Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review--Retirement: A Memoir and Guide

The main point of Boyd Lemon's Retirement: A Memoir and Guide is that retirement is not primarily an outer process but an inner one. To have a successful, fulfilling retirement, one must understand this basic truth.

Lemon's insights and personal experiences related in his book center around his inner growth. As a reader, I found it personally interesting that Lemon in his 60's and 70's discovered meditation and writing, where I began practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and discovered my passion for writing as a young man prior to my 21st birthday. We reached the mountain top from two different sides of the mountain, one might say.

My life has included the pursuit of inner development, excellence in writing, and a career in teaching. Lemon's admission is that he followed a life engaged in outer activity, recognizing the need for knowledge of self and discovering his passion for writing in the last ten years.

One of the great strengths of his book is that the author has asked himself many questions in the last ten years--and he includes those questions and reflections in the book. Whether or not a reader has already addressed those issues, asking those questions again from the new perspective of retirement is significant. Some of the memoir portions of the book that address the significant questions I found over-long with too much detail, yet others I found spot-on in both perspective, tone, and length.

A great deal of Lemon's insights remind me of American Transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The need to simplify one's life and the need to live life as an inward to outward process are significant to Lemon's guidance to experiencing a fulfilling retirement. I do not agree with all of Lemon's conclusions, but my disagreements do not lessen my appreciation that asking fundamental questions and recognizing that a restructuring of one's inner perspective are crucial to a satisfying retirement. Furthermore, the author says that each of us must consider our own situation as the primary basis of decision-making.

"Once we retire, there is nothing to achieve, except personal fulfillment." This does not mean doing nothing; rather, it means exactly what the word retire means--a new direction, an inner direction. In many cultures, one's last years are devoted to inner development and spirituality. Acknowledging this goal does not preclude travel, new passions, family, or an active life, as Lemon expressively demonstrates in the more autobiographical sections of his book.

The ultimate "retirement" is, of course, death, the ultimate simplification of one's life. It is the ultimate minimizing. Transcendence is a phase transition to one's inner potential and is also perhaps the most gracious transition to the ultimate "retirement."

Boyd Lemon in his book Retirement: A Memoir and Guide provides a powerful balance of what to watch out for and what to look forward to when retiring. Like Thoreau in Walden,  Lemon  has approached retirement as an "experiment in living," centered not in a place but in a time of life. The one splendid irony of life is that Lemon's wisdom in living the last years of our life may also contain wisdom of how to leave the last years of our living.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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