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Thought for the weekend: A pioneer of the possible

By Rev Allen Sleith

We're not that long into the new year, but already the world of popular arts has suffered several sad losses.

Much has been written about David Bowie, so I'll leave well alone, but the deaths of actor Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey of The Eagles have robbed us of great talents in their respective fields. Not forgetting the death the other day of Colin Vearncombe, aka 'Black', whose hit song Wonderful Life has a haunting combination of beauty, affirmation and pathos. But, to my mind, on a different scale, was the death last Sunday of Henry Worsley, the Antarctic explorer.

At age 55, having retired from the British Army, he set out to complete the unfinished journey of his hero, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Worsley pulled his own sledge containing food, tent and equipment and was finally airlifted off the ice on Saturday past on day 71 of his trek, having covered 913 miles and just 30 miles short of his destination.

Initially it was thought he was dehydrated and malnourished, but bacterial peritonitis, a serious infection, was to blame and, sadly, he died in a hospital in Chile.

His own final message now has an even greater poignancy. "When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, was 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January 9, 1909, he said he'd shot his bolt.

"Well, today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have 'shot my bolt' having had to stop because he didn't have the ability to "slide one ski in front of the other" and concluding "I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time and I will come to terms with the disappointment".

An inspiration to many, Worsley had already raised more than £100,000 for Endeavour Fund, helping wounded soldiers.

I like to think of him as a "pioneer of the possible", those rare people who go beyond the rest of us and stake out new realms in the wider world and inner spirit. In similar vein, though on a different scale yet again, the New Testament book of Hebrews calls Jesus 'archegos' which means the 'pioneer' of our faith, an undaunted life even unto death.

Belfast Telegraph


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