Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

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This email below is in response to this morning’s post, “The Good Fight.” It’s from a recently retired man who is reveling in the freedom of his post-work life. For him, retirement is the opportunity of a lifetime to spend overdue time in reflection and the gaining of self-knowledge. Because of that, he doesn’t feel ready to “get involved,” at least for now.

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First, bravo for mindful activism in support of a good cause. I would never want to dissuade anyone from engaging. In my own mind, though, there’s a loud,“Ya, but...” along these lines:

We live a great part of our lives responding to statements implying that a proper person behaves according to a list of good qualities and good activities. One of the items on that list, typically, is community involvement.

Most people eventually have doubts about the list, and feel that their lives could be lived with more authenticity and joy and love if only they knew themselves better. There’s an element of existential pain in these doubts — a feeling that some uninvited guest is living out our own agenda through us. In your recent post “Rolling On,” you quoted your friend reporting “moments of WTF is this all about.” That’s a feeling that desperately wants a solution. How wonderful at the end of one’s life to feel we made breakthroughs.

Alienation from our selves is the cause of much damage people do to one another. I believe, for example, that it underlies much corporate rapacity of which this Nestlé project is an example. If we don’t nail this issue of alienation, we may not survive. The issue is urgent.

To each their own, but when I hear urging to get involved, I think, “No, not yet. That would speed up events beyond the point where I can manage them mindfully, and I would just be continuing to live an inauthentic life. I need to progress further on this solo path until community involvement becomes a must-do.”

For someone who feels there’s a gauze between their mind and reality, the cure starts with a small rip in the center of the gauze, which gradually expands to include more of the world. It takes time. In the interim, what surely looks like mere selfishness is at least partly a wish to avoid further injury to the world.

To be clear, I fervently applaud anyone who has achieved significant individual clarity and is involved in helping their community.

 

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The Good Fight