In preparing the materials for SelfDesigning My Elderhood, facilitator David Marshak came across the following inspirational quotes on the idea of Elderhood:
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
What makes an elder, a heartfelt spirit, a clear mind, a talented heart, one who is young while old and old while young, an activist for the Soul? Is it formulae, schemas, lexicons? It could be. But also, and often more so, I think it is very like the flowering of the trees in the forest, as we gather more years: we straggle and stride onward in our better learned ways to give out even more seeds for new life, and to blossom wildly in so doing for self and others…
Teilhard de Chardin
Every person, in the course of his life, must build — starting with the natural territory of his own self — a work, an opus, into which something enters from all the elements of the earth. He makes his own soul throughout all his earthly days; and at the same time he collaborates in another work, in another opus, which infinitely transcends, while at the same time it narrowly determines, the perspectives of his individual achievement: the completing of the world.
I awakened further into the awareness that I am an elder in the 21st century. I am in my 62nd year of my life. Aren’t I too young to be an elder? I guess not. Uncle Billy just pushed me to the front of the line. My parent’s passing didn’t have this profound of an effect on me.
All I know so far is that my grief has deepened my appreciation of the virtues of life: kindness, love, forgiveness, patience, compassion, trust and fierce living. I mean FIERCE.
I have survived my pain, fear, disappointment, disillusionment and despair. You must survive yours. I have weathered storms. You must weather yours. I have rested in the calm after the storm. I got caught unaware again. So will you.
I have expanded, contracted, imploded and tried. I have tried again a million times. I have succeeded and I have failed. I have cried a river of tears. I have healed my wounds. I have been wounded again. I have suffered, and I have served. I have forgiven, and I have been forgiven.
Today I value peace, love, kindness and forgiveness.
The aging process seems to bring out either the best or the worst in people— magnifying and emphasizing the flaws and shadow elements of some of us; amplifying the wisdom, radiance and compassion in others. The question carried by those of us committed to becoming peaceful, fulfilled elders is, “how can my aging bring out the best in me?” The inner work known by rubrics such as “conscious eldering”, “conscious aging”, “spiritual eldering” and “Sage-ing” holds important answers to this question.
The journey from late middle-age into fulfilled elderhood is facilitated by inner work that is focused and fueled by conscious intention. This journey can lead to the pinnacle of one’s emotional and spiritual development. Undertaking this journey is in fact what our lives to that point have prepared us for. And as conscious elders, our service to our communities and to the community of all beings can be profound. Carl Jung succinctly expressed this potential: “A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own…”
The olders are elders “in absentia;” not just absent minded, but increasingly lost on the roads of life. It isn’t simply a matter of disorientation, but a collective vacating of the later stages of life. Instead of elders sustaining imagination and wisdom in the world, there are hordes of olders who might just forget who they are and where they came from at any moment. Instead of having answers to the essential questions of life, the olders become a growing question mark themselves…At the cultural level, the elder acts as a bridge between youth and society; at a mythic level, the elder becomes a guide between halfness and wholeness. One foot remains in the issues of the day, while the other remains in contact with the unseen world. As the old proverb puts it: ‘A village without elders is like a tree without root.