The most common question I was asked last year when people heard about my plans to quit work, drop out of society, and live on a mountain, was “But what will you do?”
My answer was either a) “Whatever I want!”; or b) “Absolutely nothing!”
After being 100% retired for nearly four months, I can honestly say that those two answers are the same exact thing. Allow me to explain…
I learned a new word the other day and I’d like to share it with you. It’s Latin and I’m not sure how to pronounce it (is it “Ah-shyum” or “Oh-tee-um”?) but it’s “Otium“. Click on the word and take a minute to read about it.
It’s a much better word than “retirement” isn’t it? “Retirement” always gave me images of a broke down horse that was too old to run being carted off to the glue factory. Any time I “retire” something, it goes in the back of a drawer or gets hauled off to the dump (depending on how big it is and if I have room for it).
Take a look at this tree. What do you notice? It is a young, slightly crooked, tree but it isn’t growing in a forest. There are mountains beyond and the sky is a beautiful shade of blue. The wildflowers are blooming and it’s a nice day. Focus on the tree for one solid minute and notice what happens inside your head. If you were in this picture, what would be your overwhelming urge? The answer you give could be a clue as to whether you can handle doing nothing.
Me? I can’t think of a better way to spend time than doing nothing. There are plenty of things that keep you from doing nothing but lately I’ve been whittling away at them until there aren’t any left.
If I were to list the top three things that keep us from doing nothing it would be something like this:
1) Job/career (I think 30 years of doing anything is plenty, but keeping at it to the grave is one of the saddest ways to waste a life that I can think of. Do you work to live or live to work?)
2) Family/kids (Marry someone with their own hobbies, interests and “inner life” – share everything you have with them but don’t completely “mind meld” into a single being. Have your kids as early in life as possible. When they leave home, do everything in your power to keep them from moving back in with you. When mismanaged, our kids’ lives become our lives, and who wants to live somebody else’s life?)
3) Technology (Here I’m talking about that phone in your pocket, your game console, your laptop/pad/tablet/PC, etc. – basically, if it needs to be plugged into the wall every so often, it’s almost certainly a tiny vampire sucking your life away especially if it has a screen. Science has proven that being connected makes us miserable and the more we are connected the more miserable we get.)
I’ve met quite a few folks that are physically incapable of being still. They tend to lack the ability to self-reflect, have lower self-awareness, and can’t grasp the concept of mindfulness. They are literally hyperactive children trapped in grown bodies. And they are becoming more common. Why is that?
Here’s one very well-thought-out theory. I think it’s spot-on. External forces, over the past two (three at the most) generations, while in the process of transforming ours into a Consumption-based Society, have “accelerated” our lives to the point that we’ve lost the ability to slow anything down. Admit it: going fast is fun. But if you can’t slow down (or stop entirely) you never notice any fine detail, you never let anything “soak in”, you never get a chance to process your own thoughts and experiences. Screw that. You can have your “acceleration”, I’ll just sit here on my mountain doing nothing!
Here’s another tree for you to meditate on. This one’s a little closer to my mountain. That horizon of stacked ridges is classic Appalachia for you and has its own calming effect on people. It is said that “People who live where they can see mountains are happier”. I have found that to be true.
Let me end this post by sharing the words of a wise man with you. This is a mantra of sorts to me. May it help you find what is important in your life.
“Tomorrow, makin’ a list of things to do
And when I wake up
I’m gonna cross off a few
There must be millions of reasons
To try and explain, you’re never through
When they give you twenty-four hours
Only so much a man can do
Tomorrow, made up my mind
Gonna get busy, come from behind
Today I’m staying right where I am
Break a few rules, make a few plans
There’s thousand of things
To keep you from doing what you wanna do
And if it isn’t this then it’s that
Back where it’s at, and you’re never through
There must be millions of reasons
Thousands of things, just to name a few
I’m gonna spend the rest of today
Makin’ a list of things to do
But I’ll do ’em all tomorrow
It can wait until tomorrow.”
– Joe Walsh, from the album “But Seriously Folks” 1978