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Letter 10: Bowing Out

20 May 2015

Your last letter has dropped a small pebble into this quiet backwater of a retiree's life. No apologies, please. You don't owe me one, nor to anyone or any institution. No, I would not ask you to re-consider your option. I can only congratulate you.

What gives one greater pleasure than seeing a young man of your talent and abilities availing himself of an opportunity to check out other pastures? A place of higher learning is a vast terrain, but even such an expansive terroir has its bounds and fringes for people with your ambition and justifiable pride. You must feel that now is the time to bow out, to move on and up.

In one of his movingly meditative essays, 'On the Level', Julian Barnes wrote:

Groundlings, we can sometimes reach as far as the gods. Some soar with art, others with religion; most with love.

I'd say executives like us soar with our labour, our professionalism.

And don't look at it as finality. Don't think you are done with the University. You have a long work-life ahead of you. There are still many acts to be written. Who knows if its denouement wouldn't fall where it all began in the first place? My first job was with this University and, after a short period of foraging in unfamiliar sectors and foreign territories, I came back full circle and dutifully served out my tenure here. Some of my best friends were made on this campus—colleagues and ex-colleagues who have gone on to become life-long friends and pension-age company.

I know you must be filled with that post-resignation honeymoon feeling now. Enjoy it, and take stock of what you have done and seen here. As the cliché goes, this is the beginning of an end and the end of a beginning. Standing at the end of the platform enables you to see more clearly the landscape in and around the station, and much much beyond. Slotting in the last piece of the jigsaw, or drawing a line through the last dots, gives you an understanding of the larger picture, which is probably the most valuable parting gift you'd receive. Groundlings that we are, we cannot but contemplate the closures at different stages of our life's journey. Such reflections would give us a sense of and a structure to our experience in the months and years that have gone by. Closure will not only give us meaning but meaningfulness.

Another kind of closure is never far from the mind of a recluse, or a retiree, the two being often one and the same. One is not sure if turning the next corner would usher in a new vista or.... There's this foreboding for oneself. There's this foreboding for ones one cares for. But, oh, sorry for such dark thoughts! Of course, a bright new vista is your rightful destination.I apologize.

I have nothing but the fondest valedictory thoughts for you.

Yours sincerely,



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