Episode 431(179) – What now?
This is Del Lowery with Retirement Talk. The question we want to consider in this program is, “Once retired, what then?”
I knew a guy in Alaska who retired and set off to sail around the world and got attacked by pirates. I’m not kidding: gun to his head and everything.
He bought a boat in Norway. Went there with his wife to pick up the boat and sail away. He got as far as Caribbean when the pirates boarded his boat one night; stole everything valuable. He felt lucky. Lucky they didn’t kill them. He sold the boat and flew back home; decided on doing something else in retirement.
Another guy I know took off on a similar trip only to capsize in the South Pacific. I mean upside down; locked in the cabin with his daughter and her fiancée. Just imagine that moment: You’re battling a storm at night; flip upside-down, inside a boat, in the middle of the ocean. The boat righted itself. He sailed into the closest port; sold the boat. They all got tattooed with a special design that indicated a close call with death – a sort of circle around the wrist. They flew home. He eventually bought another boat. Still sails. Not aiming to go around the world. But still enjoys the salt air. I don’t want to mock the idea of sailing around the world. I’m sure some people Dream of it and do it successfully. I just don’t know any.
The world is big; the choices are endless. How can you choose the path that will bring you the greatest satisfaction or happiness?
Years ago I came across some happiness advice that has never failed me. I liked it because it worked for me and I loved the name of the originator, Baruch de Espinosa: or, Spinoza. “Spinoza knowza”, I used to tell my philosophy students.
Spinoza lived in Holland in the 1600s, Jewish descent. His family had been kicked out of Spain in 1492 at the beginning of the inquisition. This is when Ferdinand and Isabel married, uniting Spain into one big country. They gave all the Jews three choices: either give up their religion and become a Catholic, leave, or get burned at the stake. The de Espinosa family moved to Portugal and then to Holland; smart move. Over the years the name changed to Spinoza.
He was a brilliant guy, too brilliant for some. He eventually got excommunicated from the Jewish religion and died at a very early age – 43.
Once, on a trip to Europe, I searched for the synagogue from which he supposedly got excommunicated in Amsterdam. (It wasn't the actual synagogue; it had burned down. This was the replacement; built on the same spot.) I asked the young kid with keys to the synagogue if he knew about Spinoza. He feigned ignorance. “No I never heard of him,” he said. I could tell he was lying. This was a very bright kid; maybe 16 or 17 years old. His eyes told me he knew about Spinoza. Then I remembered Spinoza had been kicked out, excommunicated. That means his name and everything had been erased from the record. He was to never be read, spoken of, or named again – forever. Maybe the kid wasn’t lying.
Spinoza claimed that every time we pursue something and think it will bring us happiness we are disappointed once we “capture the flag”, so to speak. Once we get to our goal and receive the applause, or the money, or the big house, or the large screen HDTV, we find ourselves disappointed, and many times crushed the following day. The happiness we thought would be ours is not there; and when it isn’t there, we feel let down, disappointed: and soon ask ourselves the same question; “Now what”?
Our problem lies in defining, believing, or thinking of happiness, as a solid state; or as a position or place. It isn’t.
He claimed that happiness is a transitory state. It is found in the movement towards something: movement towards a greater state of perfection than that which we now have. It isn’t in having a better garden than we now have, but it is in the act of creating, or moving towards having the better garden. Happiness lies in making the transition; moving to a greater state of perfection.
Of course the opposite is also true. Unhappiness is going the other direction. Having our dreams dashed or moving away from a state of greater perfection to yet that of a lesser one. Sort of like trying to sail around the world and end up with a gun at your head or tipped upside down in the Pacific.
He concluded that a love of something that is eternal or every expanding is the correct path to follow. You will always be moving towards something greater. For him it was philosophy.
Thinking of happiness as a transitory state has always worked for me. Thank you Spinoza. Perhaps it is not factually true. But it is true for me. I believe it.
Perhaps that is the real key to happiness. It is having a picture of what happiness is in your own head that works.
What's in your head concerning happiness? And does it work? Or does it leave you disappointed or deflated. Time to think.
This is Retirement Talk with something to consider.
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