As I approach retirement there has developed an undercurrent of change in my philosophical perspective of life, reality, and, most of all, what constitutes happiness. I had always felt a compulsion to stay informed of current events and in touch with the changing mores of society. But as many others have also experienced, there is a general sense of hopelessness and apathy about the ability of our civilization to overcome the scourge of war(s) and the tyranny of government. I am increasingly less compelled to devote a percentage of my day to watching the madness played out in the news media as it seems to be just a broken record repeating the same old tired song. How is my life impacted by all this negativity? Does choosing not to be aware of these circumstances and situations make me derelict? Do I have a duty as a concerned human being to subject myself to the constant barrage that has at it's core the inability of humans to peacefully coexist? Should I feel a compulsion to actively participate in some minisculel way to effect the change so sorely needed? Especially when I consider that just living a peaceful life myself and treating others as equals is not going to change the core problems our civilization faces.
So if I decide to "tune out" and withdraw from all the negativity am I failing my fellow human? Is it selfish to indulge oneself in books of poetry and communing with nature while remaining oblivious to the ongoing tragedies so many are faced with around the world? This is a troublesome issue for me as I clearly understand that this evolving attitude, if adopted by everyone, would certainly make the needed change in the world that less possible. These mixed emotions are hard to address as I struggle to reach a place that provides me lasting contentment.
How do you balance your position in life in respect to the needs of the world and your own selfish desires?
Yeah, Ed!!! Congrats on your upcoming retirement! You will soon have time to do all the stuff you do not now have time to do.
RE: So if I decide to "tune out" and withdraw from all the negativity am I failing my fellow humans?
YES!!! But so what?
If you find being selfish difficult, be self-interested.
You are easily the most interesting person you know!
In 1976, at 45, I "retired" from computer manufacturing and part-time unpaid political activity. I moved to San Francisco, intending to go to law school.
I found more rewarding things to do. Not economically rewarding, but personally rewarding. And for twenty years I did those things. They included political activity.
Good health makes retirement an enviable way to live.
I'm now 83 and living in a part of the SF Bay Area that's more affordable than SF, I am doing some of what you mention; I'm leaving some issues for younger folk to decide.
Did an early-in-life religion use the word "selfish" to influence your behavior?
My dad put his kids in Catholic schools and I heard that word often. They wanted control.
The word "self-interested" helped me adapt and I now use "selfish". It's easier to say.
Be self-interested if it helps.
Strega, thank you for the multiple opportunities you gave me.
...that Edmund Burke quote, "all that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing".
I sometimes find humor, if not perspective, when I turn folks' words around: All that is required for good to prevail is for evil folk to do nothing.
There's a social instinct in us to somehow benefit humanity.
If history proves anything, it proves that. However:
1. In abusive or violent homes this social instinct gets buried under hurt. If nothing happens that 'unburies' it and helps people recover from the hurt, everyone loses.
2. Religions that teach original sin and such are much like abusive or violent homes; their teachings bury this social instinct under hurt.
There is also an understandable despair over not being able to influence world events.
There is an understandable joy in having been able to influence events, especially when doing so interfered with folk who intended evil.
Taleb argues in favor something similar. According to his thesis the vast majority of news and current events are merely noise, which will only serve to distract from the signal through history. Therefore one should start by reading that which is the oldest, the things which have stood the test of time and have not become irrelevant. Thus, never read anything newer than 500 years.
I don't see humanity as anything terribly special or noble; its history and present show the savagery that it is capable of. I also never bought into the whole idea of an individual being responsible for the actions of a demographic or society as a whole; it smacks too much of the biblical "sons punished for transgressions of the father" thing.
I try to behave as fairly and honorably as i can, and look out for the people that I care about. While I try to stay informed on what is going on around the world, I neither feel responsible for the bad, nor take credit for the good.
I look at my actions in the world by the raindrop analogy. Each action I do is like a raindrop in a pond, the ripples moving outward effecting those around me. The 7 billion other people in the world are doing the same. I figure if the ripples I send out are positive, then I will have a positive effect on the tiny part of the pond around me. I'm not responsible for the behavior of the other 7 billion, each of them is responsible for themselves.
Ed, I recognize your dilemma. This is what I do. I help the people around me. This is where I can make a difference to the world. Sometimes I've been engaged in voluntary work such as in a homeless shelter or the mental health offices.
There is a woman who lives in our community who has not had a television in her home for over 25 years. She claims to be well adjusted and much happier as a result. The thing that gnaws at my conscious is that being unaware of what's going on in the world seems somehow irresponsible. I want to try and be less concerned with things outside my own sphere and concentrate on life at the local level. Helping neighbors, sharing food from my garden, etc. If something really huge does occur I'm sure I'll hear about it.
@Strega - your comments about interacting with others on a local level are so true and important. We often forget about how a few kind words can make a difference in someone else's life.
@Simon - at some point in time I hope to be in a position to help others locally through some sort of community service; my mom is very active in this respect and she seems to reap a lot of satisfaction through volunteer work.
You mentioned your compulsion to subject yourself to the constant barrage... and you mentioned tuning out and choosing to be unaware... Isn't there a middle ground? Can't you watch just enough to be informed without getting sucked into the 24/7 broken-record news vortex?
It's no wonder you have mixed emotions, and probably not just about this. You obviously are on the threshold of a major life transition. You have been in a life stage where people typically are concerned with building and growing a life and some sort of legacy - something that will be around after they are gone, whatever that means to the individual. Could be an invention, a building, a charitable foundation, writing a book, improvements in the lives of others, or having children of our own. Your transition is toward a life stage where you'll want to be able to look back and see your life meant something, feel like you gained some wisdom, and feel fulfilled. In other words, from a predominantly active role to a more reflective one. The transition is gradual; you are still in the active phase, but consider what you want to be able to reflect upon as you move toward the next stage. Remember, nobody ever looks back and says I wish I'd spent more time at the office.
As we progress through life's stages our values change. What's important at 20 may not be so important at 60. Take time to honestly re-examine what's important to you. There's no right or wrong answer to that; it's completely subjective. Happy, fulfilled people are the ones who spend most of their time and energy on what's most important to them.
Good job, reaching retirement. :) I'm 18 and by the time I get to the age of retirement, there probably won't be a retirement at all. I think staying informed is a good thing and I think you can make things a little better by helping out on a local level. There is so much that I'm not sure of doing right now so the feeling of focusing on selfish desires or the needs of the world is mutual between us. ^.^ We can't know what's going to happen in complicated situations such as war and there's never a simple solution. I think the best you can do is focus on doing work that is reasonable to your abilities and in a way that comforts you. We all wish to make a big impact but the people who do make big impacts in the world are almost always a fluke. Anything can spoil your plans, change your thinking, and/or ruin your passions. And so is this cruel and beautiful world.