It started with one of my ‘bucket list’ ideas – sailing in the British Virgin Islands. My sailing friend Jim Copple had chartered boats there several times. We thought of others who might want to join us, to help crew on a large sail boat and share the charter costs.
When three others – Gerald Smith, Gary Morsch, and Franklin Cook – agreed to the adventure, we were off sailing to the islands in the BVI. Before long we recognized that something else was happening. As enjoyable as sailing in the BVI, sailing had become more than sailing.
Each of us with leadership responsibilities began to share interests and ideas. The conversations, other than how to sail, were unplanned, spontaneous, about anything of mutual interest.
This March, four of the original five (with Bob Sloan) returned to the BVI sailing to some of the same island destinations, mooring in the evenings and going ashore in the dingy for meals and conversation around agreed upon topics – our big ideas!
This time I took along Daniel Klein’s little book ‘Travels with Epicurus’ rereading some of the best advice I know of on aging. His reflections include ‘On Freeing Ourselves From the Prison of Everyday Affairs’ and ‘On The Pleasures Of Companionship In Old Age.’
Following his retirement Klein wrote the book about his return to places he first visited as a young man in the Greek Islands. There he observed something wonderful - an older man with his companions at a restaurant table ‘without wanting anything from them.’
‘Wanting nothing from one’s friends,’ writes Klein, ‘is fundamentally different from the orientation of a person who is still immersed in professional life with its relationships.”
On the job, however friendly we may be to one another, ‘we are,’ claims Klein, ‘in service of a goal that has little if nothing to do with genuine friendship’.
It was upon his retirement, when he was no longer a boss nor had a boss that he and his friends became ends rather than a means to an end. It was then he discovered the ‘pleasures of companionship’ – with friends for no reason other than being together.
However, I don’t think we need to wait until retirement for genuine friendship. In the course of busy lives if we take time ‘to free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs,’ we can discover the pleasures of companionship at any age and place in life.
That’s what we discovered on our voyage to the BVI and several destinations since. We set aside the time and go to the expense of meeting for no other reason than to be together. It is so rewarding that as soon as the week ends we are planning for the next time.