Exit Interview with Dr. Bill Thomas
WSJ calls him one of America’s top ten innovators, and for good reason. Over the past 20 years, geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas has been an advocate of independent living. He’s the visionary architect behind the Eden Alternative, Green Homes, and revolutionary Minka Homes. Devorah Medwin caught up with this modern day troubadour as he criss-crosses America with his Changing Aging Tour.
DM: Why are you so committed to redesigning, improving our physical environments, our living experience?
Both my daughters were born with very profound neurological disability. Haleigh and Hannah were exceptionally good teachers. They are at the very center of my heart and this work and I actually credit them far more than any other professional activity.
DM: What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
I use the phrase of being “out of time” where I am not focused on the past or the future, just the present moment as it opens up to welcome me - that’s really when I’m the happiest, especially around home and family.
DM: What is one thing people would never imagine about you? Your greatest fear? Most treasured possession?
I was born with a great deal of restlessness. Being able to see it as a feature, not a bug, took a long time to discover, but I’m cool with it now (hahaha).
DM: What’s one practical step anyone, regardless of age, can and should take?
Do it now! Later is a bad. Now is a good time.
DM: What are you reading, what’s on your bedside table?
I just finished a delightful little book that was translated into English called, Your Second Life Begins When you Realize You Only Have One. It was a big hit in France.
DM: Do you have a favorite writer, book?
Wendell Berry, the classic American essayist, poet, playwright writes beautifully…beautifully! F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d love to be able to write with that kind of economy and then there’s Wendy Lustbader. She’s my favorite contemporary writer. Her books are super readable and deep.
DM: What book would you like to be buried with?
Good question! Of all the books I’ve written, the one most connected to my life’s work is Tribes of Eden, It’s a novel, an exploration of what this whole thing means. In fact, there are parts of the book I cannot read because I get too emotional…I was trying to work things out and in a big way, I think I did.
DM: What is your exit plan? How would you like to die?
I have all the documents, etc. taken care of. On a deeper level, I think it’s important to be open to whatever, however the end comes. I don’t know what that will be, but it’s coming, that’s all I know. I tell myself many times a day, you’re mortal. I’m getting ready, which makes life better.
DM: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A river. It’s always moving, always changing, always renewed. I think it would be nice to be a river.
DM: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“Surprise, mind blown!” I don’t know, I have enough trouble with this dimension of experience, I can’t even grapple with another dimension of experience.