I recently saw the new movie, Some Kind of Heaven, which was an Official Selection of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It is about the Florida retirement community known as The Villages. Here is the official trailer:
My main reactions to the film were 1) it sounds like a slice of hell to me; 2) I love my wife more than ever; and 3) people are often confused about the nature of happiness and meaning.
First, while many retirees are undoubtedly happy their life of continual adolescence doesn’t interest me. Yes, I enjoy playing golf—my one hobby—but I don’t want to do it every day. Nor do I want to become the actor, cheerleader, or dancer I never became or party and drink margaritas every evening. And I most definitely don’t want to live in a world without children. Again, I’m not saying some people wouldn’t enjoy this just that I wouldn’t.
Second I couldn’t help but contrast the life my wife spends in service to others with the lives lived in this retirement cocoon. While my wife’s labors are tiring and frustrating at times they give her life meaning. And I’d like to think that the time I take to write on my blog has meaning for some readers; I know it is meaningful to me. I’d much rather do work that I love, enjoy my relationships with family, and try to better understand life than perpetually partying. That seems to be just a diversion from life in all its varied tapestry.
Now I know that people find joy in different things. But there is a long tradition in Western philosophy that sees happiness not as something to be directly sought but as a byproduct of doing meaningful things. My sense was that many of these retirees seek happiness directly and forget that true happiness—contentment and inner peace—is found as a byproduct of meaningful work and loving relationships. You can move to Florida or Hawaii but in the end, you take yourself with you and only find true meaning to the extent you cultivate it within.
There’s a lot more to be said but you won’t find me heading to The Villages. (“Where dreams come true” is their motto). Here is a link if you’d like to buy or rent the video.