Which is it going to be, or rather, which would I prefer. There is no simple answer; it’s complicated. Everything about life is and certainly about mine. Who ever heard of someone who spent his entire life running about exhaustively, like some rabies-maddened dog? Unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Don’t ever ask me what I did before retirement. I remember telling my story to someone, who somewhere, less than halfway through my tale, started to slowly shake his head in disbelief, then to interrupt me and say, “Okay, I’m sorry I asked. It is none of my business what you did before. Instead I should have asked you how you keep busy now, and what your plans are for the future.”
He was right. I was probably boring the crap out of him, but he was polite about it. Who cares what anyone did or omitted to do in his or her past? It should not really matter in any case. When dealing with old people you may assume they have seen a thing or two. They have lived, laughed, suffered and now they are ready to do some more stuff, perhaps get creative, or just reflect and hang out with like-minded people.
Like-mindedness is important. We all want everyone to agree with us, or am I different in that respect? That brings me back to the question; drive or be driven?
Personally, I am ready to be driven — not necessarily by my wife, but by either a professional driver or an automaton. Seated on the backseat I will direct the “driver” where to go, while I enjoy the scenery. I know that must be pleasant, ‘cause she is always remarking on the beauty of nature while I am trying to concentrate on staying on my side of the road. Our new little car is pretty good at that, but I still have to do some of the work, particularly, when we come to traffic lights and four-way stops. A warning to all of you; watch out for a little silver Kia Niro. Its driver may be somewhat confused and forget to stop when it says STOP, or the light happens to be red. It’s not that I am colorblind — just effing old.
Speaking about being driven, why do I still feel compelled to do something useful at my old age. It drives me crazy, this irrepressible need to do, to make, to perform, to please. All my dogs need to do to get some action is to look at me with their soulful, pleading eyes, and up I get to offer my services — go for a walk or a drive, feed them, pet them or read them a bedtime story. The same with my wife. All she needs to do is call, and I come to do whatever she needs.
Fortunately, I rate reading difficult, serious books as being productive. Were it not for that, I would be endangering myself and my environment in my workshop — making stuff that nobody wants or needs. A table saw can be a formidable adversary.
So I spend most of my remaining time — all the time not occupied with coming to Lea or taking care of my dogs — reading stuff that’s hard to comprehend.
I want to give you three examples that I recommend. A caveat though, one has to be driven to read this stuff. First of all there is “The Essential Chomsky,” a collection of essays by Noam Chomsky, one of the most significant challengers of unjust power and the foremost gadfly of the nation’s national conscience. Born in 1928, this linguist, philosopher, historian and social critic is still at it at the age of 92. I wonder, what drives him? The book I have just finished reading is “Until the End of Time” by Brian Greene, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and best-selling author. He is a professor at Columbia University and proponent of string theory that goes a long way in explaining the fact that the exact position of subatomic particles cannot be observed. They appear to be in more than one place at a time. This phenomenon is referred to as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. A little like your car keys — when you look for them they are not in the place you last left them. Brian Greene is also a great philosopher and postulates that all life is evanescent and ephemeral, which are “learned” words for fleeting and temporary.
And finally, “America: The Farewell Tour” by Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent, who reported from conflicts and wars in Central America, Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. He is also an ordained Presbyterian minister and an outspoken social critic. According to him our society is unraveling as a result of undiscriminating commercialism. It overwhelms social values and impoverishes the majority of the population. Poverty, addiction, gluttony and gambling spread hopelessly like epidemics, according to Chris Hedges.