July 31, 2017

Two Simple Quotes About Life To Ponder


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.



21 comments:

  1. I agree with both your quotes.One also sort of informs the other.When we first retired I thought making life really interesting and living it full out meant being VERY BUSY and traveling a WHOLE LOT. As we mellowed into OUR retirement journey, it turns out we don't LIKE being away from home for more than about 10 days.We enjoy local activities a whole lot! Going to the movie theater is a thrill, since we never really had time to do that when we both worked! We have hobbies to enrich our daily lives,I paint, and study astrology, Ken gardens and loves to fix stuff around the house. We're homebodies on one hand, and it gives us great joy to have the freedom to be in our home so much now! But we also pepper our days/months/years with trips and activities that enrich us in mind body and spirit: Library visits, lunches at ethnic restaurants, walks in the riparian park, playing games with friends!!!! Bike rides at Tempe Town Lake,discussion groups, volunteering, Birding will be a new hobby for me, and Ken is studying guitar. Some beach trips and a dive trip are on the agenda. The richness of life is not in things, that's for sure! Freedom and the ability to choose the experiences we love, with all this time we have, are the most important part of a happy life for us, in retirement. Life is so large, many many hobbies, activities and experiences to choose from..and sometimes laying down at 1 PM on the couch with a good book is one of them!!!!

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    1. Do you mean things like challenging rounds of Mexican Train? !!!

      You and Ken have a great mix of in and out-out house activities. They keep you energized and vital, and it shows.

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  2. I'm reminded of a quote that I aspire to - Do life so life doesn't do me.

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    1. I have not read that quote before, but I like it.

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  3. I find myself buying and, I guess, consuming a lot lately, but not for ourselves. Like most we have more than enough to keep ourselves sustained, and buy mostly to just replenish. But I am buying a lot and scouting out all sorts of deals for one of our local non-profits, a women's shelter. We just dropped off 14 bags of school supplies as well as a # of backpacks for the children of the women at the shelter, which is unfortunately at capacity (our school year starts this week in TN). I have a good time finding the best deals I can for them, and perhaps it satiates any need to consume for ourselves. Since they need all kinds of personal products for the ladies as well as food products for their pantry, I have a great time securing all the "stuff" I can for them from the dollar stores, our Krogers, and even Staples (I find a lot for the office staff of the shelter). Sometimes consuming at our 'advanced" ages can be a good thing, I guess.

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    1. Absolutely. You're not consuming at all, you are serving others. I'd be hard pressed to think of a better use of your talents and interests right now at the start of the school year.

      I hope your example inspires others.

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  4. A bit of a rant here...[I will be 70 in January - retired 2 years ago]
    When I started investigating retirement (beyond the financial side) all I seemed to find was mostly people saying to have a "successful or meaningful retirement" I had to be just as busy as when I was working. I had to find my non-work passion and pursue it fully.

    I came away thinking "what a load of crap". I have worked pretty hard since 18 and the last thing I wanted to do was to be judged as not successful in retirement if I was not so busy being "fulfilled".

    So I agree with the first quote and am in the [slow] process of divesting stuff but totally disagree with the second one by Simone.

    I cry "bullstuff" on that idea.

    I am busy with things, travel, and volunteer but advancing and growing - not so sure I care.

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    1. I think you are assuming too narrow a definition of advancing and growing. You are traveling and volunteering, probably more so than when you were working because you have more control of your time. Those activities certainly fit my idea of advancing. You are turning something you now have more of (time) into something you enjoy and something that helps others. That, Bob, is growth.

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    2. I know what Bob means. In my first 2 years of retirement it still felt goal-oriented, like work.I had to "work" at being successfully retired! It's a mind set I think.. and I have released it.I do read some blogs of people who are still VERY goal oriented and a bit too busy for my own inclinations, but that doesn't feel like "work" to them! Sooo-- all these different ways to be retired..all awesome because we have FREEDOM to choose!!!

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    3. I'm late to the conversation, but I was thinking along these lines myself this morning, when I awakened and thought that I'm now starting my 5th year in retirement. Still lying in bed (5 a.m.) I asked myself "what have I accomplished or done?" I confess that my first reaction was something like alarm, because I thought, "FOUR years and what have I DONE. I haven't done ENOUGH--or as much as I expected?" I calmed down enough to ask myself, "WHERE is this critical, quantitatively(and somewhat qualitatively) judging voice coming from." I think its origins arise directly from the much instilled work ethic, that being productive and goal oriented is the optimum way to exist. That obviously gets carried into retirement. I actually did start off that way, spending an entire academic term trudging dutifully through an online graduate course for credit in a subject I thought I'd enjoy. I did enjoy the subject, made an "A," but decided I hated the structure, deadlines, and pressure. All I was doing was re-creating in retirement what I had retired and said good riddance to! I've also chucked out my "you MUST read these classic books (before you die) book list," (Moby Dick, Dr. Zhivago, War & Peace, all of Faulkner). I MAY still read these books, as I'm an avid reader, but must do's again are just re-creating the structures of work (or school!). So, I'm working on quieting my judgmental voice, not exactly doing one day or week at a time, as I still plan major trips and absolutely required must do's (dentist, car maintenance etc), but being content with a peaceful existence.

