RETIRE AND EXPIRE OR INSPIRE ?
By Arun Babani
Most people, especially men are mortally afraid to retire and for obvious reasons. That gnawing fear of empty space. So they seek extensions, failing which, they take up part time jobs, or start learning to sing and dance or join yoga or country clubs or, as a last resort, enroll in a senior citizens group where they discuss the morning newspaper or the previous day’s neighborhood brawls!
An insurance Ad states ‘Plan for an early retirement, from work but not from life!’ To have a busy schedule for fifty years and then to stop that routine suddenly one fine morning, obviously seems scary and throws you out of gear. An M.D of a company, who had everything he could imagine, but was the first to reach his establishment every morning and the last to leave, was asked why? And he replied curtly, “I’m not doing this for money any more; I’m doing this to keep alive, to keep sane, to keep fit.”
Work, to begin with, is survival, later it may perhaps become a form of worship but ultimately if one can’t gracefully bow out of it, it appears to become a self created prison that one has fallen in love with and can’t grow out of. Perhaps once a person has fulfilled all the promises he made to oneself, is on the top step of the ladder, certain blankness or an embarrassment may strike him. What next from here? And more importantly, what for? This blank space is devoid of hope which is the fuel for life. With targets met, hope becomes redundant. So the question of living any more, the purpose of prolonging the journey after getting off at the destination seems foolish. But one usually refuses the option of getting off the ladder, believing in the misguided notion that to be busy is same as to be healthy, to be lively. This is because one fears one’s own extinction, one’s own end. And so one keeps on repeating the past in the fear of future, one prefers the known cage to an unknown sky. One remains juvenile, imprisoned, cut-off.
To retire from active social and family life one needs a certain degree of maturity along with a love for inquiry into life and its existential nature. If a person has a certain wonder about life, a liking for philosophical questions then one can engage in this self discovery and grow within. For this kind of interest one needs to be carefree about petty matters that become fetters on this path of self discovery. For this inquiry and empty space and a freedom from a calculator is of supreme importance. And then luckily if one can connect to the higher forces it is of great joy and tremendous value. One begins to live a sane and healthy life and begins to feel the lightness of being that comes with freedom from worries and fears.
One must retire as soon as one has risen above needs and wants. Work is of great value, financially as well as emotionally but there are greater values and superior truths that become available only after one gets freedom from routine and busyness. Retirement can be a flight out of a dehumanizing cage, a long overdue break from being a machine and an inspiring and fascinating call from the valley of Gods.