Posted by: captainfalcon | October 10, 2010

Thought of the Idle

I had a nightmare last night that my hair all fell out,* and it reminded me that one of the more perverse aspects of the, shortly, mid-twenties is that your final years of peak physical performance and mental agility – when you are best suited to know how to wisely take advantage of both – are spent impecunious, making a, for many (though happily not yet for me), boring effort to position yourself to become meaningfully solvent, which typically happens about the time that solvency isn’t good for anything but warding off total decrepitude and purchasing overpriced substitutes for less expensive goods that are, in the grand scheme of things, superfluous anyway.

A family friend once suggested – it may not be original to him – that the best societal configuration would have people retire first, and work afterward. (Jumping the gun would, presumably, be discouraged.) The fifteen or so years currently spent in retirement at the back end would instead be enjoyed, subsidized, at the front end. Difficult to imagine an efficacious structure of incentives for such a configuration, but, from where I sit, the fantasy has a lot to commend it.

It also occurs to me that a great load may be lifted once we’re no longer capable of breathtaking feats of physical-intellectual prowess (and so no longer afflicted by the considerable opportunity costs arising from those capabilities), so a comparable result might be achievable by irreparably beating the shit out of everybody who turns twenty three.

* Unamusingly, It was not frightening enough to cause all my hair to fall out.

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Responses

  1. The realization that I am nearing if not at my peak is horribly troublesome. All this, to me at this, should promote accelerating our current social configuration rather than delaying it. That way society maximizes the human potential of its workforce and our peak abilities correspond to our peak influence on affairs. We should ideally be finished with the (now mid-twenties) doldrums by our teens and enjoy a long tail of obsolescence starting at age 50 or so. At least, that’s how a society would be arranged most efficiently from a Darwinian perspective.

    I can also see why, as individuals, we would want to spend the best years of our lives enjoying ourselves rather than situating ourselves for the future or slogging towards decrepitude.

  2. I disagree. The beauty of delaying entry into the workforce is that you are best positioned to enjoy the fruits of retirement in young adulthood, and best positioned to tend to serious affairs beginning in middle age. In young adulthood you are most physically and mentally adroit, and thus capable of stunning feats of physical and mental prowess. But you have not yet accomplished as many of those feats as you will have by middle age, and so don’t have the practical judgment that arises from their accomplishment.

    Hence the inverse configuration is win-win. It both allows us to best take advantage of life and makes us better contributors to the social product. Man and society are both stronger for it.

    I’d add – though you already know it – that my remedial reflections were a comparatively minor point. This post’s main concern is that life as we know it confines us to a straight-jacket right when we are at our most lucid. It is a grotesque state of affairs.

  3. The problem is that we will be senescing throughout our entire career, with our vocational peaks coming post-60 when we are all delusional and cancerous (which is why we have old-age retirement in the first place). So we have to weight what option is best to maximize while we are at our physical and mental primes. I imagine one would prefer to engage in leisure, but I think that might not be the best outcome for society.

    Though, I agree, the current arrangement is upsetting.

  4. While living in the past is a reasonable reaction to our current plight, it does not further your analysis. There was a time when sexagenarians were delusional and cancerous, but no longer. Thank you for raising another point in my favor.


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