My song today is ‘Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends’. This song was written by Kris Kristofferson and was first recorded by Bobby Bare in 1971. Later, Kris Kristofferson recorded the song with Rita Coolidge for their final duet album, ‘Natural Act, and later with Mark Knopfler for ‘The Austin Sessions’.
If you were offered the opportunity of looking back over your life and changing things, would you take up the offer? I suspect that many people might welcome the opportunity of correcting any pass wrongs they did. Perhaps you would not have chosen to love and trust the person who then went on to betray you? Or would you have ever married the spouse who later divorced you?
I would not correct any of my past. Not because it was perfect, and not because I did not have any wrongs done to me, or perpetrated by me! There would be no hurtful episode in my life that I would choose to erase from it; no painful experience would be expunged from my history. The reason I would choose not to alter my past rests in my desire not to remove any learning which stemmed from it; not even the bad and the hurtful experiences I encountered or were responsible for. I believe that it is largely through our experiences that we learn our future responses to similar situations we may find ourselves a part of. I hold the view that the best lessons that remain with us longest are the ones we learn from our direct experiences and previous mistakes. I believe that because all good people are capable of doing bad things sometimes, that all people who might be considered bad are also capable of doing good things occasionally. Consequently, if my belief holds true, then there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad people’ per se, only people who do either behave well or badly, lovingly, or wickedly. I realise that these beliefs of mine are in danger of offending the sensibilities and contradicting the strongly-held belief of others who have witnessed extreme harm, defilement, and murder to their loved ones, through the evil and wicked deeds of another, and that we may never be able to share camps in this perspective; and my heart goes out to them.
In my life, I have encountered many people who have had their fortune told, or who regularly read their daily horoscope in the magazine and newspaper. I have known many a person visit a séance, or attend a spiritualist meeting where a clairvoyant purports to receive messages from the dead. My own historical reading informs me that for centuries, scientists and persons with the most eminent brains in the country have used the position of the stars in the heavens to chart their actions and destiny, even to the point of timing a marriage, plotting a death or waging a war. I have also known many people who engage in astrology; a practice that attempts to explain one’s future through the movement, alignment, and position of the planets. There are many people of superstitious mind who will fear the breaking of a mirror, or who avoid walking beneath a ladder, crossing a black cat, or going out on a Friday the 13th of the month just because it represents to them a bad omen of a possible future unwanted event in their life. Most of the people I refer to here are ordinary folk and would not be considered weirdoes, even by the most rational among us. There are even millions (like me) who believe in the supernatural presence and omnipotent power of a spiritual being called Jesus or many other figures from the other religions of the world.
On the other side of the human coin, there are innumerable behavioural anticipations which lead to our human experiences of pain and pleasure or safety and danger. If a madman waving a knife in the air and yelling “Kill! Kill!” runs towards you with a menacing face and looking determined to do you damage, do not be surprised if you automatically do something to avoid the anticipated danger. Similarly, if a smiling person you are introduced to offers you their hand to shake without speaking, do not be surprised if you automatically shake it! Our previous experiences are automatically stored and collated in our memory bank so that the next time we enter a similar situation, that our minds do not have to waste time and energy ‘thinking about’ what to instruct our body muscles to do, and we automatically take the appropriate action. Were the mind not to store automatic body instructions, none of us would ever possess enough body energy to get through our day. Were we to think about every single sequence of our behaviour patterns, we would not be able to tie our shoelaces or go through the motions of driving our car with such ease and safety? Thus, all previous experiences shape and determine all future responses!
Whether we are engaged in some process of human behaviour that results in us eating, drinking, having sex, awaiting a physical punishment, or falling from a great height, etc; according to all Behaviourists, our qualitative experience is undoubtedly shaped and determined by our previous experience in similar situations. Also, how we felt after that previous experience will lead us to anticipate how we will probably feel in advance of any future similar situation we find ourselves in. Therefore, as a professed Christian, and as an ardent Behaviourist, and as an Irish man who was born in a country that is steeped in superstition and folklore, I must include myself in this long list of rational and irrational human contractions.
I once worked with a man at ‘Harrison Gardeners’ textile and dying company in Liversedge, West Yorkshire. This man was called Arthur, and he was a real ‘Jack the lad’ in more ways than one. He was always telling jokes and spoiling the jokes of other workmates. His most annoying behaviour was to spoil the joke or the story of another person seconds before the punch line was delivered. Whenever we were in the canteen at lunchtime or during the afternoon break, there would always be somebody telling a story he had previously heard, or a joke. Arthur would wait until the end approached, and as the punch-line was about to be delivered, he would shout out the ending; leaving the narrator of the story disappointed and somewhat deflated.
As the author of over sixty books since 199O, one of the writer ploys I would always use was to deliberately lead the reader down the wrong path towards the direction of a particular ending of the story; only to change the ending at the very last moment.
As a lifelong romantic, I would have hated to begin any relationship with any woman who I ever courted, knowing in advance ‘how the story ended’. For my part, the chase always proved more exciting than the capture, and ‘not knowing’ how the hunt would turn out was a large part of the pleasure anticipated.
Love and peace Bill xxx