MY RETIREMENT LIFE
Life Questions and Quest:
How I met the challenge of cutbacks at work.
by Paul H. Carr
What will you do with the rest of your life? This question arose when my research laboratory was downsized. My boss told me that I would have to let people go. I felt guilty about having to dismiss bright, young scientists who did not have a retirement pension, as I did.
My conscience said, “You should retire.” Yet I had questions. Could my daughters and I afford to live on my pension? Would I lose my friends at work? My colleagues had become like family ever since my wife’s premature death.
I really wanted to continue leading my research team. I remembered when we had encountered an insurmountable problem in developing new technology which promised dramatic reductions in the size and cost of electronic receivers. I had organized a brainstorming meeting, during which a team member said, “This problem is unsolvable.” We didn’t seem to be able to find any solutions. Nevertheless, I reluctantly concluded our meeting with, “Let’s schedule a breakthrough for next week.” My colleagues, encouraged by my faith in them, did indeed come up with the needed breakthrough! This was a reason for keeping retirement on hold.
On the other hand, I had discovered that I could apply for a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to teach a course relating science and religion. I had always dreamed of having time to resolve the culture shock between science and religion I experienced when I started college. I had grown up in rural Vermont, the son of a minister, and was disturbed to met students and faculty at the urban Massachusetts Institute of Technology for whom science seemed to be their religion.
To have time to reconcile my love of science with my religious roots, I made the irreversible decision to resign from my civil service position. During my retirement ceremony in 1995, the laboratory director presented me with a letter from President Bill Clinton, who thanked me for my 32 years of government service. His letter ended with, “Hillary and I wish you good health and every future success.”
This started my quest to relate science and religion. For inexperienced teachers like me, who had never written a course proposal, the Templeton Foundation offered Science and Religion Workshops. These were most helpful in preparing my proposal, which included a detailed course schedule and reading list. My proposal was unfortunately rejected.
I was greatly discouraged because I had devoted a year of intense effort on my quest. Yet I found the courage to continue creating. I resolved to try again next year and attended two more workshops. My second, improved philosophy course proposal entitled “Science and Religion: Cosmos to Consciousness” was accepted.
I enjoyed teaching undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I
showed how creativity could be a link between science and religion. Scientists call a
creative illumination insight and religious people revelation. One of my students wrote in his final essay, "Problems arise when we try to place a value on science that supersedes its scope of practice. Instead of thinking of science as disproving the existence of a Supreme Being, perhaps we should look at science with the appreciating eye of the only species that has been allowed to see the tools of God." I received positive evaluations from my students, but my teaching grant ended after it had been renewed for two additional years.
Then, the question of what to do with my life arose again. In the meantime, I had exhibited landscape photographs at the Marblehead Arts member shows. As a result, I was eligible to give my own exhibit, “Mirror of Nature,” because my photos highlighted reflections of mountains, the sky, sunsets, and fall foliage in bodies of water.
This inspired me to use these photos to illustrate a book based on ideas from my philosophy course. After discussing many possibilities with my beautiful new wife, whom I met at age 66 through www.Match.com , the title Beauty in Science and Spirit emerged. I find beauty in both science and religion. For me, science is like music.
My next quest was to find a publisher. While writing the manuscript over the next three years, I simultaneously submitted proposals to dozens of publishers who had promoted similar books. I received nothing but rejections, but was given the courage to continue. After years of searching, my prayers were finally answered. While discussing my quest at a Thoreau Society dinner, a colleague seated next to me recommended a small New Hampshire publisher. I contacted him and we were able to negotiate a contract.
The first chapter of my book is called “From Art to Science to Art.” It describes the life path of many of us. As children, we enjoy drawing pictures and “color books.” When we grow up, we enjoy the technological comforts resulting from scientific advances. Advances in medical science have increased our average life span. When we retire, we have the time to nurture our hidden talents. Artful retirement is when we stop making a living and start making a life.