Thursday, January 5, 2012

All about Nothing

 I love what Hal Kessler of Elkins Park wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Here it is:

A woman comes home from work and says to her husband, who is retired, ‘What did you do today?’
‘Nothing,’ he replies.
His wife then raises her voice and says, ‘Damn it, you did nothing yesterday.’
He replies, ‘I know. I wasn’t finished.’
After 52 years of work, I have learned to do nothing. I submit that doing nothing in my case, is a major breakthrough. I thoroughly enjoy doing nothing and view 2012 as an opportunity to continue to do nothing.”

I found Hal doing nothing this afternoon, and he had time to explain why he’s having so much fun.
For 38 years, until 1992, he worked as a teacher and later director of curriculum for the Philadelphia School District. For the next 11, he ran the World Affairs Council’s  Pew-funded project-- Schools of Excellence. Next, he was education director for the HolocaustAwareness Museum  in Northeast Philadelphia.
During much of this time, he said, he actually worked 3 or 4 jobs, -- teaching in the evening, writing reports for a management psychology firm and teaching at Chestnut Hill College.
“One day I said to myself, ‘This is a bit crazy!’ and I cut down to two jobs.”
Now, Hal, 79,  says, “I find I love just not having to watch the clock, though my alarm still goes off at 5 a.m. I have a leisurely breakfast and chart out the day. I have time for my two grandsons, 8 and 9,  and reading and golf.
“I call it nothing because I don’t have a job. That makes it nothing. I do what I want to do. That’s why I’m finding this retirement so great. I don’t have a job, no one to report to, no deadlines to meet.”

I can’t see my way to "nothing" yet.  As my friend, Art Carey, told me today, citing psychologist Martin Seligman, “We need a sense of engagement, of accomplishment. When you leave a career, you leave a source of those things. And then there’s routine. So we need a way to replace those things.”

Hal Kessler would disagree.


Denise in Peru said...

As a friend of Hal Kessler, I can attest to the fact that he does "nothing" better than anyone else I know! - Denise

Marci Neuman said...

As Hal's daughter, I can attest to his excellent work ethic. I'm so happy he is able enjoy doing nothing in good health. I hope he is able to do nothing for another 20 years!
Marci Neuman
Ambler, PA said...

When I was 16 I was in love with my high school history teacher. I wasn't alone. He made history come alive with his warm wonderful funny personality.
This past September I attended my 50th reunion from NE High School. My date and the man in my life, Mr. Kessler. I am so happy to be doing nothing with this beautiful man. Nancy Sagel Florin

Chuck Feldman said...

As President of the Holocaust Awareness Museum, it has been my privilege to know and work with Hal for over ten years. He is one of the wisest people(witness his comments in the blog) I know and I frequently quote him to friends and colleagues. Despite the fact that I am about 20 years his junior, I do believe that I am smarter than he in one area. According to my family and friends, I have been doing nothing for decades--and enjoying it. Hal--here's to doing nothing together for many more years.