The Desire to be Disabled and the Loss of Meaning

 

AcediaFor the life of me I cannot figure out why anyone would want to be disabled. I am among the accursed numbers of those unable to work, having been felled seven years ago after a nearly fifty-year fight with rheumatoid arthritis. (Thankfully, my law firm provided disability insurance, which keeps me off the government dole.) At the risk of singing my own praises, I have willingly submitted to being a guinea pig for a host of treatments, some of which have potentially deadly side effects (a duel at dawn with anyone who pities me). I did this because I needed not merely to feed my family, but because work, properly understood, offers a sense of purpose which keeps the Eternal Footman at bay. But the disease finally won the day. I am a lawyer by trade, and one little-known reality is that practicing law is highly demanding, not only mentally, but physically. I never really enjoyed my chosen occupation. Fighting for a living, especially trivial battles like petty arguments and personally insulting rhetoric, will tax the most patient of men. But the intellectual work was rewarding. I miss that.

These past few years, then, have not always been a joy. Yes, I have a wonderful life with my loving wife, devoted children (even though they call me “Old Guy”), and two fantastic granddaughters. But work is an essential need of man: Not only as a means of material production, but as a spiritual and psychological route towards acquiring virtue. Plus, while I don’t know whether there are statistics to back this up, from personal experience with others forced into early retirement, life expectancy drops when work comes to an end.

Why, then, are the Social Security Disability rolls growing at incomprehensible rates? We live in an extraordinarily safe world. Modern medicine does much more than keep us alive. It allows us to stay productive through illnesses that, just a few short years ago, would have quickly knocked us out of the game. As for the risks in life, my new car has eleven airbags and enough safety technology to ward offer nearly every danger. I’m safer in my car than nearly anywhere else. So what is it about work that has so many seeking an excuse to run away? Why would anyone want to be disabled?

Not long ago, being disabled was a kind of defeat, considered shameful even by those who were truly sick or injured. My dad and my father-in-law continued to work virtually until the day they died, so groomed were they in the ethic of toil as essential to a good life. Although bedridden, my dad continue to make telephone sales calls and my father-in-law still did the books for his small business. For them, there was a spiritual connection in work. It’s not that they believed work to be the sole end of life. They simply understood that there is no inalienable right to call it quits before the bell tolls.

But that steely-eyed view of work has greatly weakened in the present age. The causes are many. The nanny state, which rewards the lazy with the fruits of the laborers, is the most frequently cited reason for the increased welfare rolls (and SSD is welfare, even for the truly lame). Yet that alone seems too superficial. Instead, the root of the problem is more a shift in attitude away from the idea of self-sufficiency as the true essence of freedom and toward an ethic that sees freedom from life’s troubles as the summum bonum. As Patrick Deneen explains in Ethika Politika, there is today a vision of liberty as liberation from toil. Addressing “The Life of Julia,” a political advertisement for the reelection of Barack Obama in which Julia is coddled from birth to death by the glorious state, he writes:

It turns out that the real problem is liberty itself—especially a vision of liberty unaccompanied by concrete duties and responsibilities to one another, whose ideal is abstract relationships increasingly and ever-more comprehensively mediated through the State. Because for Julia ( and the denizen of the modern liberal state) our truest liberty is achieved when it protects us from any particular obligations, responsibilities, and duties—a condition best guaranteed by the abstract relationships mediated through the modern nation state.

But what has brought about the notion that life should be free from effort, and that we have some fundamental right to be relieved of all burdens, especially that of work? Although the lazy will always be with us, the phenomenon cannot be explained solely by a tendency towards laggardness. At a deeper level, there seems to be a modern lurch towards sloth. Or perhaps the better term is acedia, which monks refer to as “the noonday devil” who saps spiritual energy and with it, as R. J. Snell writes in his book Acedia and Its Discontents, sinks the sufferer into a world emptied of meaning. Work loses its point as the person beset by acedia seeks escape from the world of demands, uncertain outcomes, and oftentimes obscure purposes.

This exceedingly dangerous and deadly vice destroys even the desire to find meaning in one’s labors. So acute is acedia that the victim will search for anything that might distract him from the search for meaning. Life is hollowed out when it becomes impossible to even think about what can and should be done for oneself.

