About ten years ago, when I was living in Hong Kong, I consulted a Chinese fortune teller or ‘Astrologer, Geomancy Consultant’ as he preferred to call himself. It was the start of the new millennium and at the time I was thinking about migrating to New Zealand so I thought it would be good to get an opinion on my future from an expert. I am not normally a big believer in fortune telling, but he came highly recommended so I approached the consultation with an open mind. What he told me came as something of a shock.
He said that I am going to die when I am 67. Not just any old death but a rather grizzly one. I will be travelling on a boat which will sink or I will fall overboard and I will be eaten by a shark! I am not making this up, I promise. I still have the tape recording of the consultation as proof. My friends and relatives found it quite amusing and I suppose, since we all have to go somehow, it is an interesting way to die. I started to think about the implications of this prophecy.
Knowing when you are going to die is not such a bad thing. I’m 54 now so I have 13 years left. I need to make sure that I spend the next 13 years fruitfully and don’t waste a single day. If the fortune teller is wrong and I get an extension of years it will be a bonus but I’m planning on the basis that he is correct and I’m going to spend my remaining time doing worthwhile things that I enjoy. I have certainly made a lot of changes since hearing the shark prediction. I quit my well paid but tedious and stressful banking job, and I have pursued various interests and business ideas that I had always been meaning to do one day. I have spent more time with my family and on hobbies such as reading. I enjoy a good book. The problem is, I’m really quite a slow reader, I’m lucky if I finish one book a month. It’s not that I’m incapable of reading faster – it’s just that when I read, the words trigger trains of thought and I allow my mind to wander. It might be several seconds or even minutes before I return to the next sentence in the book. I don’t mind this drifting off – in fact it’s this guided day-dreaming which makes reading such a pleasurable and relaxing experience for me. You can’t do that when you are watching a film.
Anyway, returning to my situation, if I have 13 years left to live and I can only manage one book per month, it means I have time to read about 156 more books before the shark gets me. I want to make sure that these 156 books are great ones. I have no time to waste on reading trashy books or even just average books. So if there is anyone out there reading this blog, I would appreciate your suggestions on which titles I should include in my 156 book reading list. Perhaps something uplifting, inspirational or life-changing would be appropriate, even spiritual given that I will be meeting my Maker before too long (I’m reading ‘The Confessions Of Saint Augustine’ at the moment). I Googled ‘100 best books of all time’ and there are plenty of websites listing great literature. These are are a good place to start for ideas but the pages and pages of comments on the websites show that people feel strongly about the subject and there is a good deal of dispute about what should and what should not be included on the various lists. I ‘ve read quite a number of these classics over the years but I cannot always share the opinions of the critics. James Joyce’s Ulysses for instance is near the top of most critics’ best book lists but I found it virtually unreadable. I suppose that makes an ignorant peasant.
Well that’s enough from me. My time is strictly limited as you know! Any suggestions from you would be most welcome. In the meantime I’ll be consuming as many bowls of shark’s fin soup as possible in the hope that the shark becomes extinct before I do.