Darlene and I have spent a couple of lovely days in Seville. I am learning about Spanish history—which is pretty bloody over all, but also has produced some incredible art and architecture. It is always amazing to me how we require a few days ‘off’ before we begin to unwind, relax and really ‘be’ on vacation. Having the Internet is a bit like cheating, but I am beginning to let go of other commitments for a bit and just take each day in stride.
We were having a conversation this afternoon about retirement. Darlene’s officially retired at the end of this month. She is torn between “getting clear about what she wants to do next” and just relaxing and allowing something new to appear. In reflecting on my own future, while I don’t intend to retire in the near term, I have begun to imagine what life will be like for me when I do officially retire my career.
I notice that there is a fear of idleness that I associate with retirement. This is not the same as staying busy. I am sure, based on my own experience and observing others, that there is never a problem filling time. Even vacations such as this one can become tiring with too much to do so that we’re worn out by the end of the day. Idleness has more to do with lack of purpose and direction, I think.
In Claiming Your Place at the Fire, Richard Leider speaks of the importance of purpose to keeping ourselves fully engaged and fully alive. I agree. He speaks of four powerful questions we can ask ourselves when we retire. They are:
- Who am I?
- Where do I belong?
- What is my purpose?
- Who do I want to spend time with?
These are important questions for anyone at any age. For the Baby Boomers, I think they are especially important. We have a combination of vitality, financial resources and vision that can have the last third of our lives make a difference. How we will choose to express ourselves remains to be seen. All indications suggest that millions of us are participating in myriad projects to restore a healthy environment and bring some level of social justice to the billions who are still awakening to a world that is integrated by technology while divided by faith.
Perhaps Leider’s four questions are what we need to ask on behalf of humanity as a whole, replacing “I” and “my” with “we” and “our”. Indeed, who are we and what is our purpose?
In his book Disclosing New Worlds, my teacher Fernando Flores speculated that the greatest challenge for mankind in coming years may be in creating a way of being that can reconcile the paradox between the autonymous individual and the fact of the undisputed ‘Oneness’ and total interconnectivity of humanity.