This, it seems to me, is at the heart of the growing desire to find an excuse to drop out of the labor force. When life has no meaning, it logically follows that effort becomes pointless while the search for distractions becomes preeminent. Drugs, chronic gambling, alcohol abuse, and a vast number of other moral maladies are often the wages of acedia.

I would also suggest that the desire for freedom from work arises, above all other things, from a loss of the religious sense, by which I do not mean theism per se, but a longing for transcendence, with all the pain and frustration associated with it. When we see life as far more than Schopenhauer’s gloomy “brief intermezzo of an ephemeral existence,” we are spurred on in the effort to make life meaningful, both for ourselves and for those we love. We then throw ourselves into life. We have meaning and thus an overwhelming need to work, whether at a job, at true leisure, or just in the mundane tasks of picking up after ourselves. A life filled with transcendence is open to all possibility and there is, therefore, always something one can do — even when one is in extremis.

The Catholic Church teaches that work is a participation in God’s ongoing creation. Our labors are therefore purposeful. The modern tendency to despise work is just one manifestation of a loss of the thickness of life as a sacred vocation. If Deneen is right, and the new definition of freedom is to be unshackled from work and responsibility, we can also expect the rootlessness that is the essence of the man who, as Kierkegaard wrote, does not even know he is in despair.

This might also explain the popularity of Bernie Sanders, especially among the young. Sanders appeals to the sort of alienation behind the desire to receive the largesse of the industrious without the concomitant obligation to invest in the productive world. No work and all play is the dreamy life which so many long for. This in turn suggests that to willingly sacrifice a productive life is to surrender one’s sense of purpose and to succumb to what Charles Taylor called “the terrible flatness of the everyday.” No hills, no valleys, just a featureless path through a land of distracted boredom.

The crisis of growing idleness will not, I fear, be remedied by reforming the welfare system. Aside from the fact that it will be politically impossible to slash government given the constituency that receives its sustenance from government (I’ll make book that current efforts to reform SSD will fail in the long run), there must be a reorientation away from acedia and from a vision of life that sees the highest good in being delivered from life’s struggles. Instead, we need to restore the understanding of life as vocation, and hence charged with meaning and purpose, and thereby open ourselves to a life in which there is always more to do. That also means that as long as he is able man must fulfill his earthly duty to work — even if he does nothing more than write for Ricochet as a hobby.

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  1. Richard Fulmer Inactive
    Richard Fulmer
    @RichardFulmer

    Mike,
    You’re a damn good writer.  This posting could be turned into an excellent article or, better, a book.  Get to work!

    • #31
  2. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    You’ll find an excellent Protestant take on work as a primary purpose of men in this sermon. “If your wife is a millionaire and excels in the business world, you are not free as a man to master hobbies…because that’s boy stuff, and you’re a man. Men work.”

    • #32
  3. prairiedoc Member
    prairiedoc
    @prairiedoc

    My view of the explosion of the disability roles is shaped by my work as a physician. It seems to me that self motivation, responsibility, maturity, and honor are leeching out of society. In part because of the immense prosperity that allows us to support those in need and those who feel entitled to be thought of as victims of others or just misfortune. But a larger factor in this decline is, l believe, due to the demonization of men in general, male role models, and patriarchy. The welfare state’s replacement of men as the providers of security and moral guidance has eroded the family structure and this snowball is careening downhill. When I read about life even as recently as the early 20th century (the Wright Brothers come to mind) I marvel at the CHARACTER of people, their fortitude, shaped I’m sure by hardships we no longer face. It seems an inevitable decline in character when a society is so prosperous it can provide for so many who don’t want or are unable to care for themselves.

    As Justice Scalia’s death reminds me, history is mostly shaped by events we can’t control. I don’t see any scenario where the welfare state is voluntarily reversed. Events will at some point change this current course. And it won’t be the ice caps melting! (I’m really an optimist at heart believe it or not).

    • #33
  4. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Mike,

    As I read your post, I am hearing you describe a problem which mostly applies to men.  Am I correct to read your post this way?  If so, I agree.  However, if men are increasingly dropping out of work, this is a cultural change and is more complicated.

    • #34
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    We have to look to the Great Recession as the cause of a lot of this increase. Many of the people 50 years old and older who got swept up in that economic near-disaster would not have been able to recover, and by now some have have given up and are looking at SSDI or suicide.

