Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Ron writes . . .
Six or seven years ago I came across an interesting way to view one’s life from an unexpected source. In her autobiography, My Life So Far (2005), Jane Fonda describes her life as a series of three acts, each thirty years long. She intends that her third act be her most significant.
The first third of my life was devoted to “growing up,” a very happy time for this privileged kid. Being somewhat nerdish, for me that meant focusing my energies on an extended formal education. For 25 years, counting kindergarten, I was the proverbial professional student, and loved it! I would have been happy to continue collecting degrees, but unfortunately being a professional student doesn’t pay well.
|Chapman University Commencement, May 2010|
The second third of my life was, of course, devoted to my career. After my life as a professional student, I simply moved to the other side of the teacher’s desk: 10 years at the University of Missouri, 5 years at the University of Cincinnati, and 14 years at Chapman University. Higher education is hardly a lucrative career field, but for me, the academy is home. I found teaching an ideal way to “give back” after so many years of receiving . . . and universities “require” professors to engage in research. (How awesome to be paid for reading, thinking, and writing! So in truth, my life as a professional student never ended.)
With the third 30 years of life looming on the horizon, I decided to begin my “encore career” (not retirement!) 18 months early. (For Patricia, that computes to over 5 years early.) We moved to Ecuador two years ago—hard to believe. So the question I have been asking myself recently is, “Have I launched my third third suitably?” I found myself answering, “Yes and No, but Mostly So.”
One of my goals for the climactic third of life was to move into the relatively new area of online education and work with non-traditional students. This I have done. Brandman University, a member of the Chapman University System, specializes in creating a top-notch educational environment for the non-traditional student, and that includes a robust online program. In fact, U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Brandman’s online baccalaureate degree program Number 8 in the entire United States. What a privilege it is to teach adjunctively for such a stellar university!
Another goal for the third third was to devote more time to writing, both academic and fiction. Last September, I was asked to serve as a keynote speaker for a bi-annual congress of 200 scholars in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. This wonderful invitation gave me the opportunity to summarize my academic work in hermeneutics in the form of a formal address to the congress. The address (and possibly a couple of my books) will be translated into Portuguese.
Ignacio Castuera (USA), Erhard Gerstenberger (Germany),
Lilia Dias Marianno (Brazil), Ron, Edson de Faria Francisco (Brazil)
Unfortunately, preparing for the congress has been the only serious writing I have had time to do since moving to Ecuador. I expected that obtaining residency status and building a house would be time consuming, but I had no idea the number or types of obstacles we would encounter along the way. What an eventful and exhausting two years! But now that we are finally living in our beach home, I can honestly say that the trials of the past two years have been worth it. We love our new home even though there is still much work to do; but those projects will be done poco a poco—time and money permitting.
Now I intend to carve out time for writing. Ideas are percolating. The muse is whispering. Hopefully the recent release of my novel, Awakening, in a Kindle edition is a harbinger of what is to come. And speaking of novels, Patricia’s sequel to The Metaphor Maker—entitled Fat Soul Fridays—is expected this summer.
To ensure that the last third of my life is lived to its fullest, and hopefully is longer than 30 years, I had an additional goal for the third third: to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This we have done in at least three ways—resulting in Patricia’s asthma disappearing, my blood pressure dropping, significant weight loss, and renewed (almost youthful) energy levels.
First, Ecuador is a vegetarian paradise (except when you eat out). Never before have we had access to such variety and freshness in fruit and vegetables—and this abundance from the earth is inexpensive. Patricia has always wanted time to cook everything from scratch, and now she has the time, the ingredients, and the large kitchen to create the most marvelous meals.
|Fruit vendor in Jama|
Second, living on the beach makes it hard to ignore the lure to engage in outdoor activities. We breathe in lots of negative ions from the sea breeze and soak up lots of vitamin D from the sun as we walk on the beach, work in the yard, or do yoga on the terraza. I hope one day to add ocean kayaking to the mix.
|Reading on the terraza|
Third, the mañana culture and the year-round balance between day and night—6:30 to 6:30—encourage one to relax. Not having purchased a television yet means that the long evenings are devoted to reading. By means of a Kindle and an MP3 player, I read or listen to at least two books per week: novels, biographies, and academic works. Plus, the number of free online lectures on a host of topics is amazing.
Yes, life may be two-thirds over, but hopefully the best is still to come.