Gerald Fry – Purpose, Flow, and Ikagai: Readings on Aging Healthily and Happily

Gerald Fry

 I really enjoyed our last Zoom reunion discussion of plans for life in our 80s. That inspired me to write this short essay.  Related to my current research on aging and happiness, I have been doing much fascinating reading.  So I would like to recommend several wonderful and inspiring books about purpose, flow, and Ikigai (a wonderful Japanese phenomenon which I experienced when I lived and worked in Japan).  The three constructs are not the same, but are closely related.  

Ikigai could be roughly translated as having a passion.  For example, my Princeton classmate, Joe Robinson, had a passion for playing the oboe (see reading below about his oboe journey). 

I hope some of our classmates will seriously consider writing their memoirs.  Many of you have led such interesting and amazing lives in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Writing provides a gratifying purpose in life. The book or stories can be shared with friends and family and will give the writer immortality.  When my dad passed at almost 100, I did a short book about him and his life, which I published in Wichita and distributed at his memorial service. That was much appreciated.

Let me close with this inspiring quotation from the town on Okinawa where people live the longest in the world.

At 80 I am still a child.

When I come to see you at 90,

Send me away to wait until I’m 100.

The older the stronger;

Let us not depend too much on our children as we age,

If you seek long life and health, you are welcome in our village,

where you will be blessed by nature, and together we will discover

the secret to longevity.

 –  The people of Ogimi, Okinawa. I definitely plan to visit this village and another island half-way between Kyushu and Okinawa.

Books I highly recommend

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  New York: Harper & Row.  I love his concept of flow.

Erich Fromm, 1976.  To Have or To Be?  New York: Harper & Row

Héctor Garcia, and Frances Mirally, 2016.  Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.  New York: Penguin Books

Jennifer Heisz, 2022. Move the Body, Heal the Mind.   New York: Mariner Books

Richard J. Leider, and David A. Shapiro, 2021.  What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?  The Path of Purposeful Aging. Oakland, CA: Barrett-Koehler. This is a wonderful and inspiring book.

Joseph L. Robinson, 2018.  Long Winded: An Oboist’s Incredible Journey to the New York Philharmonic.  Chicago: Joshua Tree Publishing.  A wonderful example of the ikigai spirit

Emma Seppälä, 2016.  The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate your Success.  New York: HarperOne. This Finnish scholar teaches at Stanford and introduced their course on happiness.

David  A. Sinclair, 2019.  Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To.  New York: Atria Books. The latest science on aging. Sinclair is a brilliant Australian scientist at the Harvard Medical School. I learned about him while taking a sauna in Pattaya, Thailand.  Sauna, by the way, is extremely healthy.

Jennifer Heisz, 2022.  Move the Body, Heal the Mind. New York: Mariner Books

And I highly recommend Dan Buettner’s books on the blue zones of the world where people are most happy and live the longest.

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