    Just by happenstance, I was curious about the demographic breakdown of the population, wondering who might be voting for Sanders, and I came across this from the Population Reference Bureau:

    There were actually a total of 76 million births in the United States from 1946 to 1964, the 19 years usually called the “baby boom.” Of the 76 million baby boomers born, nearly 11 million had died by 2012, leaving some 65.2 million survivors. However, when immigrants are included (the number of people coming into the United States from other countries, minus those moving the other way), the number grows to an estimated 76.4 million because immigrants outweighed the number of baby-boomer deaths. The flow of immigrants greatly increased after passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, just as the baby boom was ending.

    Many boomers are not doing well in terms of longevity.

    It is hard for people aged 50 and older to get work that they will be physically able to do between 50 and 70 years old. If we want to save money on SSDI, it behooves us to spend more on rehabilitation and job-searching help.

    • #35
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    We also have to do a better job at creating new programs that help people in long-term but not permanent disability situations.

    It would cost us more over the short term in rehabilitation services including housing, transportation, and healthcare, but it would save us money in the long run if those people could be helped to get on their feet for twenty more years.

    Another big problem we have in most areas in the country is housing. It is too expensive in relation to unskilled-labor income. The waiting lists, for example, throughout the country for Section 8 housing are long. And there is a national shortage of rental units (see also this). The shortage drives up the cost of housing, which makes it yet harder for the 50 and older cohort to find affordable housing while in the process of getting an employment situation together.

    It is critical that we get about the business of building housing of all sizes. Having an array of housing choices from very inexpensive studio apartments to two- or three-bedroom apartments and townhouses will help people build a sustainable life.

    • #36
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I just viewed the video interview of Viktor Frankl. I think he is speaking to some of the issues we’ve been discussing. The link is here.

    • #37
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Jim Beck:Afternoon Mike,

    As I read your post, I am hearing you describe a problem which mostly applies to men. Am I correct to read your post this way? If so, I agree…

    It applies to men – and also girls raised by feminists. And not necessarily man-hating, man-blaming feminists, either. But there are plenty of man-loving, basically conservative feminists out there who believe that women should also have a profession outside the domestic sphere, even if necessity doesn’t require it.

    Now, I’ve heard it argued that, when women feel like they have not just the opportunity, but also the moral duty (a duty a lot of us gals were raised to feel), to be productive outside the home, then that also dilutes the manliness of that particular duty, making it less attractive to men. There seems to be some truth in that argument – at least in the sense that a lot of men seem to feel that way – though whether it’s because we’re emerging from a period of history where home life and work life were unusually separated, or whether it’s expressing an inflexible element of human nature, is not as clear as we might wish.

    • #38
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Susan Quinn:I just viewed the video interview of Viktor Frankl. I think he is speaking to some of the issues we’ve been discussing. The link is here.

    Despair is suffering without meaning.

    So true and potent.

    Thank you for this link, Susan.

    • #39
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN:Despair is suffering without meaning.

    So true and potent.

    Thank you for this link, Susan.

    I especially noticed that, too, Marci. The way he made it an equation:

    D=S-M

    • #40
  11. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Susan,

    The video was smashing, the best! Thanks.

    Mike and I are both 65+ and he describes a world, of his father’s and grandfather’s where, for men, working and being a good provider was a given.  Men defined themselves, their identity (I’m an electrician, a salesman, etc.) by what they did.  They didn’t say; I’m a father, I’m English, I’m a husband, I’m a child of God, although all those things may have been true.  For men a frequent question was, “What do you do for a living?”.   Culture changed.

    Frankl’s quotes, of Hillel, show how great this change has been.  Quoting Hillel, Frankl says, 1. “If I am not doing it , who will?”, 2. “If not now, when?”, 3. “But if I am only for myself, who am I?” Those quotes may have reflected a time where the “Protestant Ethic” or Victorian virtues may have had influence, but our current culture guts those questions. Men are not essential, barely needed.

