Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 866 Risk

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Irene was a friend of mine who was in her early eighties. A few years ago she told me about a backpacking trip she had taken through Europe that year. She was staying in a hostel in England and stayed out eating and drinking past bedtime. The doors were locked. She found a window open in the men’s dormitory and crawled in through the window. “No one would mind,” she said, “An old woman like me isn’t going to frighten any of those young guys in there. No one woke up and I found it a bit exciting,'' she added with a sparkle in her eye.

There is something about trying something new. We encourage it in our children. We love to see them try new foods, leap into our arms, or dive into the water for the first time. They know it is important. That’s why they do it again and again while crying, “Watch me! Watch me!” They take a risk – and bathe in the happiness it brings.

Nietzsche proclaimed this as a basis of happiness. He advised us to step out  on the edge and take a chance. He urged us to do something different with our lives. "We need to break ourselves in two," he said. And then create an even greater self. He uses the story of a tight rope walker to illustrate his point.

In his story a wise man comes carrying a lit lantern during bright daylight into a village to show the people the light or the way to live. Just as he gathers a crowd and starts delivering his message a tightrope walker steps out of a high window in a building onto a tightrope. The crowd abandons the teacher for the excitement of the risk taker. The ropewalker falls to his death. The wise man smashes his light and runs to the body of the daring walker. He takes him in his arms and tells all those around that this is the message he came to deliver. This is the way one should live. The crowd doesn’t understand and disperses. The wise man says that he has come too early. People just don’t understand.

He wasn't suggesting we should all take up high-wire walking but that we need to become risk takers with our lives. We need to do something different with our lives.

One thing about never doing anything new or different: we limit our risks. And this makes us boring; boring to ourselves and boring to others. We may be comfortable but we are not very interesting or exciting. We can watch TV day in and day out. We can establish daily routines that take all decision making out of our daily life. We can build walls around us physically and mentally. We can stop changing. We stop seeing new things or thinking new thoughts.  We become dead before we really die.

Technological innovations seem to demand acceptance of change today. It constantly asks us to throw aside what we do know, and at times, to throw away the way we act. Our society has changed our way of communicating, or learning, or booking airline tickets, or of reading a book, magazine or newspaper. It has changed the way we get cash from a bank, find a recipe for dinner, find our way around town, or find our way about the country. Sometimes change seems to be the only thing that now stays constant .

I must admit it is a bit of a risk to throw away all of the previously learned methods of negotiating our neighborhood, community or world. Our only other choice seems to be to withdraw. Stop taking risks; find comfort in an ever decreasing circle of friends, family, knowledge and geography. Now that doesn’t sound very good. At least it doesn’t to me.

Looks like Nietzsche's advice about stepping out on the tightrope has now become a necessity. Technology demands it. Some older folks deny the change. They become reclusive and very articulate in criticizing all things large and small.

Best to risk a little; time to sign up for a class at the community college or community center. Learn something different. See something new or hear something strange. Then perhaps we can combine a bit of the old with the new. We can sit down in our rocking chair with our laptop  or tablet and plan our next adventure.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.






Follow Retirement Talk on Facebook: on Facebook