Year 1, Week 23: ‘Freedom’ 55


I made it! Formally retired now, another birthday, and reasonably healthy. Hard to complain.

In many ways, more of a formal than real transition, as I effectively left work May 2011, having been on a mix of sick leave and long-term disability. No need to adjust to a new way of life and new priorities, as I am already there. However, it does bring me more piece of mind, knowing definitively that the working phase of my life is over, and that I am no longer subject to the normal constraints of working for the government (or any large organization for that matter).

I realize just how lucky I am with a strong and generous disability insurance and pension plan, plus with the ‘luck’ of my lymphoma happening late enough in my career to allow me to qualify.

From a broader perspective, the current discussions on pension and old-age benefits eligibility in connection with the aging of the population, while necessary and important, are all based on average life span and health. But for those of us who are on the unfortunate side of the average, their needs also should be taken into account in any changes. Just like the discussion on survival odds; while the averages are helpful and have to be the basis for informed decision-making, in the end it is my individual circumstances and chances that concern me, not the average.

And while the Janis Joplin line, ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,’ doesn’t quite fit, for my freedom from work is accompanied the background awareness of my lymphoma, that I have been successfully (to date) treated but not cured. Nor does the Stones ‘No, you can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometime, you just might find, You get what you need’ fit perfectly either. But somehow both of these resonate, capture important elements of where I am now, wash over me, and allow me to keep this background awareness of my ongoing vulnerability in the background.

I had fun doing the interview on our local cable TV station. Some of my earlier media training came in handy, and a good challenge to condense some of the key messages into a 5 minute segment. I will get the media file and post it shortly.

It has been a good movie and TV week. We are back into following Downton Abbey – light and entertaining, even if some of the plot twists are more than contrived, and visually, with all the old elegant interiors and costumes.

life of piMovie-wise, two very contrasting films. Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, is a must see. A hard book to adapt to the screen, but done successfully with a delicate touch, and visually just stunning (see the 3D version as it really works). And using the device of Pi telling his story to the author of his story helps make the story both come alive and yet have distance and reflection, allowing for a beautiful and reflective ending.

From this nuanced ambiguity to the harshness of Zero Dark Thirty, the story of the search and killing of Bin Laden. Many of you are familiar with the controversy of how torture has been depicted as being one of the essential elements in intelligence gathering (see Steve Coll’s ‘Disturbing’ & ‘Misleading’ for one of the better critiques). The film certainly shows the US at that period having lost its moral compass, without capturing some of the internal debate among the intelligence community about the usefulness or not about torture.

0D30Interesting, it does capture the fear of some of the CIA agents with the upcoming change of administration, given that both Obama and McCain were against torture, McCain particularly strongly so given his own personal experience as a POW tortured by the North Vietnamese. To be fair, a large part of the film concerns the painstaking and time-consuming detailed intelligence work of putting together the pieces to allow the raid to take place.

But apart from this controversy, I found it more a workmanlike film, competent, not extraordinary, and not sure why it has been so highly praised by many critics. It is an important film to watch, given how much 9/11, Bin Laden and ongoing concerns of terrorism and security shape our lives. But not a best picture.

cohenI finally finished I’m Your Man, the Sylvie Simmons thorough bio of Leonard Cohen, one of my favourite artists, and a Christmas gift from our daughter. I have mixed feelings reading all the details of his life journey; while it captures his ongoing personal discovery and exploration, somehow knowing more of the personal ‘messiness’ of his life brings me further away from, rather than closer to, his music.

And the fundamental paradox, Cohen is able to express longing and love more deeply than most while being unable to live it; all of his relationships have a strong element of separation. The hedonic impulse, not able to transcend for longer term commitment. But maybe all artists share this paradox, part of what gives them their particular insights and art.

Health-wise, addressing some of my normal issues. Have been doing all the tests and preparation for my hernia, which will hopefully take place some time next month, as it bothers me more when I’m more active. And had my hearing test, confirming what I know, that hearing aids would be helpful. But still not sure I want to go down that route as in most situations, I can function just fine, and I know longer have group meetings at work or elsewhere that I really have to worry about.