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I guess at least a few people do entertain the following thought at some point in their lives :

I want to work like crazy, earn enough money until I am X years old and then take all the hard earned money and retire in a peaceful place for the rest of the life.

The value of X is something that is variable in the above statement. For some it is late 50’s. For some it is late 40’s. Nowadays we see some instances where X happens to be late 30s/early 40s. Whatever X may be, the thought process behind such a statement is that, one would have accumulated enough money to lead a simple life far away from the hustle bustle of maddening city life.

Somerset Maugham’s short story titled, “The Lotus Eater”, is about Thomas Wilson, a person who works until he is 35, takes a 25 year annuity, settles down in Capri, an island in Italy. Wilson makes up his mind that with the 25 year annuity he would peacefully enjoy the life at Capri and in all probability he would die by 60, before the money from the 25 year  annuity stops coming in. What if he lives beyond 60? Wilson makes up his mind well before he settles down in Capri that if such a situation arises, he would have no qualms in ending his life as he would have already lived 25 years of happy and serene life on the Island. A perfect plan. However there was one big flaw in Wilson’s plan.

It had never occurred to him that after twenty-five years of complete happiness, in this quiet backwater, with nothing in the world to disturb his serenity, his character would gradually lose its strength. The will needs obstacles in order to exercise its power; when it is never thwarted, when no effort is needed to achieve one`s desires, because one has placed one`s desires only in the things that can be obtained by stretching out one`s hand, the will grows impotent. If you walk on a level all the time the muscles you need to climb a mountain will atrophy. These observations are trite, but there they are. When Wilson`s annuity expired he had no longer the resolution to make the end which was the price he had agreed to pay for that long period of happy tranquility.

The consequence of 25 years of bliss is that he cannot bring himself to end his life after 60. The last 6 years of his life, after his annuity runs out is a complete tragedy. The same island which gives him total bliss for 25 years shows him the ugly side of it. Strange are the ways of life!

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