Recently, I have been sorting through a few shelves of books in my office, deciding which ones to give away and which ones to re-read. While doing so, I stumbled across two quotes that prompted this post:
"Simplify the material side of our lives and enrich the nonmaterial side"
This is from well-known simplicity author, Duane Elgin. Over the years I have owned and enjoyed several of his books. Voluntary Simplicity was one of my first exposures to the topic of cutting back and reducing consumption. First published over 35 years ago, he has reissued this important work several times. Even after several re-reading of this book, I continue to find something to inspire me. This quote is a good example.
I haven't counted, but I would guess I have written at least 50 posts on the importance of focusing on the nonmaterial side of life during retirement. By the time we stop working, we have accumulated enough stuff to last for the rest of our life. Certainly, new clothes, a replacement automobile, a computer to replace the one that died....there are items we must buy, as needed, for the rest of our life. There are things we can afford that enrich our lives, like travel, gifts to adult children or grandkids, going back to school, or taking on a new hobby.
But, Duane's point is that stuff just for stuff's sake is what we can eliminate. In America, our culture makes every effort to convince us our lives aren't complete until we own the next trinket or toy. We won't be satisfied until we add ...fill in the blank....to our possessions.
His central point is not to eliminate everything that makes life joyful. Rather, it is to cut back by resisting the urge to buy and add to our stuff, just because we can, while bulking up on the things that make a life a satisfying journey.
"Life that is not growing and advancing makes living only not dying"
French writer and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, is the source of this intriguing quote. If she were still alive I am not sure how she would feel about this comparison, but her thought is not much different than Jimmy Buffett's, "I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead."
Both are saying the same thing: living less than a full life isn't much better than being dead. I'm not prepared to go quite that far. But, if the only way to define a life is by saying at least that person isn't dead, there should be a great sense of loss or missed opportunity.
Do you know any retirees who spend their precious gift of time as if it were endless, always putting off something today until tomorrow? Maybe even worse, are those who "kill time" just to make the clock move from the time they wake up until it is OK to climb back into bed.
Why? A serious health problem, a real financial hole they can't escape, a toxic relationship....there are reasons why someone would feel forced to endure a life that has little living in it Certainly, it is not fair to judge that type of existence.
For those who do have an option, promise yourself you will not live a watered-down life. We only have one shot at our time on earth (sorry, Shirley MacLaine). Make sure it is easy to tell the difference between living and not dying.