Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chet Raymo, “Retirement”

by Chet Raymo

    "Farewell, thou busy world! And may
    We never meet again!
    Here I can eat and sleep and pray,
    And do more good in one short day
    Than he who his whole age outwears
    Upon the most conspicuous theatres,
    Where naught but vanity and vice do reign."

"The first verse from a poem called "The Retirement" by Charles Cotton (1630-1687), a friend of Izaak Walton, about his private fishing retreat on the river Dove. The poem was incorporated into Walton's "The Compleat Angler." And what do I make of it, now, in retirement? All these hours on hand to eat, sleep and pray all I want? "Good God! How sweet are all things here!" enthuses Cotton, "How beautiful the fields appear!...How happy here's our leisure!...How innocent our pleasure!" Yes? No?

As I've mentioned, I've been rummaging lately in the junk room upstairs, which has been accumulating the intellectual detritus of my life for 50 years. It seems from the accumulated evidence that I always had sufficient hours on hand to eat, sleep and pray, if by prayer one means paying attention. I have mixed feelings about retirement. On the one hand I have all these hours of the day to use as I want, to read and walk and meditate. On the other hand, I miss the stimulation of the unending buzz. It is clear as I rummage through the upstairs archive that I got more done that was spiritually and intellectually rewarding while juggling what in effect were three full-time jobs than I do now without a care in the world.
    "How calm and quiet a delight
    Is it, alone
    To read and meditate and write,
    By none offended and offending none!
    To walk, ride, sit, or sleep at one's own ease;
    And, pleasing a man's self, none other to displease."

And yet, and yet. Where is the rush and dither of creativity, the frenzy of fantasy and foolishness, the clash and clamor of happenstance? Here I sit now, on the rocking-chair porch of life, with no one but myself to please, grateful for those of you who stop by to visit these increasingly self-indulgent ramblings. Nudge me. Keep me awake. I feel a nap coming on.”

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