BIG GROVE TOWNSHIP — It’s a little crazy for a 66 year old male to make plans.
It would be easy to “go on the draw” as people I know have done. This framing comes from relatives and friends in Appalachia, where my father’s family came up, who found a way to collect a monthly payment from the government in the post-FDR era. It seems universal in American society to expect the rewards of a life of work and trouble in order to take it easy. Going on the draw has a subtext of relinquishing part of the self-reliance that has come to characterize being American.
There is plenty in society to engage our mind, heart and soul, without adding a layer to it. Social groups abound. Paid and volunteer work create human relationships. There’s shopping, movies and restaurants. Central to many are public libraries — one of the few remaining places with no expectation patrons have money. As much as I’d like to self-identify as a “retiree” and take advantage of all this, the feeling “I want,” as Saul Bellow aptly described it in Henderson the Rain King, nags at me. We may not know what we seek, but are always looking.
Is it hubris? Ecclesiastes instructs.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1, 2-4, King James)
A simple truth is I might die tonight.
I hope not.
When we live our bodies break down from use. We are broken through trauma, physical and emotional. What we need more than treatment for symptoms is healing. Such healing falls to the care of a network of family and friends who look after us when we are broken. Health care is so often more about family and friends, home remedies and rest, than the health care and health insurance which takes an increasing proportion of our income.
Once we accept the underlying fragility of the human condition, many make plans and that’s positive. Our lives have meaning only if we find it in useful, social activity. Once we cease engagement in life and society, the truth that we might die tonight is rendered moot.
We would be dead already.