Why should I live, why wish for anything or do anything? In short, has life any meaning that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?
– Leo Tolstoy.
This book is a response to the author’s young son once asking, ‘Where on earth is heaven?’ For Jonathan Stedall, what lies behind this question has motivated his long career as a distinguished documentary director. He has worked with some of the most original and thoughtful minds of our time. His films about Tolstoy, Gandhi, Jung, the educational and curative work inspired by Rudolf Steiner, have been milestones on his journey of exploration; so too the insights of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Jonathan Stedall explores challenging questions about living and dying, looking and seeing, heaven and earth, and our human potential. He draws on forty years film-making experience, largely at the BBC, working with inspired artists, scientists and writers like John Betjeman, Laurens van der Post, Fritz Schumacher, Bernard Lovell, Malcolm Muggeridge, Alan Bennett, Fritjof Capra, Cecil Collins, Ben Okri and Mark Tully.
Along the way, he has also pondered deeply on the notion of the human being as a microcosm of the macrocosm, the meaning of eternity as ‘the everlasting now’, on the role of the holy fool and the redemptive power of love. Above all he has been increasingly absorbed not just by what is ‘seen’, but also by what is ‘unseen’.
The author describes how on this quest – whether in the African bush or in the streets of San Francisco, among the hill temples of northern India or in the lanes of Cornwall – he has also been enormously enriched by encounters with so-called ordinary men and women. They struggled not only to cope with the trials and joys of life, but also to find meaning in their lives- a meaning that transforms the dualism inherent in phrases like ‘spirit and matter’, ‘life and death’, and ‘heaven and earth’.
The most annoying book I have ever read, as the author seems to have had a more interesting life than I’ve had –John Cleese
Jonathan Stedall joined the BBC as a producer in 1963, where he then worked for twenty-seven years. His earlier career had included stage managing in repertory theatre, work in the cutting-rooms at Pinewood and as a floor manager and then director in commercial television. He won a British Film Academy Award for his documentary In Need of Special Care about a Camphill school in Scotland for children with special needs. This was typical of the gentle and sensitive style of film-making that has won him so much praise over the years.
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