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Fade to Black

by on June 8, 2017

                                                                       Fade to Black

                                                                  by Marco M. Pardi

“Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.” Malcolm Muggeridge. 1966

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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A few weeks ago I had lunch with a former student who, at 25, has acquired significant medical credentials.  As we talked about her career options she went into great detail about Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), commonly known as Doctors Without Borders. She is currently studying French and will no doubt master in it a few months.  I was very excited by her plans.  I simply don’t know anyone else who can deliver expert emergency medicine, dismantle, repair and reassemble a Jeep motor and transaxle in half the time and with more accuracy than a certified mechanic, and flawlessly play a variety of tunes, including original compositions, on any number of exotic stringed instruments.  

As we talked she turned the attention to me, and how I was dealing with retirement after a life which included several simultaneous careers.  As I explained then, and in subsequent emails, retirement was basically irrelevant to me.  I grew up in a family which lived quite nicely from extensive investment incomes; no one worked, unless you count trips to the various stock brokers as work.  So, I had no role models to show the way toward burying yourself in a career in hopes of one day attending a maudlin retirement party and withdrawing into the “What day is it?” syndrome.  No one assessed me and advised me toward some particular line of work; it seemed assumed I would grow up and leave. So, I did.  But on the way I came to realize my career was Being Me.  My schooling for that career was basically the learning of who I was and a search for whether there was any meaning to Being.      

Along the way I voluntarily entered the military and, in what I now see as being me, I volunteered for hazardous field operations, even turning down requests to serve in administrative “back office” capacities. I would never characterize these choices as patriotic; they were instead a means of living and expressing me.  And, they led to offers to more fully and permanently enter field operations.

Going from there into college I chose the discipline I did not for its financial potentials but for its opportunities to live as the person I am.  And, I continued the work I had begun in the military, my choice of academic discipline being a perfect match in college and graduate school.

Teaching that discipline in college, while continuing to apply it in the field, was a natural progression, not a force fit in search of a salary.  Eventually, I was offered a more focused field operations track and accepted it, leaving teaching until my return to the classroom toward the end of my interest in that focused track.  I very happily returned to teaching while keeping occasional field work as a means of expression. In any of my years teaching college Anthropology did I feel I was recruiting and training the next generation of Anthropologists? No.  In fact, when students expressed interest in majoring in Anthropology I always recommended a dual major. I pointed out that Anthropology is perhaps the broadest field in academia and is not just Indiana Jones adventure. I said it is an excellent supportive field to amplify a degree in something like International Relations, Communications, Marketing or any other field the student has the interest and the competence to pursue.  Likewise I more often than not dissuaded students from considering careers in Intelligence, the exceptions being the very few I felt were personally suited to what are usually the brutal facts of the game.  I presented the field of Public Health the same way. Sadly, my own health uncertainties eventually warranted my ethical decision to cease teaching.

But throughout all this I did not lose my sense of self.  I did not become a (fill in the blank) which, upon scaling back my activities left a huge blank spot needing to be filled.  I have not yet felt the need to seek out and join an association of retired whatevers. I was me, am still me and have no plans of retiring from being me.  My means of expression, such as writing this blog, have changed, but not my identity. In the same way I thoroughly enjoyed the personal discoveries I made through studying and teaching I have been enjoying the discoveries found through interaction with those who read and comment on this blog.  Of course, this site, from which I derive no income (in fact, I pay) has counters which enable me to see how may have read a particular piece.  And, those numbers always far exceed the few, to whom I am deeply grateful. who take the time to comment.  Indeed, the SPAM outruns the comments by about 100 to 1.  I’m also aware that there have likely been more than a few articles edited and turned in as “position papers” for college credit.  So it goes.

Fade to Black, a screenplay command for film crews, always appealed metaphorically to me.  Anyone who has slowly lost consciousness due to injuries will appreciate that image.  I suppose when that command finally appears in its ultimate form for me I may say, So, this is retirement.  No party needed and I won’t have any need for that gold watch.   

 

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24 Comments
  1. Ray Z Rivers permalink

    But you should take the gold watch – anyway – if offered to sell it and buy a nice engraved bracelet for your protege. She may need that in the days and decades to come. In any case, you are not allowed to hang up your spurs, so long as there are horses to run. And speaking of horses, what about the Trump fella?

