Retirement to Renaissance to Reverence
My retirement curriculum certainly has been leading me into Renaissance, and that means a lot of new learning, and a lot of unlearning the old. [See Old Turning Paradigms Upside Down and Inside Out]. The most recent upheavaling has come from reading 7 ½ Lessons about the Brainby neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett. Dr. Barrett is among the top 1% most cited scientists in the world for her revolutionary research in psychology and neuroscience, so she has some serious credentials. And she says that the triune model of the brain – reptilian, mammal, human – is a useful metaphor because that’s how our brain functioning feels to us (and I have taught in 100+ workshops) is a myth. It’s not fact. It’s not how the brain evolved; it’s not how the brain functions.
It is not hard to learn more. What is hard is to unlearn when you discover yourself wrong. Martin H. Fischer
Fortunately, 7 ½ Lessons about the Brain is so easy to read it’s easy to comprehend this alternative view of how the brain functions and how we can learn to work with it more skillfully.
And…my practicing retirement has also been leading me into more reverence – “profound adoring awed respect” for the beauty, majesty, miraculousness, and sacredness of life. While reading the above 7 ½ Lessons about the Brain one early evening in my garden, I stopped in my tracks and watched a monarch butterfly sipping the lantana still blooming in my garden for a full five minutes. Retirement can mean going deep; it can also mean going slow.
As in enjoying this poem sent by my friend Cherry Jones to celebrate this retirement:
Now we’re ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck,
riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No it isn’t a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck,
and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold,
and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
and he is a part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin,
or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
But he has hardly enough above the eyes
to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however,
which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves,
because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you?
He sits down in it!
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity
– which it is.
He has made himself a part of the boundless
by easing himself into just where it touches him.
I like the duck.
He doesn’t know much,
but if only I could listen
He teaches me all I need to know.
- Donald C. Babcock
I am learning how to know all I need to know, from books and friends, from ducks and butterflies.