I have been looking at MacKinlay’s book, ‘The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing’ again. Some of her informants were church-goers and found a connection between their active religion and their inward spirituality, each nurturing the other. But others had neither faith nor religious practice but were still searching for meaning in life and finding it in different ways.
She says that amongst most of her informants a love of nature or creation was important. Some spoke of the joy of gardening and of being able to go to the mountains or the sea. One woman who had a deep relationship with God found meaning however from trees and places like the Botanical Gardens ‘where you can get away from people’, whilst another said ‘ I think I’m conscious of creation around me and beauty around me, certainly in people, my friends, I see all these things as good.’ Another woman found meaning in being out in the wilderness, One of her greatest joys was putting her feet on the Antarctic for the first time, ‘an incredible emotional and spiritual experience for her’, she said.
Others found meaning in music and art and in the company of friends and because of the leisure they now enjoyed were able to reflect with pleasure on the importance of their relationships and the deep influence the creative arts have had on their lives.
Mackinlay juggles the concept of meaning in life with a very flexible definition of spirituality and found in her research that many of her informants were facing the fact that inevitably there will be an end to our lives (which until now we have not acknowledged in these blogs). The people she questioned admitted to all sorts of feelings in this respect, including anxiety, joyful anticipation, but also fear. Most people seemed to be reconciled to a conclusion that none of us can avoid. Amongst most of her in-depth interviews there was a common acceptance that no one wanted to die alone and, even amongst those of Christian faith, an agnostic attitude to what may or may not happen after death.
A bit more about the ending time in our next blog, which I think will need to be our last one in a series that began almost exactly eight months ago.