    Where I categorically disagree with Frankl is concerning choice.  He speaks as if the choice to find meaning is core to the nature of man. I disagree, men, in general and maybe especially males, act not based on reflection but because they copy the predominant cultural roles. Men are competitors and peacocks, when the culture says your arena is being a good provider, a man would be ashamed, humiliated not to have a job, or more than one.  When culture sends confused messages about the role or value of men, men do not know how to compete.  Am I more cool because I can game the system, hey at least I am not a sucker. Maybe a man focuses on the visual cues of masculinity, hair, tattoos, because he has dropped out of the arena of men (the bowling league, Rotary club, little league) where he might be asked “What do you do for a living?”. I am sure roles for women are also more confused, however I think men are a little more limited or brittle if they don’t know how to present their achievements.

    • #41
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim Beck: Where I categorically disagree with Frankl is concerning choice. He speaks as if the choice to find meaning is core to the nature of man. I disagree, men, in general and maybe especially males, act not based on reflection but because they copy the predominant cultural roles.

    Jim, I’m so glad you appreciated the video. I don’t know that you actually disagree with Frankl. I’d suggest that the choice is always there but is hidden/covered up/unrecognized by the allegiance to cultural mores. We don’t even know we have choices. I see this problem with both men and women (for different reasons), and in men (I think) it breeds over-identification with “work”; with women it breeds either a helplessness (I can’t do anything to make this right) or an anger which makes everyone else wrong (particularly showing up in the acts of humiliating men). How many people go through life without recognizing their own talents, abilities and opportunities? I think that perhaps in the concentration camps, when all the cultural expectations are stripped away, is when either consciously or subconsciously people realized the choice they’d always had.What do you think?

    • #42
  13. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Thank you all for your kind words. Even more, thank you for your added insights. Ricochet always amazes me because I learn so much from comments. You are quite a great crew.

    I really should write a “commercial” for Ricochet. When I joined three plus years ago I was looking for something productive to do, but at the same time wasn’t so taxing as to consume my often limited energy. Those first posts were pretty awful. As a lawyer I was trained in aggressive writing. My early posts reflected that. But over time I was able to be a bit more conversational. Why? Because reading through comments on everyone’s posts I could see how online conversations should be handled. What a blessing!

    Thank you again. If I missed “liking” your comment, please know that it is my incompetence and never the comment itself.

    • #43
  14. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    As a past-retirement-age baby boomer, who vows to remain a productive member of society until they carry me out feet-first, I have always been unable to understand those whose purpose in life seems to be “early retirement”.  I see letters to the editor and queries to financial columnists asking how much they need to have in the bank in order to retire at age 55.  Then what?  Do people dislike paid work so much that they have to cease doing it as soon as possible?  I don’t have any physical disability (I’m fortunate that my psoriatic arthritis is a very mild case, well-controlled by medication), but my work career has been interrupted so many times by employer bankruptcies and being laid off, that I am finally feeling fully-attached to the work force after eight years at my job.  Maybe the presence of Social Security in itself means that people just feel comfortable retiring in their still-productive years.

    • #44
  15. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Susan,

    Perhaps I don’t disagree with Frankl.  What I think he does not highlight is the aspect of human choice shaped by culture. Behaviors like,whether men wear hats, get tattoos, are proud of the number of “baby mommas” they have, hang out in the library, as well as our most profound beliefs on what it means to be a man, or a son are not discovered by reflection and self-examination.  Even the concept of self-examination is not a self- generated concept which is by nature part of human thought. When Frankl suggests that man seeks meaning, I think his analysis is more apt when one thinks of kinship.  The meaning man seems to seek is, where do I fit, what is my place in the order of things, how did my people come to be,  not an existential meaning like “what does life expect from you” in the philosophical sense, but what does it mean to be a man, woman, son, daughter.  When we are asking, “why has life changed”, we are asking the most complex question.

    When you suggest that the camps may clarify life’s choices, you echo my favorite Solzhenitsyn quote, from “The First Circle”: “When I was free and used to read books in which wise men pondered the meaning of life or the nature of happiness, I understood very little of those passages.  I gave them their due:  wise men are supposed to think.  It’s their profession.  But the meaning of life? We live–that’s the meaning.  Happiness? When things are going very well, that’s happiness, everyone knows that.  Thank God for prison!  It gave me a chance to think.”

    • #45
  16. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I’ve already been told by both my boss and my wife that I won’t be allowed to retire.  For different reasons, of course.

    • #46
  17. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    I am so thankful you didn’t give up writing or Ricochet for Lent.

    Wow.