  2. Thanks, Ray. I will interpret your comment as a Direct Order, and act accordingly. As you know, my concern for that fella Tumor – or Trump – or whatever is primarily for my daughter and grandchildren. I really appreciate that you are active and engaging people with your thoughts, and I hope that continues for a good long time. Marco

  3. Michael E. Stamm permalink

    Well said and thought-out, as always. I admire your intelligent consideration of the options at the times they were options; my life choices have been much more haphazard and almost random at least 75% of the time. I don’t miss my job–which I never once thought of as a “career”; I never have found something I *really* wanted to do. In that sense I have yet to even find my spurs, and it’s long and and long until I can consider hanging them up, a metaphor my late father–who really was a cowboy in his youth, and always longed to be one again–would appreciate.

    • Thank you, Mike. Influenced by your eloquence and clarity, I’ve always thought of you as filling exactly the role suited for you at the university. I’m betting they miss you more than you miss them.

      Yes, we seem to keep on living. Sometimes the turns we take seem as if directed in some Cosmic Plan. But that may be over thinking what is basically a day by day adventure. I think I would have enjoyed listening to your father’s recollections of the turns he took.

  4. What you describe is being self-actualized.

    • Thank you, Mary. On a somewhat related note you know I have always gotten a laugh out of the phrase, Self Made Man. I imagine a Picasso inspired figure wondering where it all went wrong.

      These are the conversations I enjoy, and from which I learn so much.

  5. Thank you for your post!

    I think identifying a sense of self that is separate from a career provides flexibility and an increased ability to navigate life and career changes.

    I have had similar discussions with my brother (undecided in his career path) to combine his interests with something that will allow him to feed himself. However, I had the opportunity to meet a 92 year old successful artist who told me he was adamantly discouraged by his parents to enter the field but did so anyways and to do the things you love because “good artists don’t starve to death”.

    • Thank you, E. I agree that we must first find our self, and the ways of expressing it will become clear. I’m glad you had that interaction with the successful artist. It seems to me he discovered the art of being himself. What a wonderful opportunity, and one more of us should seek out.

  6. I want to add that, like me in those early years, the young woman I cited in this piece is not money driven; she is discovery driven, discovery of her self in all its manifestations. I find this to be so rare I am in awe.

    • Marco, I gravitate toward people who are discovery driven. I have always been curiosity driven, and would much rather spend a day in the woods then a day at the mall.

      • Thank you, Dana. That was apparent when I first met you. You consumed the ideas and possibilities in Anthropology and related subjects with a combination of seriousness and joy I’ve seldom seen.

  7. I still read, Professor. I usually write a long comment that is tangential in nature and realise it at the end, backspace everything out, and start again, only to realise I did it once again. I have my 8 month old son laying here next to me, and I remember your lecture on instincts and how your hypothesis is that babies have no instincts at all. Every time this little boy does something, I wonder if it is instinct or not. When my fiance asks me why I have a dumb grin on my face I say nothing, but secretly blame you. I’m not backspacing this one out 🙂 keep on writing, Professor, and we will keep on reading.

    • And to clarify, when I say “I still read” the implication is not that your readership may be low, as I have heard the impressive number of readers you have years ago, and can only imagine that it has grown exponentially. I mean to say, despite that I don’t comment, know that I read and am interested in your posts nonetheless.

    • Thank you, Anomaly. I sincerely appreciate your interest, and can just imagine the joy and the hopes you have for your son. Your encouragement is important to me as, sometimes, I feel like backspacing altogether. I’m very glad you are finding these articles worthwhile and will gladly address any suggestions you have for further articles. I wish you well. Marco

  8. Gregg permalink

    You’ve never struck me as someone who resigns themselves to the slow physical and mental decay of daytime television because you don’t have a employer to report to anymore. Your post, and you, remind me of a geologist and retired professor I’ve had the chance to meet and talk with a number of times. At 83 he still does research on paleontology and plate tectonics, writes papers, and hikes around places on a long list of sites left to visit.

    I’m also curious why you were requested to take a “back office” job in the military. Were you too good at what you did?

    • Thank you, Gregg. I’m glad you have the opportunity to interact with the retired geology professor. With climate change, fracking, and over extraction of drinkable water rapidly altering the landscape of our planet I would be greatly interested in the “long view” this person must have.

      Regarding the military, there were superior officers who seemed to recognize in me more than just the “action figure” kind of talents and wanted to make what they saw as better use of my talents. I expressed my appreciation, but respectfully chose to pursue field operations.

