Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 785 Now What (part 2)

This is Del Lowery with “Retirement Talk”. 

On the last podcast I set out Spinoza's thoughts concerning happiness as a possible rule to follow. 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.

We have all experienced the truth of this one way or the other. We just knew we would be happy when we left home, when we finally graduated, when we got a good paying job, when we married the love of our life, when we got a new car, when we became a star - of whatever. Then we did that very thing. We achieved our goal only to wake a few days later unhappy once again. Why is that? What happens?

Spinoza chose the study of philosophy for a goal. He knew that he could study it forever and never arrive at the golden end of having exhausted the fields. He would never wake one morning and find he had "captured the flag"'." Studying philosophy was to be a lifetime pursuit and would satisfy the requirement of eternal transition. He would always be learning more and more and thus moving towards a greater state of perfection.

The study of Tai Chi has emerged as a constant transitional avenue for me. Many years ago - perhaps 15 or 20 - my daughter bought an old VW bus. You know the kind: funky, cool and in bad need of attention. She was fresh out of college and an aspiring archeologist. She 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 platform was constructed, etc. As her father it was my ‘privilege’ to make this rig fit her needs.

Lying on my side on the floor of the bus reaching for something underneath something in the back of the bus, I twisted my back. Sciatic damage; trips to the doctor; limping; foot wandering; physical therapist; and drugs. Everything was tried; nothing eased the pain. Desperation.

One day in the coffee shop 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. I have been doing Tai Chi every single day since - fifteen to twenty years. It has been a continual progression.

Tai Chi has taught me to sense my body; to feel what is happening and where. My wife is sick of hearing about it, but each day there is something else going on. The back healed. My posture changed. The head position changed. The body relaxed, more, and more, and more. There has been no end. It amazes me daily. It has become as natural as breathing and has continually provided me with the movement Spinoza advocated.

Music provides my second example. Miss Jo was my high school psychology teacher. One day she drew a straight line across the board. It represented us and the life we were to lead. She then drew a 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, how to read, fix a motor, ride a bicycle, 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, or operate a computer. We have not visited New York City, Paris or Kathmandu.

As we move through life we need to come back and fill in the valleys or hollow areas. We need to keep expanding our abilities, knowledge, and experiences. She advised us to, “Fill in the gaps”. It made so much sense at 17. And it still makes sense at 80.

When I retired from work I looked at where these big holes existed and combined it with Spinoza's happiness principle.I could not read music nor play an instrument. I picked up the classical guitar because I loved the sound and I could take it wherever I traveled. It has provided me another avenue of continuing transition. Every day since there has been movement towards understanding music and playing. Again, a transitory state is experienced on a daily basis.

The pursuit of happiness is dear to us all; realizing that it lies in the “movement between” increases our chances of knowing it when we see it. We can each choose our own direction. We just need to realize that it is the pursuit that is important, not grasping the brass ring.

As a footnote:

I remember reading of a 95 year old woman in Vancouver, BC who had just hit her first hole-in-one. She had been playing golf for 77 years. Her advice, “Don’t give up”.

This is Retirement Talk.

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