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    4. I have had many of the same thoughts over the years. One time when I was concerned I wasn't learning something new I signed up for the Great Courses streaming service. Hundreds of different subjects are covered.

      I decided to always be involved with at least one of them. That lasted about 9 months. Then, I realized I was taking the courses because I thought I should, not because I was really motivated by the courses. Now, I will go through a course on occasion, but quick to stop if my interest isn't piqued.

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  5. Hey Bob! You are quoting two of my favorites! Duane Elgin and Jimmy Buffett! I agree that Duane has been inspiring thousands of us since his book(s) have been out and he was the very first I read about living a more sustainable life. And Jimmy, what can I say? His wisdom carries us forward with a good melody. I agree the stuff isn't at all necessary for a good life. Hopefully we learn that early on and then make the best of the time we have left. ~Kathy

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    1. A few years ago I wrote a post that claimed all I need to know I learned from Jimmy Buffett. Only slightly tongue in check, his lyrics are much more profound than many folks give him credit for.

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  6. I don't know about Jimmy Buffet but I would say the same thing about Bob Dylan, especially before he turned "electric" in the 70s. My book shelf has about 10% of the books it once had. I soon realized that I kept them as proof that I read. (ha). The shelves are now filled with small memorabilia items of my retirement years (going on 18 yrs now). It has been quite a journey so far...

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    1. I have gone from two full bookcases in my office to one that is mostly filled with vintage radios I am restoring. For a lifelong reader it is always hard to give away a book, but time and interests move on. As you say, it has been quite a journey so far.

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  7. Like Bob, I agree with #1; not so much with #2. Some people just want to relax and enjoy life ... and there's nothing wrong with that.

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    1. I understand, Tom, but, I have never met a retiree who is comfortable just relaxing. Doing anything, other than warming the seat of a rocker, can be considered advancing. When work ends, virtually all of us do something with the freedom to pursue interests, whatever that means.

      It is interesting how this post has shown me that the terms advancing or growing convey a particular meaning: one of active exploration and involvement in learning or helping society. Maybe this deserves its own post since I perceived those words to mean almost anything other than sitting in front of the TV all day. My perception apparently isn't universally shared. That might be worth exploring.

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  8. Hi Bob,

    Definitely agree with #1, and I wish I had started on it way before I retired. Maybe it takes a bit of living to understand that the experiences of life matter more than the things, but I think that's only if you have the things you need to be comfortable. Spent most of the years before retiring doing without one necessity or another, so it feels good in retirement not to have to be doing that.

    IMHO, #2 depends on how you define growing and advancing. Provided we each get to define it for ourselves, I would agree.

    I'd like to add a 3rd quote, an old saying "Keep your eyes on the donut, not the hole." Even if you have serious health issues, financial hardship, or any other serious problem, I learned from other cultures (particularly the Latin one) that that doesn't have to stop you from celebrating the joy in life. I remind myself of another wise man's thought that no matter what is taken away from us, we never lose the ability to choose how we will respond to life's ups and downs.

    Just my two cents.

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    1. As I noted in my comment to Tom, yes, a person's definition of advancing and growing helps determine your reaction to that second quote. I know some retirees who would say almost every moment of your day should be filled with activities and learning. Others are more contemplative in nature; time spent on a walk in the woods, watching birds feed, or reading a book that provokes emotions qualifies.

      Your additional quote is excellent. The glass half full approach serves us well.

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  9. During my working years, and especially in the final four years, I was always way too busy. Being excessively busy was the ethos of my workplace. Now that I have retired (one month and eight days and counting), I want to learn to take life at a slower, more contemplative pace. I like to linger over coffee while reading when I get up in the morning, and wander through the garden just looking at it (not "doing" anything). That said, the physical tasks of moving have been gruelling, and I have many projects and activities that I am looking forward to once we are a little more settled. My intention is to fully engage with life, but not at the frenetic pace that characterized my work life.

    Jude

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    1. One month and 8 days, but who's counting?

      My working days were a blur of travel or at-home office work to do everything to keep the business functioning. I haven't missed that pressure for 17 years and counting.

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