  9. Julie permalink

    Beautifully written Marco, we are always ourselves in whatever we do and where we are in life and the whole point is to learn and contribute and be happy. Everyone has a role in this world of some kind and if we can succeed through all the challenges life throws at us then that’s wonderful. A lot of this does come back to ones intrinsic motivation – I think we need more Marcos in this world – you’re wonderful and I’m sure continue to inspire a lot of people including me 😀 Julie

    • Thank you, Julie. Your insights and comments always assure me my efforts are worthwhile. And, the opportunity to interact with you. albeit in this venue, rewards my motivation.

      You have made some very moving and thoughtful comments in the past which make me wish you would consider a blog from which we could all benefit.

  10. Your commenters, however many or few, are always so interesting, and this has been no exception. You have touched so many lives, Marco; whatever else your life has been, I think this is the real reason you have been put on the earth at this time. (And don’t tell me you are just here because your parents happened to copulate, because I think we all know better. It’s actually the other way around.)

    The most important thing we can be is ourselves. Being true to who we really are is sometimes difficult, but to be otherwise is self destructive. Whenever I am forced by circumstance to do something with which I do not agree, it makes me physically and emotionally ill. “To thine own self be true…” I have tried always, and I believe you have succeeded where so many fail.

    I envy your friend the potential for her future. She sounds like the sort of person who will some day have a life of purpose and adventure to look back upon, and I can think of nothing better. It was recently said of my brilliant granddaughter that the difference between her and so many of the rest of us is that, given the proper education and guidance, she has the potential to change the world. I intend to be here for her, to soften her falls, and to lift her up again.

    By being who you are, you have changed the world; knowing you has changed my world. Thank you for being you, and don’t fade too soon.

    • Thank you, Rose. I enthusiastically agree about the commenters. I sometimes find it difficult to express the inspiration I derive from the insightful and illuminating comments, including yours.

      It is saddening when one sees someone who is largely blind to themselves. And, following your logic regarding our appearance on this earth, your granddaughter is in just the right time and place – under your guidance- to discover herself and thrive.

      Thank you for your reassuring words. Sometimes I’m tempted to find someone who can turn to the last page of my screenplay. But for now I’ll keep on taking it as it comes. ;

  11. Mark Dohle permalink

    I found myself smiling through this read my friend. My mother once told me when I was around 13 to never get married. I asked her what she meant. She stated that I was on a path that would interfere with my being a good husband. She saw something in me that I did not see at the time. In a way, we are all like you Marco, but not able to have the depth of insight you have into what life is actually about. Self-discovery, on being one’s self, are terms that can be used. However, in order to do that, other avenues of expression and living have to be let go of that gets in the way of that. I would think that if everyone did that, instead of being told what to do, think or believe blindly, the world would be a vastly different place.

    My own path was so completely branded into me that it almost makes me believe in reincarnation, though I don’t. It is not that I don’t appreciate the culture I live in, I just find so much of it a waste of time and energy that only grows as I age. We are here for such a short time.

    The soul, if not attended to I believe, leads to activities that seek escape from the reality of our inner suffering, that simply existing as a human leads us to experience. We have our own type of self awareness that pushes us to be seekers by nature and what we seek is what our hearts deepest longing actually is. We use the word ‘love’ but it is more than that.

    Marco, you have a thirsty soul, we have found different paths, but the longing is still there. When Jesus said, “that those who seek, find”, I believe that is a true saying, because to seek is a childlike activity, which is the opposite of being childish, or what many believe it means to be an adult. This can actually mean shutting down and closing one self off from further seeking deeper understanding….we lose our sense of wonder and humor.

    A pinch of agnosticism is needed by everyone, it keeps the gears running and the heart and head humble.

    Peace
    Mark

    • Thank you, Mark. As I have often said, the monastic life has always had a great draw for me, a life in which I could deeply search for understanding. But until I met you I had known of only a very few examples of monks who could live that life yet contribute so very much to others. So, in my way I live vicariously through you. I sense that you and I often feel we are walking among “others”, people who are somehow out of focus. Thus it is such a joy to encounter you, and the minds who have participated and commented on this piece and others. We contribute to each other the discoveries we have made, and are still making. And that is something from which I will not retire. Thank you so much.

    • Julie permalink

      @ Mark beautifully articulated into words – love this 🤗

      • Mark Dohle permalink

        Thank you, Julie. Marco gets me thinking LOL.

        Peace
        Mark

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