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Angela Tilby: Michael Mosley, like Ignatius, was a wise mentor

21 June 2024

BBC/Storyboard Studios/Mya Padget

Dr Michael Mosley

Dr Michael Mosley

WHEN Dr Michael Mosley disappeared, I am sure I was not the only one who scanned the news outlets anxiously, hoping that he would be found alive and well.

It was not to be. Like most people, I knew him only through his television appearances. He was a brilliant performer, grounded in science, but always warm, intimate, and humorous. Unlike many lifestyle gurus, he never nagged or chastised, but drew us in by his sheer friendliness, and kept us hooked, horrified, and fascinated by his readiness to self-experiment (remember the tapeworm?). I never did his 5:2 diet, nor seriously practised his “eating windows”; but I always knew that they were there, and this, in itself, made an impact.

He never expected us to be wholly pure. His health advice was always based on small steps: “just one thing” to make a difference. We all knew that he was as prone to dietary sin as the rest of us. He liked a glass or more of red wine, and his GP wife had to keep the chocolate well hidden. The sadness, when his body was finally found so near the path that he had been walking on, was heartfelt and sincere.

Michael Mosley came from a Christian family, and, though agnostic, he valued religious faith, pointing to published research that showed pretty conclusively that those who believe in a loving and benevolent God tend to live longer than others.

He understood the value of gratitude, not least as a counter to anxiety. He commended a time of recollection before bed to remember and be thankful for three positive things that had happened during the day. That exercise is similar to the daily examen commended by St Ignatius of Loyola, although Ignatius would also have us recall our sins and failures, along with gratitude. Mosley particularly commended spending time exposed to nature, another point in common with Ignatius, who was fascinated by the stars. Regularly experiencing awe, as Mosley pointed out, had a proven positive effect on the human immune system. We belong in the universe.

Like other good mentors, Mosley called on his own experience. He knew that he was physically vulnerable. Some years ago, he began to show symptoms of pre-type 2 diabetes, and, although he managed to reverse it through diet, he knew that he could not afford to take good health for granted. He was also a chronic insomniac, not least because his active mind was always fizzing with new ideas, as friends and colleagues testified. His death appears to have been an accident: he lost direction in the blazing Greek heat and succumbed to heat stroke.

He leaves us with the good counsel to care for our bodies and minds, if we aspire to live well and enjoy good days (Psalm 34.12). We shall miss him; we have lost a friend.

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