[With this post I’m beginning a new series of what I’ve dubbed “cozy essays”]
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” — L.P. Harteley
The thing about retirement is that you realize your past is longer than your future. Inevitably you wonder how you got here, to this point, this day in the now. What shaped you? If you’re a writer, you reach the age where memoir and autobiography take on new appeal. To the philosopher, it presents a new line of thought and query. But how can any memoir or autobiography not be philosophical? Philosophy and memoir are intertwined.
Questions. For instance, what is friendship? I’ve never had a lot of close friends, other than my wife and son. I was close to my wife’s mom and dad, but they’ve both passed on. There are a number of people with whom I share interests in technology or photography but only one who is a close friend. I’ve only ever had one writing friend. My family doc says I should have at least seven social encounters a month. That’s a higher quota than I can manage.
I’m not a misanthrope. I often like being around other people and enjoy their company, but I’m not good at maintaining chitchat for extended periods of time. I don’t follow sports. I barely follow broadcast news. I’m not so much cynical as skeptical. News stories are shallow, often misleading.
Skepticism prevents me from embracing any kind of spiritual path, as I did when I was younger and naive. I agree with Aristotle that everything there is is contained in nature. I’m scientifically inclined. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs,” said Carl Sagan. And yet, my academic background is in the humanities and I take even my skepticism under advisement.
Retirement is a unnerving mirror. You look in it and see fading flesh, aging eyes, dwindling energy. It reflects reality. But not all of it. It doesn’t reflect back your mind.