Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows:
It was a tradition in ancient China that the literati intelligentsia that ran the Empire for the monarch retired at the end of their service to well-deserved obscurity. This was not a punishment but a much yearned for reward. Some even declined initial engagement and advancement to maintain the obscurity of a natural life down in the countryside from the beginning.
We delude ourselves, I think, that we are agents of change who develop our freedom-of-action through our advancing seniority of status. Really, we are the ones who maintain the system and keep it going, but it will go as it will without our help, and we will it to become as it always has been in our experience. If it did not continue to be as it always is and will be, would it need us to lead it? Wouldn’t a new changed system need new fresh faces to lead the way across the desert to the new promised land? And don’t we all figure that, beyond the promises, the new promised landscape will look much the same as the old – being the same place with new nomenclature – so what’s the point? So we lead it to be what it is. We change it to help it stay the same. Old wine in new wine skins, or even old wine in old wine skins, with new labels.
So eventually it’s a relief to retire to the countryside and let others struggle with creating new oldness out of the same old cloth. It’s possible that growing vegetables could be just as fulfilling as growing bureaucracies, and less troublesome for others. More chance to just sit in the sun – to love and be loved by our friends and our dogs.
So now when my time is coming, I wonder if I also might retire to some distant corner of the empire – Powell River or Texada Island – and build a zen garden. It might be as good a contribution to the fulfilment of the universe to rake the lines into the sand after a storm, as to lead a union or organize the duties of a university administrator. Focus on being, as opposed to having, or being thought of as.
In the end, it’s who you are to others, and not what you think of yourself (altruism as opposed to self-interest), that really matters. Getting off the rat-race carousel to try to be the person you might have once hoped to be, before you were swept away by others’ expectations of who you ought to be, to be as someone such as yourself should. And then perhaps you’re free to act for the Kingdom of God, and not just the Kingdom.