Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Never, never retire

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis

Time magazine named him “the world’s greatest actor”. He is Daniel Day-Lewis, Irish/British actor who just announced his retirement from filmmaking following his Oscar nomination for his beguiling performance in his latest film Phantom Thread. A distinguished actor, with an “innate elegance” and an “almost poetic speech”, this decision is a shock to the film world as well as to his millions of fans. Not only is he one of history’s acclaimed actors, his unique style of research, preparation and rendition of his roles has mesmerised viewers for decades. Are we shocked? Indeed we are.

With only 20 movies, 12 as a leading man, he is the only male actor who has three Oscar wins as Best Actor by the academy.

His experience in theatre is no less prestigious earning him recognition from his peers and showering him with numerous awards. Famous for his exceptional method of preparing for a role, his constant devotion for research and total immersion in his characters is unparalleled. He accepts very few films, and remains completely in character, on and off the screen, throughout the duration of the shooting.

In his first Oscar winning role as Christy, the cerebral palsy patient, in My Left Foot, (1989), he practised for months to pick a needle off the floor with his left foot. As Bill the Butcher, in Gangs of New York he hired a butcher to instruct him in carving a carcass, and a circus performer to teach him how to throw knives. He threw cumbersome knives with pinpoint accuracy. 

Nominated for his last or hopefully latest picture, Phantom Threads, for his portrayal of Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned British dressmaker, he ended up by learning how to sew, designed and completed a fabulous gala dress. 

Day-Lewis, son of poet-laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, may not be your Leonardo di Caprio or Brad Pitt. He is not interested in celebrity, just in acting. Now, how rare is that? Critic Joe Queenan of The Guardian argues as to who is greater, Day-Lewis, Lawrence Olivier or Marlon Brando. Why would an actor of such metal decide to retire?

He confesses he really has not figured it out, “but it’s settled”. We fervently wish it would be unsettled and we shall experience once more that rapturous, flaming brilliance, for beneath his polite and quiet demeanour there is a burning fire within that has sizzled all who witnessed it. 

It should not be quenched for his sake and the world’s.

Retirement is a killer. We do not recommend it for anyone. It could put you in the grave sooner than you intended. 

So you wish to retreat, “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”? Think again.

 Of the 43 most stressful events, science has ranked retirement as number 10.

According to the widely famous study of Cornell University (December 2017) conducted by Maria Fitzpatrick, there is a definite correlation between premature death and premature retirement. Timothy Moore of the University of Melbourne reached the same result. The UK Institute of Economic Affairs found a significantly higher mortality rate for those who retired by 62. Day-Lewis is 60.

Those who work after 65, concluded researchers at Oregon State University, added more years to their lives. Even those termed “unhealthy” who worked longer had a 90 per cent lower mortality rate.

A study of Greek retirees concluded they were more likely to die than those employed.

The Aussies suggest you “punch in for a few more years”, and a Harvard University study of 5,4222 people found that retirees are 40 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke than those who are still working.

What more proof do you need to love work as much as you love life?

If you feel burnt up and unable to perform, take time off. No early-rising, quick breakfast, battling the traffic, hassling with the boss — relax, have fun, relieve the stress, then get back to work, post-haste.

A sedentary lifestyle results in a feeling of sadness, loneliness and depression. Untreated clinical depression could lead to untimely death — even suicide.

We are all going to die someday. We know that the day we are born. When idle, your mind wanders to dark places you were too busy to think about when you were employed. Worry and anxiety of work doubles when you leave work, resulting in a burden on your immune system. This can invite incurable diseases.

Contrary to popular belief, stress can keep you going, ending it can spell your end too.

The passing of the years brings richer experiences, deeper truths, surer hopes — do not bury them. There is more to contribute and each year brings you closer to the best that is to be… through work, not retirement.

Bismarck, who died at 83, did his greatest work after he was 70.

Titian, the famous painter lived to be 99. He painted until he died.

British prime minister Gladstone took up a new language at 70.

The opposite is also true. Famous American football coach, William “Bear” Bryant died 37 days after coaching his last game.

Charles M Schulz of comic book fame, Peanuts, died hours before his last comic strip was published.

If it happens that you are forced to retire, plan for it — stay active, travel, volunteer, keep your skills sharp and contribute to society. Avoid boredom, exercise, decrease depression and isolated retirement.

The longer you work, the longer you live. 

“The role of a retired person is no longer to possess one.”

Simone de Beauvoir 


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