil

Mmm


Rob

I think basically, I don't want to upset you. 


Phil

Right. Well I’ll try not to be upset. 


Rob

Well, you don't have to try. I mean, if you are upset, then you don't have to hide it from us. 


Phil

I'll try to be upset then.


Rob

No, no, no. Just be how you want to be. 


Phil

I’ll try to be what I want to be.


Rob

What do you want to be? 


Phil

Well I'd like to have been a singer but I can't so … GIGGLES.


Rob


Regardless of your beliefs or absence of them, I think there’s something that we can all relate to in that last section of the discussion - but I cringe now at the clumsy comments I made to Phil in an effort to avoid upsetting him. Probably wrongly, I’d wanted us to avoid talking about subjects that would stir his raw emotions but I didn’t want to stifle him in expressing his feelings either. It’s common to suggest that men have difficulties in sharing their feelings with others. Looking back through the sixty years of our times together, I certainly wish that Phil and I had shared more of our feelings. Thankfully in the podcast discussion, brotherly love, and Phil’s generous humour, overcame my clumsiness.

 


41:15 Phil’s favourite ceiling tile


It’s time to lighten the mood before this episode nears its end. You’re about to hear a clip that finds Phil talking with his son Josh about the funny side of being stuck in a hospital ward with no windows and no visitors allowed.


Phil

We were going to talk about my favourite ceiling tile.


Rob

Yeah


Phil

I haven’t got one.


LAUGHTER


I was having a blood transfusion at the time and Uncle Rob was phoning me up about a podcast about talking about change. And it was all about where did I see myself in the last 25 years…or where do I see myself in the next 5 or something like that. And I thought this sounds like a job interview. I said why don’t you ask me what my favourite ceiling tile was? Because…I was lying on my back having a blood transfusion, just looking up at ceiling tiles thinking: well they’ve been fitted quite well actually and I quite like the ones where they’ve put the lights recessed. Things like that and I was thinking…that would cover a couple of seconds.


And then, of course, there were the ceiling tiles in ward 2 where they’d got lights behind pictures of tropical scenes.


Josh

Oh. Like in the dentist?


Phil

Yeah. Like in the dentist. Yeah. Very like the dentist. And then they’d turn them on at random points in the night so you’d suddenly say BING - its dawn!  LAUGHTER. And you’re thinking what time is this? It’s 4 o’clock in the bloody morning. Will you turn your lights off?  All these things would go on.


I’m sure ward 2 was some sort of torture chamber. I’m sure I’d done something really bad to end up in ward 2. Messing with your body. Messing with your clock. BING. Lights would come on and, for the rest of the day, it would be early evening.


So that was why that question was on there.


Josh

Right.


Phil

My favourite ceiling tile. So I suppose it was almost my least favourite ceiling tile.


Josh

Mm.


Rob

That’s not quite gallows humour but it’s certainly Phil making us laugh with him at an unpleasant experience. It says a lot that he tried very hard and succeeded in avoiding the need to stay in that particular hospital again.


43:37 Outro


I hope that this episode, along with episode 1, has succeeded in giving you a snapshot, or should I say a series of soundbites, illustrating the changes experienced by one person and the society around him over the last 50 or so years. It’s also a warm, humorous and thoughtful insight into the mind and character of my brother. If you knew Phil, I hope that hearing him has touched you again with his thoughtfulness, intellect and humour. Let’s all treasure him in our hearts. For those listeners who never met him, I hope you’ve grasped an essence of him through these two episodes as well as being provoked to think about our constantly changing lives.


I carried out most of the post-production of these two first episodes of Time Is Sliding several months after Phil died at home on 24th October 2020 with his family around him. He’d been released from hospital four days earlier after medical staff said there was nothing more they could do for him.


Because of the pandemic, only 30 people were allowed to attend Phil’s funeral and so it was made available via YouTube for the many friends, relatives and former colleagues who were unable to attend from around the world.  This is a relatively small but emotionally charged example of why 2020 will be remembered as the year when enormous and sudden changes were precipitated by the human folly of exploiting our animal kin. 


That’s almost it for the second episode of the Time is Sliding podcast featuring a discussion about change with Phil Baylis, my brother. Thanks to everyone listening. A very special thanks to Phil, wherever you are. You’ve continued to make me laugh in producing this precious podcast but your physical absence hurts a lot - so I’m going to say it one more time: 


Rob

Thank you very much indeed for being my guest on my podcast.


Phil

Well, it’s been a pleasure. I just wish I’d felt a bit better.


Rob

So do I. 


Mother & Phil

Mm


Rob

I think you’ve been good.


Phil

Mm. Thank you.


Rob

It’s certainly been a pleasure for me. In producing this podcast, I’ve listened to Phil’s voice so much that it’s kept him alive for me. That might be why there are very few moments in episodes 1 and 2 when my emotions have got the better of me. It may also explain why it still seems unreal that I shall never be able to spend any more time with Phil in person. 


The episode included contributions from our mother, Phil’s wife Jane and his son, Josh. Thanks to them too.


I shaped the discussion with Phil around change and he bought into that. In episode 1, we covered changes imposed by illness along with changes in attitudes, technologies, behaviour, music, entertainment, punishment, choices and the environment. In episode 2, we’ve discussed change through the lens of time-travelling into the past and into the future, science fiction and a Christian perspective on death. 


I’ve put some further information and links in the episode notes. If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe to it if you haven’t already done that. Please also give it a good rating and a review if you wish. 


In that review, you could give your ideas as to what life might be like in 2050. What do you think may have changed to deliver a liveable future for the generations that follow you and me?  If not in a review, why not share your ideas via Twitter and copy to @TimeisSliding (all one word with the T & the second S as capitals)?


I’ll end with two quotes. The first is attributed to Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now. I think it’s very relevant to the fact that Phil accepted his predicament: ‘To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.’ 


My second quote is from Steve Jobs, founder of Apple. He died in 2011 from cancer at the age of 56. In 2005, he gave a moving address at Stanford University after surgery. Here’s an extract but it’s well worth reading or listening to the whole speech - there’s a link in the episode notes. This is what he said: “for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart”.


I’m Rob Baylis. For better or worse, all production work has been by me. Any extraneous noises and background chatter you heard was because of the rustic way the recording had to be made.


Bye for now and toodle pip for those over a certain age who’ve resisted change. Watch out for the next episode of Time is Sliding. My guest will be the inspirational activist, dreamer, death doula, chairperson of Incredible Edible Todmorden, Mary Clear. The episode will appear in your podcast feed in a month’s time if you’re a subscriber. 


Now. I’m off to steam clean my ears and stimulate my hands and feet in Peter Gabriel’s Steam. Phil introduced me to that song while he was ill in 2020. I’m not a Peter Gabriel fan as such but his song Sledgehammer always gets me moving and so Phil thought I would like Steam too. He was absolutely right but I now dance to it with tears on my eyes. Thanks again for the recommendation Phil. Yet another way I owe you.

Intro
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
Phil’s favourite ceiling tile
Outro