“Don't let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth -- don't let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.” -Aesop
We strive for contentment and then find ourselves complacent. This is a reality of modern times. It is a product of confusing contentment with finality. The idea that, “I will finally be at peace when I accomplish X,” which is, of course, not how happiness or contentment works. Contentment exists outside of goal and circumstance; it exists within daily life and process.
Complacency, on the other hand, does reflect a destination. People arrive somewhere after a quest, they succeed (or even fail), and then rest. The job has been won, the book has been written, the company has been sold and the rest is well deserved...at first. Then fallow ground stays dormant and our authenticity fades, stays buried, if not cultivated. We become part of Aesop’s great chewing complacency.
What is to be done? While one can lecture about continual creative cultivation, it is better to show than tell. Here are stories of living centenarians that have never grown complacent. They hold dear their special character, their secret, their truth still thrives:
Paco Cano is the son of a bullfighter turned famous photojournalist. Bullfighting pictures are his wheelhouse. He rose to fame after capturing the infamous death of renowned bullfighter, Manolete, on film. But he was also a photojournalist for ABC and other prominent Spanish news organizations. Now at 103, Cano still treks to Pamplona for the annual running of the bulls to take photos.
Zoltan Sarosy achieved his peak chess ranking in 1992, at age 85. He won the Hungarian Master title in 1943. After moving to Canada, he took a break from chess in 1957 to open a business. By 1963, he was back at it won the Toronto Championship. He was awarded the IMC title in 1988 and was inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame in 2006 at age 99. He is still playing chess today at age 108.
Frances Oldham Kelsey got her PhD in pharmacology in 1943, after having received a scholarship from University of Chicago when they mistook her application for that of a man. She went anyway and was hired in 1960, at age 46, by the FDA where she single-handedly blocked the approval of Thalidomide. For this, she was awarded the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. At age 92, she was given the Foremother Award from the National Research Centre for Women and Families. At age 96, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Vancouver Island University. Now, at age 100, she has retired, but remains active. The only medication she takes is aspirin.
Richard L. Bare is best known for his television series, Green Acres. And now Bare, at age 100, has just acquired the rights with producer Phillip Goldfine to produce a movie and Broadway play based on the series. Bare has worked all his life in television and movies, has been a teacher and written a memoir. His other television credits include, among many others, Colt .45, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Twilight Zone, and Lassie.
How old are you and how are you fighting complacency in your century?