But growing up there were always bare studs in some addition, a pile of sheet rock, a box of nails, half-finished foundations, as if to call us on to work until we die. The fact is we never finished any home I lived in until now. It seemed to be a badge of honor for my New England family to not finish what they had started. That sage of Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “People wish to be settled; only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” By that standard I grew up around a whole lot of hope.
Our lives will end without being finished. There is wisdom in accepting that we are finite beings living in a finite world, and that is somehow very freeing.
This all came home to me when we went to see a financial planner. She asked me how much longer I planned to work. “I don’t know, forever?” I answered, “after all a lot of people depend on me”. She said “Let me re-phrase that. How much longer do you think you will be able to work? You are at your working prime right now” she told me, “but twenty years from now, not so much. What if you get sick? Or lose your, er, mental capacity?” Now she was scaring me. But it was a real moment of theological truth for me. I wasn’t going to work until I dropped, not that I wouldn’t try, but eventually, I just won’t be able to. We all have to stop, even my Dad who retired at 80! We are finite beings and isn’t that really a good thing?
If all I did was try to keep working, and made no room for the next generation, when would my ability to share wisdom cease to be more important than just being in the way? Our living is made complete when we step out of the way to let others finish what we have started. That is what I have learned. And whatever happens beyond this life now is not for us the living to worry about. The point is to live and let live and then to steward others behind us to take our place at the hammers and nails of life.
With Grace and Grit, John