    • #47
  18. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

    Mike Rapkoch: This might also explain the popularity of Bernie Sanders

    I think it also might explain Trump. It seems his support isn’t so much traditional Republican voters, but lower-class types that don’t get involved in politics much, but lean Democrat by default. However, they see their interests are not represented well by either party. These are folks that would rather be healthy than be on disability, but if given the opportunity wouldn’t be too put out by doing both. They want America to be great (however that works), but still want the social benefits that exist. They trust the media generally (because they don’t think about that stuff much), but when they see politicians kowtowing to atheists on the one hand, muslims on the other, with China ahead and Mexico behind, they start looking for someone who will do something about it. They don’t care about tax cuts (which the media says will go to the rich anyways). They don’t care about small business regulations – they are employees, they don’t think about that stuff. These are folks that go to a job to have money, not to work to build or maintain a more ephemeral spiritual character. They see in Trump someone who thinks like them, whether that’s conservative or not.

    • #48
  19. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

    We here at Ricochet are a blessed lot, for the most part. Lawyers, engineers, scientists, writers, business-folk, doctors – people who rely, at least on part, on personal creativity for their work. It’s all hard work, and takes a lot out of you, but you get to get some intellectual, spiritual, whatever, satisfaction from it, in addition to the results.

    Most folks, though, they just go to a job. Construction workers, office workers, service employees of many sorts, retail, factory workers – it’s work, but what inherent satisfaction is there? Just working to keep busy? It gets the money, which is why people do them. But for a lot of folks, they’re just working for the weekend. I’ve heard the term “wage slave” tossed around a lot, and there’s some truth to it. If they could work when they want to (and at what they want to), and play when they want to, they would do it. Heck, I figure most here would too.

    I’ve noticed a lot of people on disability, when able, take side jobs, both for the money and to keep busy. Same with retired folks. Hobbies are fine and all, but they rarely keep one truly busy, and rarely take away the need for work entirely (and they’re often expensive to boot). I’m sure my grandfather wants more time for fishing, but I doubt he’d want to do it for 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week.

    • #49
  20. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    TheRoyalFamily: We here at Ricochet are a blessed lot, for the most part. Lawyers, engineers, scientists, writers, business-folk, doctors – people who rely, at least on part, on personal creativity for their work. It’s all hard work, and takes a lot out of you, but y

    You’ve clearly never worked with your hands.  The most meaningful work I ever did I did as a carpenter.  I’d be doing it still, but there’s no money in it.

    • #50
  21. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    TheRoyalFamily:Most folks, though, they just go to a job. Construction workers, office workers, service employees of many sorts, retail, factory workers – it’s work, but what inherent satisfaction is there? Just working to keep busy? It gets the money, which is why people do them. But for a lot of folks, they’re just working for the weekend. I’ve heard the term “wage slave” tossed around a lot, and there’s some truth to it. If they could work when they want to (and at what they want to), and play when they want to, they would do it.

    It’s not clear if most people have job satisfaction or are just working for the weekend. It seems quite possible that service workers who deal with the public might enjoy the social interaction. Sure, there are cranky customers sometimes but that’s not the rule. It may be that different people might find the same job enjoyable or not depending on their character and background. Back to Viktor Frankl, we have a choice of how we respond to our circumstances.

    • #51
  22. Paula Lynn Johnson Inactive
    Paula Lynn Johnson
    @PaulaLynnJohnson

    I have to second MarciN’s comment about the recession driving a lot of SSDI. When companies need to cut back, the oldest employees are often the first to go, their jobs either lost or filled with younger workers. A guy who gets laid off at, say, 58 in a skilled profession where experience counts for something has a fighting chance for re-employment. But if your job could just as easily be done by a 30 year old? Good luck. I suppose the counter-argument to that is, “well, just have the skills to make yourself indispensable,” but let’s face it, not all jobs lend themselves to that.

    • #52
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim Beck: When Frankl suggests that man seeks meaning, I think his analysis is more apt when one thinks of kinship. The meaning man seems to seek is, where do I fit, what is my place in the order of things, how did my people come to be, not an existential meaning like “what does life expect from you” in the philosophical sense, but what does it mean to be a man, woman, son, daughter.

    Interesting reflections, Jim. So when people like me do pursue self-examination or self-reflection without a crisis to ignite it, what do you think causes that to happen? (no sarcasm at all, just curious). Is it religion, temperament, curiosity? And I don’t think I’m in a small group of people. I don’t have a simple answer myself.

