Thursday, July 19, 2012

so i'm trying to figure out how to manage in this over-hundred type excessive heat, and i decided, first thing i've got to do is limit the number of times i go out in it. so i started out, stayed in a little more in the morning, still had to go out in it once or twice, and now i'm totally exhausted again. it presses against you. the car i'm driving has no air-con; even with the windows down, it presses on you. so i called my parents, who are a little better used to this retirement gig, not to mention the excessive heat gig, and they said, it's warm out there, 90's, but not too bad, a little more humid than usual. new mexico is dry, most all the time, making their walks fairly pleasant most all the time. they asked me about the allergies. that's another thing i won't miss, i told them. though i think that this year, everything, grass, ragweed, yew bushes, you name it, everything's fried.

but what really scares me is, the first time in my life, or at least for forty years or so, the feeling of having to find something to do. it's like a ghost, this specter, as my friend called it, the ghost that says, nothing is really worth it anyway. it's just all dust in the wind. you get out there, you make a career, you haul in money, you spend it, and what's it all for? it scares me to not quite know the answer. some people say, i do it all so i can spend a few weeks at the lake, looking out at some boats or going swimming; or, so that i can head into town and see the show. the first of those sounds better to me, but we're not going to any lake for a while; also, something deep down tells me there has to be more to it than that. one could live for the alcohol, or the party scene, or even for television, but all that has always been a bit hollow to me. i get there and i think, there's got to be more to it than this. my parents have a fairly limited routine; they both walk, or do some exercise; they go to the community center which is not far from their place; they have a bit of social interaction which keeps them going. and, they worry a lot about their kids and grandkids. they live for our calls. they worry harder than i do about whether the house sells, when we move, what's going on with the younger ones. i also, as a chronic worrier, find that if i didn't have so many problems on my plate at any one time, i'd have to go make more. kids are good for that; they'll bring problems, and lay the table with them. mi casa es to casa

yet when it comes to the abyss, i don't know what to tell them. one reposted an article that asked why we are all so obsessed about making a living. the article featured a quote by bucky fuller who said that rather than running around like chickens with our heads cut off we should just go back to school and learn more. similarly, on the radio this morning, someone was making this point: humans have technology to do all the work these days, so we can't really "employ" everyone the way we used to. yes, this is true, even when you take out the old, and the young, and the childcare sector, we have more workers than we have full-time jobs; full-time jobs are stuck at 40-hour weeks because companies can't afford health insurance for less than 40; because we can't let go of the 40-hour week, there are too many who are unemployed or underemployed, etc.

my solution to this is the twin oaks solution. i went to this commune once, twin oaks, and it had the whole thing figured out very well, i thought, and was committed to fairness on top of it. everyone should contribute to the welfare of the community, they thought, except the very old and the very young, and everyone should contribute the same amount. unpopular jobs, like garbage collection, should be worth more in terms of leisure time ( a garbage collector only had to work 20 hrs./wk, whereas the cook maybe 30); this was determined by what people wanted; some worked in the commune's factory making hammocks; some worked "off the grounds" and contributed their cash to the community. Nobody had to work 40; it just didn't work out that way. careful distribution of time gave people more leisure time and ensured there was no hostility between members of the community.

it's that last point that stuck with me over the years. on a grander scale we rarely notice that we don't really have to kill ourselves; social engineering could result in a more even distribution of the world's work; everybody should have time to read a book (at twin oaks, you saw people in hammocks, reading books, everywhere). i wonder if my kids will live in a world where someone has the audacity to suggest, approve and enact that bold kind of social engineering. we would all be better off. if the system had any downsides, i don't know what they were, maybe i could study europe for better examples. one, you have to have a steady supply of young people willing to sign up and do the work. another thing that appealed to me about the place was this: i often lament the fact that our young people can't just walk out the door (as i would, as a kid), have neighbors know them, be safe, have some territory to wander around, a woods, a creek that kind of stuff. most of all, have other kids who were also free and able to wander. today you see this in the smallest of towns, but not in ours, and not where we're going, and not in the city. twin oaks qualified here, because they were on limited land, but grew plenty of vegetables, and there were kids of all ages growing up there and playing with each other. did they stay, once they'd grown up? yes, sometimes, but not always. if people were crazy about that lifestyle, don't you think more of us would have it? i think maybe we lost it by accident, as a byproduct of a busier, more urban lifestyle, and if we had known what we were about to lose, we'd think twice about it. or recreate our living situations into more like the village lifestyle.

not that these people at twin oaks really knew what to wake up for. some were reading marx's manifesto or other wild or very academic things; some doubtless spent their extra leisure on video games or twiddling their toes. i myself have been retired less than three weeks and already i'm experiencing fear of not knowing how to spend it. write my novel, fast, while i still have my faculties. pack, quick, before we move to lubbock. tear up old clothes for my quilt; finish my poetry book; do some of this other stuff that has been on my list for a while. what scares me though is that the list is a little limited, and that it doesn't always get me out of my chair. one of my grown kids, on his way to doing some construction in the 100 plus heat, gave me a look, and i could have sworn it was, is this what there is to life? well, there's more, at least i think there's more. but i just threw away a couple of hundred pounds of esl career that might suggest otherwise.

my conclusion is: this whole career thing is a bit overrated. the sum total of books and media out there: maybe those are overrated too. kids are good, because they give you a steady supply of new things to worry about. social engineering is very useful, potentially, but it would start with free health care. everybody should contribute; i don't have a problem with that. there is time in this world to do what you really love, and playing music comes to mind here, but you have to figure out what that is, and get to it. labov once said, life is figuring out how to do what you really love, and get someone else to pay you for it. i agree with him, but i'm still working out the details...

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