569 What Now (part 2)
This is Del Lowery with “Retirement Talk”. On today’s program I want to give you a couple of examples of the pursuit of happiness as I have experienced them. This is all in accordance with the Spinozian theory that was the topic our last program.
Recall that Spinoza advised us to realize that happiness lies in the movement from a state of lesser perfection to yet that of a greater one. To him, happiness, lies in the movement not the attainment of a particular goal or project.
Around 25 to 30 years ago, (I’m not sure of exactly how long), but somewhere in the distant past my daughter bought an old VW bus. You know the kind: funky, cool and in bad need of attention. As her father it was my ‘privilege’ to make this rig fit her needs. She was an aspiring archaeologist at the time and needed something good for camping so a new sound system needed to be installed. Then the rear seats had to come out and a sleeping arrangement constructed. Bones and feathers attached to the dash. Etc.
Lying on my side on the floor of the bus reaching for something in the back of the bus, I twisted my back. Sciatic damage was the verdict: trips to the doctor; limping; foot wandering; physical therapist; and drugs. Everything was tried; nothing was successful.
Over coffee one day I heard of a back specialist who used Tai Chi to fix what was broken. “Revive a Back” was the name of his business. Doctors were talking of back surgery and I didn’t want to go there. I decided to try the Tai Chi guy.
I thought that I would give him one visit, and if there was no improvement, that would be my first and last visit. All these years and I have been doing Tai Chi every single day. It has been a continual progression. It is movement. It is Spinozian. Each day there is improvement. And I mean every day; first thing in the morning. I never skip.
My instructor taught me to sense my body; to feel what was happening and where. It is amazing. My wife is sick of hearing about it, but each day there is something else going on. The back healed. The posture changed. The head position changed. The body relaxed, more, and more, and more. There has been no end. It constantly amazes me. But the study of Tai Chi has become as natural as breathing and has continually provided me with the movement – physically and mentally - that Spinoza advocated.
Another great example of following this method was introduced to me by Miss Jo, my high school psychology teacher. One time she drew a straight line across the board. This straight line represented us and the life we were to lead from birth to death. She then drew wavy line that rose and dipped below the straight line. It looked like high hills and low valleys. She then colored in all of the high hills and said that they represented things that we have already done, or learned. How to speak the language, read, fix a motor, cook a turkey, etc. The valleys that were not colored in represented things we have not done or experienced. We don’t know how to swim, ride a motorcycle, operate a computer, or visited New York City or Paris. You get the picture.
She went on to say that to be a complete person we need to come back and fill in the valleys or hollow areas. We can continue to learn throughout our life. We need to keep expanding our abilities, knowledge, and experiences. She advised us to, “Fill in the gaps”. That was her way of saying we need to keep moving. Always continuing to learn.
When I retired from work, I looked at where these big holes existed. I could not read music, nor could I play any instrument. 30 years ago I picked up the classical guitar because I loved the sound and it was portable. It has provided me another continuing avenue for actualizing the Spinozian advice. Every day since there has been movement towards understanding music and perfecting this instrument. It is an endless task. At least, it is for me.
I think it may be much easier to learn to play an instrument at an early age, rather than in retirement. Of course, it is probably easier to learn many things at an earlier age than at a later one. But time does not allow us to learn everything at an early age. Something has to wait.
It’s those gaps one must consider. Of course, it can be a bit frustrating, to put yourself back at the beginning whether it is exploring a new area, or developing a particular skill. Look at it as a lesson in humility. We all need a little dose of that now and then.
The pursuit of happiness is dear to us all; realizing that it lays in the “movement between” increases our chances of knowing it when we see it. To avoid being depressed when we retire or reach our goal we need to keep this in mind. We need to have something else to be going towards. We need to maintain the movement.
As a little side note: I recently read of a 95 year old woman in Vancouver, BC who just hit her first hole-in-one. She’s been playing golf 77 years. Her advice, “Don’t give up”.
This is Del Lowery with “Retirement Talk”
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