    • #53
  24. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Back in the day, when I interviewed people for superintendent, I wouldn’t even consider anyone in their 30’s.  It’s a job that requires experience.

    • #54
  25. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Susan Quinn:

    Jim Beck: When Frankl suggests that man seeks meaning, I think his analysis is more apt when one thinks of kinship. The meaning man seems to seek is, where do I fit, what is my place in the order of things, how did my people come to be, not an existential meaning like “what does life expect from you” in the philosophical sense, but what does it mean to be a man, woman, son, daughter.

    Interesting reflections, Jim. So when people like me do pursue self-examination or self-reflection without a crisis to ignite it, what do you think causes that to happen?…

    Susan, like you, perhaps, the question, “What does life expect from you?” came more intuitively to me than questions of where I fit in with regard to social obligations (family and the like). A sense of purpose was, quite frankly, easier to maintain when that one, unified question seemed like the most natural one, and is harder to maintain now that the question has fractured into multiple expectations of how to be a good wife, daughter, mother, etc: instead of sensing that one purpose drawing me onward, I sense several tugging me in different directions all at once!

    • #55
  26. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    I am retired but do sales work for a company.  I am not an employee but a contractor.  I have a friend who suffered a massive stroke about five years ago.  The company I contract to permits me to serve my friend’s customers.  I do the business and he is paid.

    I pick him up on Mondays and we go to lunch together.  I help him into my car, then fold up his wheelchair and put it in my trunk.

    On our drive, I tell him about his customers and his business (and it is his business) and he is fascinated.  To be sure, his right side is gone and his ability to speak is severely limited , but his mind is good and he listens intently.  Then, once a month, a check arrives paying him for his work.

    He is in his early 70s so his point of reference comes from a different time.  He did not invest himself in video games, neither did he spend a lot of time in chat rooms.  His interpersonal skills were very good – as might be expected for a sales guy.  He dealt with people.  He is still dealing with people.

    I think that may be a distinct difference between his generation and this one.  He is not sitting in a car with someone while talking to someone else on a cell phone.  In this time we are close to technology but often far from people.

    • #56
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: instead of sensing that one purpose drawing me onward, I sense several tugging me in different directions all at once!

    That is a precious question, MFR. I think if you ponder it, it actually applies to every aspect of your life. For example, as I ask what does life expect of me, as a Buddhist I answered “to relieve the suffering of others.” As I now pursue Judaism, I think the question is “what does G-d expect of me,” and I think the answer is pretty much the same (in the most general sense). Whether I’m referring to my students, my friends, my husband–same question, same answer. At some level I think you know your answer, but you understandably feel overwhelmed with everything you’ve had to confront. I find that prayer and meditation helps me clarify, especially when I’m overwhelmed. And patience!

    • #57
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    donald todd: I am retired but do sales work for a company. I am not an employee but a contractor. I have a friend who suffered a massive stroke about five years ago. The company I contract to permits me to serve my friend’s customers. I do the business and he is paid.

    How wonderfully generous of you, donaldtodd! What a good friend you are!

    • #58
  29. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    donald todd:I pick him up on Mondays and we go to lunch together. I help him into my car, then fold up his wheelchair and put it in my trunk.

    On our drive, I tell him about his customers and his business (and it is his business) and he is fascinated. To be sure, his right side is gone and his ability to speak is severely limited , but his mind is good and he listens intently. Then, once a month, a check arrives paying him for his work.

    He is in his early 70s so his point of reference comes from a different time. He did not invest himself in video games, neither did he spend a lot of time in chat rooms. His interpersonal skills were very good – as might be expected for a sales guy. He dealt with people. He is still dealing with people.

    I think that may be a distinct difference between his generation and this one. He is not sitting in a car with someone while talking to someone else on a cell phone. In this time we are close to technology but often far from people.

    That is really really nice of you. As a fellow human being, thank you. :) :)

    • #59
  30. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Many retirees moved to Cape Cod at about the time my grandparents did, in the early eighties. My grandfather became aware that the men were not adjusting too well to retirement. So he started a men’s luncheon club at the church for new retirees. It became very popular that the minister was stunned.

    Reading Mike’s post, I kept thinking of my grandfather. I think we need more community groups like this for people.

    • #60
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