Discipline at this age?

Today I swam for 1500 meters at the Olympic pool north of Chiang Mai. That’s thirty lengths. For some sixty-two year old’s, that would be quite a feat. For others, mere child’s play. It took me almost an hour and for a lot of that time, I was thinking “how much longer, oh Lord\?” But I did it anyway, because I sort of promised myself I would use this time to better myself.

Then, I practiced the piano for forty minutes. I’m playing pieces that many an eight-grader has already mastered, but I haven’t, so I put in the time. A lot of my effort is spent ignoring the critical voice in my head that fairly screams “You’re no good at this. You have early onset Alzheimer’s. Give up!” But I kept practicing, and although I’m not as good as perhaps the majority of people who play the piano, I’m better than I was forty minutes ago.

So far, this is the main lesson I’m learning from being retired. There is no external scorekeeper. It’s all an inside job. Eventually, my life will become more structured and I’ll have to budget my time again, but for now, it’s all a impressionistic wash of form and color. There aren’t even any edges to this painting.

You’d think that coloring outside the lines would be the activity of choice for the retired, but the fact remains that discipline is probably called for now than when we were young. Learning to ride a bike, to swim, memorizing the multiplication tables….none of that came easily. Surely, now we should be able to relax, since we already laid all that groundwork.

Entropy, that great enemy of age and order, says otherwise. Use it or lose it. Cling to some sort of discipline or disintegrate into a quivering pile of mush.

Need to Make Room for Something New

I’ve found that if I want to experience real change, and enjoy something new, I have to stop doing the same old things. I have to make room for whatever is on the way. So, I stopped searching for excitement, and resisted forming new entanglements. I even stopped shopping.

And what has happened? Nothing yet. This is the strangest time I can remember going through; “serene” is the word that comes to mind. I’m tranquil yet I feel vaguely guilty. Shouldn’t I be doing more? Others are complaining about how busy they are, how there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things they want to do. Me, I’m slowly riding my bicycle through the alleys of Chiang Mai, stopping every once in a while to get something to eat, or get a massage. I go swimming a few times a week. I read a lot. Ho hum. When’s the adventure part kick in?

I don’t think it’s going to. In fact, I think I’ve already experienced enough superficial adventure to last two lifetimes. Time to become mellow and insightful, or at least fake it for a while. Maybe I’ll fake it until I make it.

No Need to Forgive

In Buddhism there isn’t much emphasis on overcoming resentment through forgiveness. Christianity is all about atonement for sin, and learning to forgive your trespassers, but Buddhists think of the very fact that one takes offense in the first place is the real problem. That’s where the error lies. Just as suffering has its origin in desire, so does the tendency to take offense come from something within us, something we’re in control of. So if you want to get all bent out of shape, that’s your call, but don’t pretend you’re not the one doing it.

Maybe that’s why so few people beep their horns at each other. I’ve never seen a driving action end up in a fight, nor have I heard one driver yell at another. For all their strange notions about driving and governance, I can’t help but admire this trait.