Fellow retirees: How engaged do you feel?

I’m sitting in my skivvies, contemplating what pearls of wisdom to cram into a 400-word space.

As I advise my writing students, when you feel stuck, start with a word. Any word. Today, that word is “engagement”.

In my days as a working journalist, I was supposed to remain officially objective, unengaged, a step removed from the madding crowd. Yeah, right.

Truth is, I frequently found myself engaged, overtly or covertly, in various boards and committees related to the arts, social policy, and even (shudder) politics.

I have twice run for public office. In both cases, the voters exercised superior wisdom by saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Caring a lot is not always a virtue. Those of us who feel compelled to carry a torch aren’t necessarily those who should lead the parade.

It was the Entertainment editor of the Regina Leader-Post who first drove that point home, one day in 1969 when I was the editorial writer for that decidedly Liberal family journal.

After knocking off my daily quota of three editorials (two, if the subjects were really meaty), I would hang around the newsroom, generally obstructing those who still had work to do.

On the day in question, my colleague stopped me short with a memorable zinger: “Bolton, why don’t you go back to your room and view something with alarm?”

I’m not sure what this has to do with the topic of the day, but it wasn’t long afterward that my engagement in various causes began.

Now, officially retired from the daily grind, I look back with bemusement at how entangled I often became – how the cause of the moment, or just plain hubris, could sweep me into a righteous frenzy.

Yes, I miss the debates, the tears, the frustrations, the adrenaline of having to decide.

I miss the sense that only the issue at hand really matters, that the world is poised on its fulcrum, waiting to see how I argue the case, or how I vote. In short, I miss the engagement.

Not that I feel compelled to rush out and volunteer at the nearest seniors’ centre, or scrabble for a position on the local arts council or constituency association.

Nope. I’ll sit here in my unengaged skivvies, viewing the world with alarm and fashioning darts of wit or wisdom to point out how we’re all headed for hell in a handcart.

You’re welcome.

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