Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 487(258) Poke Life

"Give life a little poke", Steve Jobs said something like that. He went on, "Everything around us was created by someone no smarter than you are."

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to name drop by using his name (I am not his biggest fan) but I do like what he said. Especially his use of the word "poke". It is a word where the sound of it and the meaning of it come together: short and sharp. There is of course another meaning to the word that came to me many years ago via Hollywood westernsWe bought a few gold coins a few years ago and I loved telling friends about my "gold poke". But what I really want to talk about was what Jobs said: poking life and that most of what we see around us came from folks just like us: no smarter.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Loren Eiseley, one of my favorite writers of all time related that he always carried a few seeds in his rucksack whenever he went hiking. He spent a lot of time outside as an archeologist. He wrote of climbing mountains, or being in unusually terrain and marveling at the plants growing in various location. He was fascinated by the mystery of how land, climate and seeds come together through the evolutionary process. He would muse over how things change: weather, topography, soils, etc. He wrote a lot about the concept of time: the long time factor in the evolution of our planet and our life. He would  then unzip his small packet of seeds he carried in that rucksack  and scatter a few. Just a few in a small place.

He knew that man had rarely trod the same path and that if someone had come this way he probably didn't have these particular seeds in his pack and if he did have those seeds he probably never threw them on the ground. Eiseley knew that he might effect a change. What kind of change? He had no idea. Some people might frown on this type of action He always thought of it as his little mark. He just wanted to poke it a bit.

It makes me think of the person who left something in the fire or the refrigerator too long and ended up with steel or penicillin. A local farmer where I grew up was using a rotary lawn mower that he made in his shop long before you could buy one in the store. I don't know if he invented it but his son said he did. I believed him.

My friend in Alaska, a falconer, made airplanes out of stuff he found in dumpsters. These were real airplanes that he flew as experimental planes. The planes were sometimes shaped like falcones. He would cover the wings with corrugated cardboard and fly them to see if there was difference in lift. One time after a snowstorm I went with him to brush the snow of the wings of one of his planes. Under the snow the wings were covered in fur. He was trying to see if fur would change the performance of the plane. And it did. He made a profession of poking life. Whenever I questioned one of these odd attempts he would always grow indignant; his eyes would widen, he would fix me with a stare and say, "Why not"?

What I really liked about Steve Jobs statement was his conclusion that everything around us was created by someone no smarter that we are. He wanted us to feel like we could co-create our world on a base just as firm as that created by all of those who came before us. I'm not so sure about this one. Some of are more adapt at one thing than others. But I suppose that does leave a lot of room for all of us to poke life in our own way and thus perhaps change our world a bit in the process.

All of these technological changes that seem to permeate our world provide great examples. Technological change that comes out of garages or dorm rooms explode to do thing that their creators could never have imagine. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are even being given credit for much of the success of political revolutions that have recently shook the world and continue to do so.

I'm not so sure all of these guys are any brighter than many of us. But their particular interests and abilities meet with other factors that now exist and they thus find themselves considered brilliant. I'm not sure Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg would have fared well in a hunter-gather society. The stars are aligned. The planets are in their place. It is their day. Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow is another day.

At any rate; I do like the thought of thinking for yourself. When I retired I intentionally put reading  on a  list of  things to do when I had nothing else to do. I did not want to spend my time reading what other people thought. Retirement is the perfect time to get very familiar with what you know and what you don't know. Most of our life is spent reading, listening and watching others. Retirement is a perfect time to "poke life" on our own ground.

ps: I have to admit that I still read - but only when I don't know what else to do.

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