The Retirement of Iphegenia

Tagged: NotableAndQuotable / Obscurantism / Retirement / SomebodyAskedMe / TheDivineMadness / ϜΤΦ

Somebody asked me, “What’s your retirement plan?”

Why, to retire in the classical style, of course:

Otio qui nescit uti
plus negotii habet quam cum est negotium in negotio;
nam cui quod agat institutum est non ullo negotio
id agit, id studet, ibi mentem atque animum delectat suum:
otioso in otio animus nescit quid velit
Hoc idem est; em neque domi nunc nos nec militiae sumus;
imus huc, hinc illuc; cum illuc ventum est, ire illinc lubet.
Incerte errat animus, praeterpropter vitam vivitur.

He who does not know how to use leisure
has more of work than when there is work in work.
For to whom a task has been set, he does the work,
desires it, and delights his own mind and intellect:
in leisure, a mind does not know what it wants.
The same is true (of us); we are neither at home nor in the battlefield;
we go here and there, and wherever there is a movement, we are there too.
The mind wanders unsure, except in that life is lived.
 — Quintus Ennius, Iphigenia[1], 241–248, ca 190BCE

The idea, of course, is to retire in the style of lines 241-242 and not the rest of it: have a plethora of satisfying, productive activities instead of the mad scramble of employment – what Wikipedia’s “Otium” entry describes as “otium negotiosum”.

It may be that this blog will be a mad scramble of its own; it may be that it will be a satisfying, productive activity. (“It may be that the gulfs shall wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles”, as go the words Tennyson put in Ulysses’ mouth upon his “retirement”.)

There are, of course, other options, as one of my wonderful French colleagues pointed out in Henri Salvador’s brilliantly silly/sarcastic song, Le travail c’est la santé from way back in 1965:

My favorite part is the last verse, learned while playing pétanque chez Club Med:

Homm’s d’affaires et meneurs de foule
Travaill’nt à en perdre la boule
Et meur’nt d’une maladie d’cœur
C’est très rare chez les pétanqueurs!

(Of course, in these days of COVID-19, we all sing: “le télé travail, c’est la santé!”)

Notes [2]

1: Of course, you had it figured out PDQ that this wasn’t the one in Brooklyn, right?

2: Yes, this blog has footnotes. Footnotes are your friends. Get over it.

Written Thu 2020-Jul-02

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