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Elders

Elders

Well hello 2021! This is a time for renewal and rededication. We are in the midst of great change and we need clear heads and open hearts in order to address it. I’m reading Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble by Stephen Jenkinson. The case for elderhood, respect and mutualism in human interaction is clear and necessary.

Family and community are the traditional repositories of knowledge and wisdom. Elders hold the combination of information and experience that offers valuable counsel to the young. In our fast-paced information economy, the elders have often been forsaken for the perception that wisdom comes from the screen.

Theory is used to place information into a framework, and the theories that we hold as individuals make up our perspectives or worldviews. Theory refined by information through experience is praxis, an alchemical combining that leads to wisdom.

Communication is a double-edged sword. We have access to more knowledge and information than ever before, but less of the face-to-face contact that has been essential to the development of humanity. The volume of communication available to us means that there is greater likelihood that we will pick and choose our sources in ways that fit into our prescribed theories and worldviews, creating an echo-chamber of like-mindedness.

To be in community with others is a powerful task, an experience of give-and-take that must serve the needs of all. Community engenders respect and mutualism, a desire to hear and understand the viewpoints of each member. Like humans, community is an imperfect device that takes work, maintenance and the effort of showing up. Community is based in love.

I am grateful to the elders with whom I have grown and shared in community and for the lessons and teachings that they have passed on to me to guide my life. We learn through experience over time, through seeing and observing. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” holds truth in that we see the examples of others around us as we each travel our life course. Each day is a day for action, an opportunity to bring our best and highest selves to our interactions.

I worry that there are many lessons still unlearned, and that I am moving too fast through the whirlwind of life to take the time to listen to the elders. I want to make a conscious effort to spend time with my elders in the year to come, and to thank them for their presence in my life. I want to bring my worldview and physical strength to sit in counsel and to be helpful. The young have much to offer as do the elders and the exchange is true human reciprocity of mutual benefit.

Shared effort offers some of the most fertile ground for interaction. Passing time and experience through vocation or calling is the way human society evolved. In our world today we often lack opportunity for these types of deep connection, the teaching and passing on from one generation to the next. There is so much potential during the conversation that evolves while sharing, working together to weed a garden bed, bring in firewood or make a meal. The examples are interchangeable and varied but the foundation is the same.

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Young people; see that there is much to learn and with humility, seek out the elders. Elders; see your role as teacher and be open and accepting of the young and share your wisdom. Humans are so varied and unique that there is infinite potential for learning and experience. We must each identify our special gifts and seek the path that will craft these gifts into the tools through which we build a life.

At the level of governments and social structures we need clear support for human actuation. The goal of constructed systems of law and regulation should be to create opportunity for all with universal basic standards. The gutting of the American social safety net is a travesty that will go down in history, those responsible enshrined in ignominy for their transgressions.

As I look forward into the year to come, I revise my personal goals worksheet. I think about the larger threads of my life and what I want to pursue. I evaluate where I can use my limited lifeforce energy and try to plan a path that sustains and invigorates me. I reflect on the year past, and know that I used too much of myself in work and not enough in family and community. I look forward to seeking balance, learning to maintain and thrive. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!

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