Just this morning I had a conversation about retirement with a neighbor who is a very good friend of mine. “How’s retirement going for you?” he asked. “A lot better,” I answered.
And It has.
Fact is: up until recently, I’ve had a hard time finding my legs in this new phase of my life. With my family not exactly on board with my decision to leave teaching, I’ve experienced some discomfort and second-guessing on my part.
And then too there’s the element that since retiring (five years ago), I haven’t really left the classroom. I taught in a Latin American Studies Program in Costa Rica for several semesters. And then I did some filling-in for a couple of terms at Berea College on behalf of a colleague who had fallen ill. Last year at this time I taught a course there called “Poverty and Social Justice.” (And that was nice, since it brought my number of years teaching at Berea to exactly 40.)
The bottom line is that since my retirement, I’ve been out of the saddle for only two semesters – other than my time spent traveling.
And the traveling has been extensive. I’ve been all over the map – to Mexico (two summers), Cuba (three weeks), India (five months), South Africa (six months), and Italy (twice for three weeks at a time) – and then those months in Costa Rica I mentioned.
It was in South Africa that I started my blog. And that’s been fun – hundreds of entries published. A hundred and twenty-nine of them have appeared in OpEdNews – an alternative on-line news source I recommend to everyone. And over the past year or so some of those pieces have crept into the Lexington Herald-Leader about every four to six weeks.
In India I discovered yoga, weight lifting and Vipassana meditation. (See my reflections on Vipassana here.) Yes, I had been meditating twice a day since 1998. But the method I learned in India challenged so much of what I had been doing – moved it to a deeper level. And that started me on the road to rethinking everything about the spirituality and theology I’ve developed over my 75 years of life.
The works of Ken Wilber, A Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson, and Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God have all played a part in that. Walsch’s three-volume work has been especially influential; I’m finishing its close reading for the second time. In many ways it has turned my world upside down. It has surprised me at some turns, confirmed what I’ve long believed at others, and simply evoked my denial-reflex at still others. In every case Conversations with God has caused me to wrestle with questions I thought long since resolved. Very exciting!
My latest project has been writing a study-guide for Pope Francis’ new encyclical. The 150 page book will be ready for distribution in about two weeks. That’s exciting for me since my approach to Laudato Si’ is to understand it in the context of Latin American history and liberation theology. Laudato Si’ is terrific, as is Evangelii Gaudium. Francis is asking us, I’m arguing, to re-think not only climate change, but capitalism, American history, theology, and understandings of church.
Everything I’ve just mentioned has led me to become more comfortable with retirement. At times lately I find myself thinking that life for me has turned more interesting, engaging and productive than ever before in its new stage.
And I don’t think that’s true only for me. I mean: what about you? Don’t you think that these are especially exciting, extraordinarily creative, and unusually challenging times? As I see them, they are nearly as exciting and promising as the 1960s, which I was so blessed to live through.
There’s something going on in the world. The positive forces of evolution are aligning on one side and becoming not only more vociferous, but are finding more receptive audiences everywhere. And by the same token, the less-evolved opponents of those positive forces are engaged in a death-struggle they are bound eventually to lose.
More about that next time . . .