We're only human
Education can help us only if it produces "whole men." The truly educated man is not a man who knows a bit of everything, not even the man who knows all the details of all subjects (if such a thing were possible): the "whole man," in fact, may have very little detailed knowledge of facts and theories...but he will be truly in touch with the centre. He will not be in doubt about his basic convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of his life. He may not be able to explain these matters in words, but the conduct of his life will show a certain sureness of touch which stems from his inner clarity.
― E.F. Schumacher
Good morning from a rather chilly Devon.
For a change, and rather unexpectedly, I feel rested.
Yesterday was a long day and took me straight back to my days in private practice (law) where I was in high gear, advising a multitude of stakeholders.
I can't complain: it's what I'm paid to do, but it feels increasingly the case, in these post-Covid19 times (we're by no means out the woods but everyone is desperate to get back to the good ol' days) that no one is remotely or even partially interested in the legal risk of doing something — if they are I'm not detecting it — and almost at any cost we're going to do that piece of business. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that my current employer is being cavalier or reckless but when, as in my case, you get brought in at the end of negotiations, it feels as if I'm meant to rubber-stamp the project and not, as I always will, point out the gaps, legal downside and overall risk/benefit.
But, hey, it's not my business and whilst I'll never compromise my professional standards, I do understand why sometimes you've just got to take a common-or-garden punt.
Apart from (or because of?) the legal hurly-burly, I'm aware of the way I'm now strung out physically, emotionally and psychologically. That's a far cry from the early days of Covid19 where I felt a deep connection to the centre of my soul. Partially, this was because I had less work but also a reflection of the fact that "the more beautiful question" (e.e. cummings) that hung in the air was how we might hold on to the slowness of the movement and seek for a better quality of life. Sadly, those reflections, let alone conversations, have gone squarely and unequivocally out the window; and I doubt they'll ever return, given how the economy is in the toilet.
But there's something else in play. I feel I've been robbed of the solemnity and closeness with my humanness. What do I mean? I feel that my body, mind and spirit has been turned inside out and I'm no longer at peace, as I once was. This is a combination of the inability to sit and do nothing, contemplate life and (in my case) spend vast tracts of time in nature. This then throws me back to the idea of retirement — which is very much on my mind not by dint of my age, but the fact that, generationally, it wasn't that long ago where people could retire aged 55-60. Looking at my little pot, I won't ever be retiring in the sense of being able to stop work and, well, not work! Of course I'm at fault for not saving enough, but raising and providing for my children has come always first but there's also the fact that the cost of living is such that you'd need a stonking great pot of cash to enjoy anything like the same standard of living as before. Am I worried? No, not really. I'm still putting away my allotted few %, as is my wife, and that's all I/we can do. But reflecting on our likely parlous state, absent a full or part-time job into our later years, it's at least another reason why I remain convinced that we'll have to radically change our lives — a massive downsize — if we want to a) not work into our 70s (and beyond), b) have the freedom to travel around the UK and c) have the time to enjoy life — what remains of it.
What I'm really trying to say, though, is that when you've built your whole life around work — particularly the employed version — it doesn't leave much room for anything else. And to my mind that's not only a design fault but, as harsh as it sounds, an abrogation of the need for us to make the most of our humanness not by dint of how much we've earnt, the jobs we've had, the titles we've worn so passionately, but how much we've lived all body, mind and spirit.
And save for a few periods in my life, a very few, I can't say that that's been my raison d'être.
I accept that what I'm trying to describe looks if not a bit pollyanna then not 'real' but then again, I remain convinced that there's a lot more to this life than working ourselves into an early grave. I mean, what happened to the creative instinct, working with our hands (as opposed to all this computer work) and doing something that brings us joy? I'm sure it wasn't my intention to design my inglorious career to erase all of those things but I can't be alone in thinking, is this it?
Enough of my lament. Today, thankfully, I've only got one video conference and, for the rest of the time, I'll be dutifully studying another set of arid terms and conditions that must have been written by someone who thought it fun to make things as hard as possible for the parties to do business. My job: to point out the things that will trip us up but I'm sure that when push comes to legal shove, it will be a case of saying "we can live with them". I'm glad that's not my call because I couldn't.
Anyhow, if you've read this far, it's that time again where me and Mr Alfie (the sprocker) are off for our daily constitutional. I wonder if the swifts will be around this morning? I've this feeling that they'll all have left.
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