Or as Dan Quayle would say, “what a waste it is to lose one’s mind or not to have homersimpsonsbrain_2634_536457_answer_2_xlargea mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

Kidding aside, our brains set us apart from all the other animals. While many have excellent brains and wisps of sentient behavior, nobody thinks in the depth that we humans do.

I am not here to present scientific evidence that you either use it or lose it. That may or may not be the case. We are not talking after all about longevity but on the life well lived.

For some of us, our working lives provide plenty of intense usage for our brains. Some professions lend themselves to time spend just thinking. But if you are working at the widget factory and required to punch button A, and then release, well your brain doesn’t get much of a workout.

And health wise that may not mean much. You may have plenty to think about for years on end raising a family and managing bills and repairs, and well just life in general. You may glance occasionally at the newspaper, (yes I am old!) but you may spend your time generally perusing recipes and ingredient labels and wash instructions.

But for most of us, our brains get a daily workout during our active working lives. It may well be enough, but I would argue, that in the end you will find yourself short-changed.

There is nothing quite like being at a gathering and finding that you are odd-woman out when it comes to the topic at hand. Whether it be politics, sports, or the latest offering at the local gallery, everyone has experienced standing in silence as others chat effortlessly about a topic you haven’t ever heard of.

It does no good to be an expert at something. People who are not ecstatic about your subject will soon tire of your endless facts about the green-backed lizard from Tunisia, and you will find yourself spending all your social time on the green-backed lizard forum. How boring is that?

Your brain is made for use. Thankfully many of us found that out at an early age and have not stopped reading since. Some, like myself, are so eclectic that I switch from paleontology to politics, to bonsai, to quilting to cosmology, to Balzac, without out taking a breath.

There are something like 250,000 books published a year. Surely there are some that will tickle your fancy.

The point is, if you are in retirement, or near it, the excitement of participating in the world can fall off. You don’t leave the house perhaps as much. You don’t meet other people as often. You simply don’t get the stimulus you are used to.

Eventually, this leads to feeling “out of it.” You no longer feel vital and a part of things. You can become withdrawn and detached. Loneliness can follow.

These are not happy things folks.

Reading, with its concurrent stimulation of the emotions and intellect, makes you feel in touch with the world, and also that you are connected with it. It matters what happens in sub-Saharan Africa, or Chile, or Mongolia. You are part of the human family.

It matters what happens to humpback whales and threatened polar bears, because you have read about them and connected with them.

If this sounds mildly silly, well perhaps it is.

But if you were a reader most of your life, for work especially and now find yourself not working, and feeling vaguely out of touch–I ask you–could it be that you aren’t engaging in the world?

To know what is going on in our vast world is the first step to involvement with it. And being involved is a step toward being connected to life and your surroundings in a way that feeds your spirit and makes you feel whole.

Feeling whole and connected is part of happiness.

As anyone who has been forced by whatever circumstances to be apart from society, and who gets little or no chance to keep up with what’s going on in the world, will tell you. I ain’t fun.

So learn.

Take classes, read books, watch uplifting intelligent television. Learn about art, or ballet, about fly fishing, or the plight of elephants. Learn how to cook or knit, or woodwork. Read about places very unlike your own, and about the history of mysterious places. What do you know about Timbuktu or Katmandu? What do you know about quasars? What do you know about climate change? The economy? How the bible was brought together? There are millions of topics.

Learn because people will find you fascinating. Learn because you will feel accomplished. Learn because you have a marvelous brain, and it would be a shame not to use it for as long as possible. Learn because you will have great company just thinking!

And just maybe, using it keeps it useful longer.

It might be true. And there is no harm done if it doesn’t is there?