I recently retired from professional life, participation in which put me into a retirement plan with others in that line of work. Twenty years ago I met another member of the same plan. He was on the cusp of retirement and wanted out of the plan. He felt that it was managed by “a bunch of fools.” My own recent departure from working life has meant no longer having to attend thrice-yearly legislative sessions of a regional association. I gladly relinquished active membership because sometimes it felt to me like being part of a congress of clowns.
It’s spring. We’ve entered the season of school graduations. Some people happily attend events celebrating their elevation from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, high school to college or work, and college to professions, jobs or further study in graduate school. Some look ahead to opportunities and challenges with zest and joyful anticipation, others with fear. Some look back on what they leave feeling nostalgia and sadness, others heave a sigh of relief that they have “busted out of class” and gotten “away from those fools.”
Leaving the U.S. Army at age 20 in 1972, my initial feelings were that I had gotten away from those fools. Two years later I joined the reserves. A few more years of minimal participation in military structures; meeting a different sort of soldier than I had known while on active service, meant that when I left the reserves it was with regret that life had taken me overseas. It also revealed to me that “the bunch of fools” from whom I most needed to get away, whether at school, Army, jobs or profession, is most often internal to myself.
One cannot “learn more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school”. One cannot learn more from a weekend seminar than from three years of graduate school. There’s no quick fix through which one learns one’s own foolishness. We ourselves are among the fools from whom others need to get away. It’s also possible that those fools among whom we live, move and have our being are exactly the people from whom we need to learn as we develop from fool to sage.
David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.