I had a friend, an intelligent and very learned man, who gave no hint of having been in the least troubled by time. He was a university teacher, who taught well but scarcely bothered to publish. After his retirement from teaching, the one mild pressure in his life, meeting with his classes, was removed. He rose, read the daily press with a mordant eye, watched one of the morning television talk shows with his second cup of coffee, drew a bit, read some, taught himself (slowly) the rudiments of Chinese, wrote comic letters, looked up French words, considered etymologies of English ones, gave delight to his friends, took pleasure in his food and drink, and thus lived out his days until a benevolent (or so it seems in retrospect) heart attack took him out of what seemed a not very taxing game. It seems rather pointless to say of him “May he rest in peace,” since, as near as I can determine, he pretty much lived in peace. I’m not sure he owned a watch. Not a man, clearly, on a schedule.
Did he, I have often wondered, have any doubts? Had he got the most out of himself? In suppressing ambition, did he not also kill a certain kind of joy—that very genuine joy connected with achievement? He left no children. His friends, those who have not already died, grow old. His memory will fairly soon be extinguished. He was too clever a man not to have thought about all this. He lived, if not all that intensely, still almost entirely in the now. He met all his obligations, not least among them giving pleasure to his friends, though apparently he never felt that he owed any obligations to the future. Was he more or less intelligent than I in eschewing the notion of a schedule?
— Joseph Epstein, “Time on My Hands, Me in My Arms,” With My Trousers Rolled: Familiar Essays
My gym is looking to hire a new overnight cleaning service. They already have a few interviews set up, but they posted a notice at the front just in case any of the clientele might know a guy, etc. I’ve been pestering the Lady of the House ever since. This is my dream! Working a night shift by myself? Cleaning? In the gym, where I assume my membership might even be comped? Come on, I said, let’s sell the business and get back to the simple life!
I’m kidding, but on the square. If I were financially set for life, that is precisely the sort of work I’d do. The Lady is fascinated with business qua business; I’m not. I’m just a draft horse. (Thankfully, she keeps her Napoleonesque urges under control, so I don’t fear becoming another Boxer.) I can work as hard as anyone, but I have absolutely no interest in CEO-level stuff. Just give me my menial task and let me get to work, preferably while listening to music, ideally without any personal interaction at all.
Me and my friends sell ourselves
Short but feel very well
We feel fine, ah, we feel fine
Small stakes ensure you the minimum blues
But you don’t feel taken and you don’t feel abused
Small stakes tell you that there’s nothing can do
Can’t think big, can’t think past one or two
— Spoon, “Small Stakes”
Sounds to me like Epstein’s Epicurean friend had it all figured out.