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Longevity Tip From A Renaissance Man: Stay Mentally And Physically Active

Confession Time

Turns out I’m a “renaissance man.” I’m also a tool freak. It’s a particularly insidious (and expensive) vice, but I have numerous other vices to compensate for it.  It’s a vice shared by many other males and by more females than you might expect. (By the way, I’ve found it extremely easy to infect those of the female persuasion with the tool freak disorder. I figure it’s a way at getting back at them for domesticating us guys in the first place. As soon as my application for the federal witness protection program is approved, the history of male domestication is a topic I’ll write about.)

various home improvement tools

My most recent acquisition was a set of offset tilting ratcheting screwdrivers that can get into almost impossible positions to reach the most inaccessible screws. A true work of art suitable for prominent display in any museum. Unlike many of my tools, this one was bought out of immediate need. Most of the time, I see something that catches my eye and that I MUST have. After a couple of retirements, my last post-retirement jobs have been at Home Depot and Lowe’s – which is worse for a tool freak than dropping a starving kid into a candy store. I’m almost positive that they’ve paid me more than I’ve spent there – maybe.

The Importance Of Tools To Our History

So what is the attraction to tools? Answer: tools allow us to do stuff. The more tools, the better the tools, the more stuff we can do. Even if the tools are for “just in case” situations, they increase our ability to use and to manipulate our environment. In short, we become more capable. Over our history, the use of tools is what has separated us from all other species and allowed us to dominate this planet. Our first primitive tools allowed us to tame fire, to hunt a wider variety of game, to plant seeds and harvest their bounty.

Tools Really Are For All Species

A few other animals use found tools, and a very few even “make tools.” A chimpanzee will strip leaves off a twig and use it to “fish” out termites from a mound. That’s quite an accomplishment, but they don’t flake rocks, can’t start a fire, and they would be mystified by my fancy new screwdriver.

But tools are not limited to saws, hammers, wrenches, and screwdrivers.  The most important tools are the ones we develop within ourselves – the skills and knowledge that we acquire that, like physical tools, allow us to do more things.

Officially A Renaissance Man

As the Great Texas Ass Freezing Event on 2021 wound down and power returned, (and communications, too,) I was still without water.  Four of my friends recruited a fifth friend with four wheel drive to bring me bottled water and to check on my well being. It was the first time he’d been to my apartment but the only “tour” item I showed him was my foot high pile of blankets and comforters I had burrowed under to stay warm. When he arrived, I had been working on a song on my piano and synthesizers.

While he was there, two of the “recruiting” friends called. While I talked to them, my rescuing friend casually glanced around at my various trappings. After the phone call and after I had offered my sincerest thanks to everyone, he started to leave, took a last glance around from the door, and said, “You’re a renaissance man.”

All Of The Signs

I didn’t know how to respond to that, but after he left, I “took stock” as to what might have caused his pronouncement. Sometimes things can be so familiar that you don’t see them any more. So I walked around randomly glancing at the signs of my life scattered about, things he might have seen.

Four networked computers ranging from my laptop up to the “big computer” for serious computations. All the music stuff – piano, synthesizers, drum pad, headphones, mixer, amps and speakers. Photographs taken that I’d decided had enough artistic appeal to warrant framing. A pair of acrylics and my art easel. A finished manuscript and two others in progress. A model of Voyager that I’d worked on. A NASA launch photo of the Space Shuttle. Baseball and glove, two tennis rackets, a basketball, and box of golf balls.  Four cameras. Backpack and ski gloves. Binoculars and telescope. Games. Hundreds of audio CD’s – hundreds of DVD’s and Blu-rays. An auto mechanic size tool box of just hand tools.

VDWimages / Shutterstock.com

Books And Knowledge Are Power

And books. Five walls of bookcases holding ten thousand of them. Modern novels, science fiction, and “literature” that I’ve read several times. Reference works – dictionaries and grammars in five languages, three sets of encyclopedias, atlases, cook books, and technical references for software and engineering for electrical, mechanical, aerospace, civil, chemical, and petroleum disciplines. 

Mostly, however, I found textbooks. Mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, botany, anatomy, medicine, law, sociology, psychology, philosophy, music, art, history, geography, geology, economics, business, and more are all to be found on the shelves. Whole college catalogs of textbooks – books not just read, but studied with all the effort of a next day final. I taught myself to read at three – now for sixty-eight years I’ve spent time each day “cramming” in some self-imposed course of study.

Why? A quirk of my nature? Just curiosity? That’s some of it, but mostly because I learned at a very early age, the more you know, the more you can do. It’s not just the knowledge gained from study. It’s knowledge gained by doing.  I can start a fire with flint and steel, butcher a hog, run a stick welder and a framing nailer, operate almost anything on land, sea, or air.  Build a house, rebuild an automatic transmission or a gas or diesel engine, find my way in the wilderness or at sea, and countless other things.

Maybe that does in some weird way make me a renaissance man, but there is a powerful lesson to be found there for everyone.  Knowledge is Power.  It gives you more control over your environment and more control of your life. The mental and physical “tools” you acquire and sharpen are available for whatever you may encounter. The more knowledge you acquire the better able you are to sort through the flood of news and (dis)information assaulting our lives and separating the truth from the nonsense.

The Tools For Longevity After Retirement

Most of you reading this on Manopaus.come are either approaching retirement age or have already arrived there. You’ve got time and resources that can be used to acquire more “tools.” Instead of sitting watching wasteland TV, drag out those old text books and really learn it this time. Instead of watching cat videos and engaging in flame wars, spend your web time reading through Wikipedia articles.  Find something that interests you – then follow the links to all the ancillary information. Hit the bookstores – used bookstores in particular – and grab the “Whatever for Dummies” books to get you started in some new area of learning. Watch the “How To” videos on YouTube then go out an actually do it yourself.

When people retire, their lives are going to change. I’ve seen too many over my seven decades that did “fully retire” – and in most cases, I was a pallbearer for them in a year or two. To stay alive – and to live rather than vegetating – you have to stay active – physically as active as you are capable of – but more importantly, you must stay mentally active. There is no better way to stay mentally active than to add more tools to your mental toolbox. That’s a longevity tip from me, a renaissance man.

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Reeves Motal
Reeves Motal
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