The Illusion of Retirement

Builds Upon: The Bicycle and the Chasm

Retirement is a way of postponing life until it’s nearly passed us by.
Someday, we tell ourselves, we’ll get around to living as a free people rather than slaves.

Retirement is an excuse to justify spending all our time laboring away through our most valuable years trying to please an impersonal mass society. In return we get left with the dregs of our waning time and vitality when we are no longer sufficiently useful.
We never ask: if our time and energy is no longer useful to an employer, how useful is it even to us? What were we doing when we were sitting on our best temporal real estate?

It’s something we work towards because it seems worthy to everyone around us. To not work towards it invites social censure.

We fool ourselves into thinking that we can spend decades laboring away and then one day walk away and behave like none of it ever happened. We don’t realize that those decades leave their imprint.
Without bosses to tell us what to do, we will do nothing.
A real self takes a lifetime of personal work to develop. A lifetime spent doing the work of others leaves us atrophied and weaker than a child, devoid of self-motivation, imagination, and direction.
Consider a familiar pattern for those who retire in our own time:
They quickly lose all purpose without a social role to give them identity, disappear into a lonely house, and then die within two years once their already weak will to live has dissipated.
We’re fooling ourselves if we think a life of hard purposeless labor leads anywhere else.

As children someone eventually had to tell us that we will all eventually die. But as adults a belief in retirement gives a false feeling of distance from our deaths. So long as we march towards a distant, illusory paradise, we can let the present day get away from us and tell ourselves we’re headed for someplace greater and more golden in the long run.

We forget that for every moment we live, the probability of us being alive for another moment decreases. It is a mistake to place too generous of a sacrifice on the altar of tomorrow.
Not only might our bodies or minds be destroyed across all those years. A life’s savings can evaporate in an instant.

If offered thirty years of life in freedom, we would opt instead for a centuries’ long life of constant servitude.

Yet in thirty years, the free person infinitely outlives the slave.

Our time alive is but a number. Our perception of time is our true span of existence.
Has not an ancient person who looks back on life as a tarnished collection of repetitious events lived but the span of an infant?
Has not an infant who lives a single day in exploration and wonder lived forever?

Ironically, giving in to our cowardice and craving for life yields death.
Only when we face death and have a relationship with death in our every day lives is our time alive prolonged.

Truly, how old is a retiring worker who only ever had two weeks vacation per year? Still in their late teens?

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2 responses to “The Illusion of Retirement

  1. Absolutely! It was only when I became conscious of the illusion of long life and ‘tomorrow’ that I began to honor here and now. Do I really want to spend my days satisfying others’ need for ‘company in misery’ or do I want to really live?

    Beautiful post!

  2. “Consider a familiar pattern for those who retire in our own time:
    They quickly lose all purpose without a social role to give them identity, disappear into a lonely house, and then die within two years once their already weak will to live has dissipated.
    We’re fooling ourselves if we think a life of hard purposeless labor leads anywhere else.”

    In others, the restlessness is so ingrained that they drag their creaky old bones to various theaters of ‘volunteer work’. Civil society loves nothing more than to honor such ghosts with a pat on the back.

    Nice article.

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