Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Article excerpt

"What Was Life Like When you Were Alive?" I have forgotten most of the things my children said to me when they were young, but there is one question that is hard to forget: "What was life like when you were alive?" I tried, gently enough, to explain that I was actually still alive, but since my son had the evidence before his eyes, I was hardly in a position to offer a definitive rebuttal to his assumption.

I feel much the same when asked "How do you like retirement?" My response is the same that aggrieved authors give to their critics: you nincompoop, you didn't read carefully what I said! I ask the inquirers carefully to recall the way my leaving the presidency of The Hastings Center in 1996 was described. I was "stepping down" from the position after twenty-seven years--stepping down, mind you, not (ugh) retiring. Since I wrote that announcement, using the last of my presidential authority to put my own spin on it, that's what I said and that's what I meant.

No matter, I discovered something about getting older: no one will let you get away with saying you have not retired if you have reached "a certain age," as they used to say of once-beautiful screen queens and other maturing creatures. And I have reached that age--even if, as I have always suspected, my birth certificate is a forgery (but I don't have space here to present the readily available hard evidence of that). Despite the fact that I have an imposing title, an office, drive seventy miles round trip to the Center each day, and have a full work schedule, my symbolic status is "retired. …

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