How often have you said something like I'll do that when I retire - that being anything from playing the violin to taking up tap dancing? And if you have indeed reached that apparent Nirvana, how much have you managed to accomplish of these long-held goals?
The two examples I gave are both things I've done in my time (and have to confess that the tap-dancing, though enormous fun, was probably a bad idea as I was well past my best and seem to have jiggered my toe joints permanently with the combined effect of vulgar little shoes and percussive steps). I always hoped that when I was no longer teaching I'd find a few like-minded souls to play with - not really wonderful instrumentalists, but able to read well enough to have fun. I pictured myself having time to enjoy this on a regular basis, perhaps fortified with a small tincture. (This because on one occasion another violinist and I became so hysterical at the sight of ourselves sawing away in a full-length mirror that we were unable to go on and required more from the bottle that stood on the floor between us)
But I haven't done it in years. Nor have I written yards of poetry, nor have I studied a new language or even read enough serious literature, let alone theology. I get by on snippets of the last, taken on an ad hoc basis when there's a sermon on the horizon. So what's filling the time, and why haven't I been more disciplined?
Well, there's plenty. And though some of it is fun, some of it's plain hard work or undertaken out of a sense of obligation. This makes me wonder about my motivation - and I realise that actually I'm the same butterfly that I've always been. I can't be bothered to practise if I don't have a performance, I like to make music in company, I like to perform rather than to prepare. I won't persevere in reading something that doesn't capture my interest within the first hour, and I'm easily put off by jargon or convoluted argument or badly-handled syntax. I probably need to see the end of a task before I begin, and I become bored as readily as I did when I was 16.
So I may yet play the violin, but I'll not hold my breath. And I'm beginning to think I shall die without reading War and Peace. Sad, really...