Stephen Kahn

Knowing when to quit

In Hard to tell, Humor on November 11, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Did I get your hopes up, you rascals?

I am still reading about and mulling over Robert Heinlein. In Methuselah’s Children, he envisioned prolonging human life, another science fiction prediction starting to come true a bit. My father died at 43; I am 67 and still relatively healthy (having just gone out into the early stages the big wind/rain storm about to hit Whidbey Island, and survived).

As every silver lining has a cloud, extending human lives creates many problems. One problem is that people don’t know when to quit and when to stop. Think of the worst dictators of all time. Hitler was eventually stopped by outside forces, though at the cost of millions of lives. On the other hand. Stalin (arguably even worse than Hitler) looked set to go on forever, a far as holding power goes, but eventually his health declined (unhealthy lifestyle with habits such as smoking did not help), and eventually he did croak. Even so, there are many rumors and allegations about his death, with claims that he at least was “helped along,” by close associates, such as Beria, head of the secret police. In any case, whatever caused Stalin to kick the bucket was probably a mercy for mankind, as one of the last rumors about Stalin was that he was leaning toward starting World War III. As always a competitive rascal, he might have wanted to outdo Hitler in his final orgy of destruction.

In any case, people who get too old and don’t know when to quit are a perpetual problem. Did Saddam Hussein know when to quit? Probably not. Did Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi know when to quit? Probably not. Did Joe Paterno know when to quit? Probably not. Evander Holyfield, now 48, five times boxing champion of the world and still fighting, certainly doesn’t know when to quit, and is quite likely to have a medical incident right in the middle of the ring.

Are there corresponding instances of women who did not know when to retire? Well, there was Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, who ended up being dragged into a messy court battle, right here in the USA. Or, Catharine the Great of Russian, arguably one of the most successful female rulers in history, about whom one web site asserts, “It was the misfortune of Catherine that she lived too long. She disgraced herself by living with her last lover, Zubov, when she was a woman of sixty-seven, trusting him with power and lavishing public money on him.”

Are there people who know when to retire? Or are we all condemned to carry on too long, wreaking havoc on everyone around us? I don’t think I will quit today. Tomorrow is always another day, not to mention another cliche.

  1. I’m not sure if it’d help or hurt your case to say that retirement isn’t a biblical concept, either. 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping in and commenting, Cameryn. Two responses, both on topic to your comment, I think, referring to something, one Biblical old and one current Christian.

      First, a flood floats Noah’s boat, he lands, plants grapes, [apparently makes wine], gets smashed, sprawls naked, then his son Ham views him in this disgraceful condition. As usual with Biblical narratives, there are a lot of unanswered questions and lots of room for interpretation. I can’t help wondering, was there a point where at the very least Noah needed to stop solitary drinking?

      Second, I do some volunteer work for a church, splitting wood for charitable work. Most of the volunteers, age 60-80, have stepped down from impressive jobs with lots of responsibilities. The volunteer work is still challenging, still involves some danger (we use chain saws and splitters) but keeps us out of the way of younger people and spouses while we still feel important, challenged, and useful.

      W, the team leader, about 80 years old or so, reached a point where he could no longer carry on as leader for physical and mental reasons. He acted a bit cranky as he came to terms with the situation, but he voluntarily retired as team leader; everyone held a party for him, discreetly thanked him and expressed admiration. He still stops in once in a while and carries a piece of wood or two, but no longer tries to organize the crew. Eventually they will hold a service for him and talk about how he is now in Heaven. I will split wood (until I hurt myself or realize it’s too difficult or dangerous for me); I don’t go to the services (regular and memorial), because I am a polite person most of the time and there’s no point of subjecting the other nice people to the irritated expression on my face when I hear them spouting nonsense.

  2. I should add that we had some rain and some heavy wind, but nothing that severe. We battened down everything that might fly away; tested the generator and the chain saw to make sure they are working; kept the chickens food and water in the coop (they bravely went out in the rain for a while), had flashlights and drinking water handy, and I put myself on standby to go to the nearest Red Cross shelter to help out if people needed to leave their homes and take refuge. The lights flickered a couple of times, but the power stayed on. We heard one siren (police or AID?) in the distance. As disasters go, it was pretty mild. That’s fine. I am getting too old for such stuff.

  3. I can’t help wondering, was there a point where at the very least Noah needed to stop solitary drinking?

    Yep. Scripture allows/permits alcohol, but not drunkenness. Like with polygamy and other things God appears to permit (though He usually has explicitly forbidden them), it never ends well.

  4. some of these guys, the trouble wasn’t about quitting, it was about them starting in the first place.

    granddaughters over for an overnight. grandma’s giving them a bath at the moment.

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