Racing the Reaper Man Introduction: Overview

At the very start of this blog, back in January 2016, one of my first posts was entitled, Racing the Reaper Man. It is my metaphor for how we stay ahead of our slowly unwinding existence: by programming, action and choice. Life, after all, is the only countdown that goes up. The use the metaphorical Grim Reaper, that psychopomp of myth and mirth, suits my purpose. In my youth I used the phrase Reaper Man freely, as I was a biker of the less shiny kind, and we all used the term ‘man’ far too much. The best  embellishment of this myth was by the late, great Terry Pratchett, where DEATH became a bit of a rock star. I digress. My metaphor is as follows:

When we are born, a starting pistol fires and we set off along the timeline of life. The Reaper Man starts at the same time, but very slowly, at a fixed pace… notwithstanding innate health issues and accident, everything we chose to do to ourselves can affect our progress. To keep ahead of the Reaper Man, health and fitness are an imperative. Anyone who chooses an unhealthy path will be chased down sooner than they should. Life is never that simple, and there are times this dark figure will gain ground, but for me, I aim to stay ahead as long as I can and make sure he’s out of breath when he taps me on the shoulder. In my novel, Mr Gupta goes to the Sea, Gupta sees life in a similar way, but as a triptych: we are born, some procreate, we die. He sees only the first and last phases as a definite event, and the central part is an unknown land about which he believes you can only ever say ‘up to now’ with confidence. More famously by far, Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, that the meaning of life was worked out as being 42. So, in all these rather mixed metaphors, life – that middle bit – and its philosophical meaning is always up for debate, but never, ever certain.

Although I can become philosophical, I am also a stepper-backer. I have found that most debates forever shrink as they focus on the specks of irritation, rather than a logical, progressive overview. Politics, religion and social media are the greatest subjects for speck-focussing, and life can seem like a series of screaming strap-lines as a result. A statement is not factual without proof – proof is not true unless tested – tests are not certain unless repeatable. Opinions are generally strap-lines for lazy thinkers. Humans naturally believe what they want, based on personal bias, so to look at improving one’s life, it becomes necessary to learn to step back. So, for this blog, and its future incarnation as a book, I will step back and write what I know about making life healthier, fitter and better for the more mature person.  

Will it be my opinion? To a point, yes, but I will avoid the pitfalls outlined in the previous paragraph by explaining that I have carried out repeatable tests to validate what I write. I am my own experiment. Racing the Reaper Man explains pretty much what I have done to the machine that is my body. I’ll cover my early existence only to set the scene, but will focus on how I allowed the Reaper Man to get within touching distance, then gaining ground from my 50s into my 60s. Feel free to test what I place before you. I will never say “you must” as I’m an old rebel, so if I hear those words I tend to immediately think, “Oh, must I?” followed by, “Feck off!” If I haven’t tested something and then embraced it, why bother droning on to others? As the late, great Christopher Hitchens said, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”  

What I will say is, one has choice. This is something that has become diluted in recent times. Generally you are, fitness wise, what you choose to be. How you treat your body is pretty well up to you. I often hear people justifying injurious habits, but never hear the same from those who follow a regime for a fuller, healthier life. Commonplace justifications tend to revolve around perceived rights and negative bias towards the healthy. A choice becomes a self-imposed right. How often have you said or heard:

“I deserved that treat, I’ve been good.”

“It’s Christmas, nothing wrong with letting your hair down.”

“I’m cutting down.”

“You’ve got to eat meat. Vegetarians are always ill.”

“I can’t run, I get bored.”

“You’ve gotta die sometime, so just enjoy it.”

There are hundreds more ways to justify personal bias and injurious habits. Therein lies the biggest hurdle to living rather than existing. Like it or not, we all delude ourself on a regular basis. What I have discovered is, it is best to be honest about it. Not to others, but to ourselves. Very often we evoke partially understood personal rights as a catalyst to apply excuses. My aim is to outline why I found it is my duty to seek a healthier way of living. Racing the Reaper Man is personal to me, and is meant to be applied to the individual. And the key is that word choice. That, I will deal with in one of my next blogs.

To sum up my intentions, I aim to map out a way to proceed from knowing one needs to do something, removing excuses, choosing to embrace change, and keeping ahead of the Reaper Man.