Amid the seasonal spate of ER-frustration posts ("Why, harrumph, I couldn't possibly retire on less than $$$/year!"
), my attention was redirected to one of Khan's old threads:
I've just finished reading Ronald Manheimer's "A Map To The End Of Time", which is recommended in the bibliography of "What Color is Your Parachute For Retirement". I'm not the type
of nuclear-engineer geek
who reads philosophy books for entertainment, but Bolles referenced it because Manheimer talks with old people. Good enough for me.
Manheimer wanders a lot and cheats a little. Some of the characters are composites and many of his settings are contrived. He assumes that the reader can at least recognize the philosophers' names (if not their always their philosophies) and his "conversations" are usually embellished beyond the interview transcripts. He doesn't hesitate to use the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" feel-good approach to persuasion. However he manages to get across the actual words of his interviewees and their lessons that they hope they have learned.
I may have missed most of Manehimer's points. My typical view of a philosophy of life is "Sex, drugs, and rock & roll!!" but I had decided to give this book 30 or 40 pages before dumping it on the library donation pile. (Yes, I actually paid real money for this book-- partially because I'm not poor-- but mostly because I'm frugal and qualified my purchase for Amazon's free shipping.)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was sucked into the dialogue and turning the pages to see how the chapters came out. So maybe I didn't miss much after all.
Oddly enough amid the current doom & gloom environment, none of these elderly felt that they'd retired to lives of quiet
desperation. In fact, to me the retirees seemed much more comfortable in their lives than even the professional philosopher was in his life, let alone in his career. Having survived the Depression and WWII, they were quietly amused at Manheimer's fears & concerns. Admittedly Manheimer was dealing with the ultimate self-selecting survivor bias. However there were far fewer grumpy geezers than you would expect from senior centers & free seminars.
These elders encountered Manehimer while they were searching for their own answers. Many of them had suffered and were still suffering. None of them had found peace easily. All of them felt, to some extent, that they'd failed in a part of their lives or that they wanted a do-over. One man freely acknowledged that he enjoyed being a Big Brother because he could try to do a better job with the kids than he'd done with his own kids. (Too much work & travel.) Others still felt that they hadn't completed whatever it was they found missing.
A recurring theme was "It all works out OK." Other interesting statements were "You'll never find everything that you're looking for, let alone manage to acquire it" along with "You'll never find the thing that makes you complete-- you'll just learn to live without it."
But the lesson that resonated with me-- and with Khan-- is that these retirees had the life, the experience, and (finally) the time to be
instead of to "do". They had learned to contemplate life from a peaceful perspective (introspective?) instead of feeling compelled to rush out and strive for more. They were still pursuing happiness but they were finding it within themselves instead of looking to the latest "accomplishment" or "experience". Once they stopped running around in search of it, they settled down to find that they'd had it all along.
I've enjoyed six years of ER to be able to appreciate this wisdom of "be" instead of "do". Perhaps we need to change the perpetual ER question to "Whaddya gonna BE
To those who are still thinking "Well, harrumph, I couldn't possibly ER because..." or "You ERs are only managing to do it because you're depriving yourselves of..." my advice would be: Stop protesting and take a break. Find out for yourself. Get some time off work (a sabbatical or even just a few weeks) and try to invent your ER lifestyle. Don't rush around with a "To Do" list, but rather think about who you'll be
in ER. Try to be that early retiree. Re-invent yourself. If it doesn't feel right, then tinker with it until the changes make it better.
When (if?) you go back to work, I suspect you'll find that many of those ER objections have melted away. If (for some unexplained reason) they haven't been resolved and you're happier back at work, then you're not ready to ER yet-- feel free to keep working!
Yeah, you might get a lot of your questions answered on this board, but you won't find what you're seeking-- let alone understand it-- until you try it for yourself. And that's what they told Manheimer, too.
I'm finished with my copy of the book and I'm not going to hang on to it. If you can't find it at your local library and you want mine, please let me know.