Jonathan Metliss on the chance to reflect on life and the way ahead
I have been in splendid isolation for five weeks now, down at our family home on the South coast. Of course it has been hard, and the lack of physical communication and engagement is difficult. From a personal point of view, my elder daughter gave birth to a baby girl on 3 April, and sadly I have not had the opportunity to either see or touch her. But that day will come, hopefully very soon.
The lockdown has given me a rare opportunity to reflect on life.
There are indeed some positives to come out of this – both personally and for society as a whole. My normal life consists of rushing around, both socially and business wise, running from meeting to meeting with no time to relax or contemplate. I am always under some form of pressure. Now, the chaos of life has receded and I have had a chance to think and consider the priorities of my life with none of these deadlines.
Fortunately, the weather has been very kind and I have watched nature at its closest with Spring evolving. I have seen the apple blossom grow on the trees, the leaves appearing on all other trees and bushes and listen constantly to the wonderful sounds of the orchestra of birds making their music.
This has also given me an opportunity to rekindle old personal relationships and I have been in regular contact with, for example, friends from my university days and members of my extended family – in particular, in Israel, South Africa and Canada. We have been reliving our wonderful experiences from those times. Every day I am in contact with my old mates, discussing and quizzing each other over the names of old footballers and cricketers from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Please come back my Chelsea heroes Osgood, Hudson and Charlie Cooke. And good riddance to Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil and all the other self-indulgent footballers in the Premier League!
And I have even managed to make new friends, in particular from the local Worthing Jewish community, from zooming in to Sussex Friends of Israel talks and discussions over the Internet.
I have been reading at great length, especially pieces on Jewish custom, law and tradition, which I had been unable to do previously and which has given me an inner feeling, and stronger foundation, to the values of my life.
We have just finished the festival of Passover where the unleavened bread represents humility and we have read about Moses and Miriam, the most humble of our leaders. So, this time has given me the opportunity to think about priorities in life. These priorities must change and we must become more caring, and show greater compassion, mutual support, kindness, camaraderie, humility and modesty, with less bling and superficiality.
On the business front, I have been in regular contact with my colleagues at Axiom Stone, considering how best to preserve existing relationships, sustain the goodwill of both clients and staff and think ahead to the future, which hopefully will embody some of the values that I have referred to.
As you will be aware, I am avid sports fan. But, as with many of my contemporaries, I do not miss professional football one jot and am glad to be out of the constant money-go-round of hype, superficiality, shallowness and greed and its bloated pay and finances.
I have just been watching the Holocaust Memorial Day event, which has put life into the proper context and reaffirmed the true values of life. Sadly, there is a similarity as we are currently prevented from leading a normal life to the best of our ability. Resilience means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, and showing toughness. If we are all resilient, we will rebound from this experience, hopefully as better people and having a better experience going forward.
As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, has expressed, I hope that we emerge from this experience with an enhanced sense of “we”, in five dimensions – the we of global human solidarity; the we of national identity: the we of humility; the we in acts of kindness; and the we of hope.
I very much look forward to engaging with you all when better times return, with, hopefully, better values and priorities.
Jonathan Metliss is Chairman of Axiom Stone Solicitors and Chairman of Action Against Discrimination.