"Youare old, father William," the young man said...

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"Backto the garden" (Thanks, Joni)

"ThirdAge" is the extended life-span technology has brought us.   Dr.William Sadler calls this our “30-year life bonus" and it meanswe’ll average living three decades more than our great-grandparents!

TheMythology of Eden : A Map for our Ages

Like our First, Second and Third Ages, the mythology of Eden offers us three progressive, and very different, phases:  lifein The Garden, existence after we partake of The Tree of Knowledge, and the possibility ofsomething more in The Tree of Life or Unity.  Justlike the culture we live in, most of us only recognize the first two, and this is not onlysad but unhealthy.  But there’s good news! Enough of us are now living long enough to discover how Third Age can be opened,lived and shared.  Come along and see whatwaits for us when we can, as Joni Mitchell sang, "...get ourselves back togarden..."  

FirstAge Enjoys – and loses - the bliss of the gardeN

In the beginning, we (like Adam and Eve) are infants living in the bliss ofundifferentiated wholeness.  Everything is one,and there are no complexities, opposites or paradoxes to make us crazy. We name the animals, "play in the sunshine” and have no shame or guilt. But this can’t last, of course, because The Garden is, as one Jewish rabbi putit, “a setup”: if you tell children they can play with everything but The Tree ofKnowledge, of course that’s where they'll go as soon as your back’s turned. Since none of us think the Supreme Being is an idiot, the only sensibleinterpretation is that the Divine Intention is for Adam and Eve (and the rest of us) toeat the apple and come to know all opposites, not just good and evil. In one of the great injustices of all time, womankind and serpents have been blamedfor the stresses of this natural growth spurt.  

Weknow children must and will forsake the innocence that allows them to live in the Onenessof early First Age and plunge into the dualities and ego-centeredness of Second Age. As bizarre a choice as this seems from our Third Age perspective, children thinkit's a good idea at the time, and that’s why we all did it. We may see it as a sad step backwards into the trials and tribulations of worldlyego-achievement — and it is.  But it’s alsoessential because there is no other route to the maturity of BOTH/AND except through theconfusion and pain of EITHER/OR.  God, how wehate to have to watch it, especially when the grandchildren are our own!  

SecondAge Thinks it knows (and others know more)

Back to Adam and Eve (and other adolescents) hiding shamefully behind their fig leaves(of university degrees, corporate personas or new wealth). “Hey,” we want to say, “you don’t need that nonsense – you’re beautifulas you are!”  But they do think they need"that nonsense" -- and, if we're honest, we'll remember most of us reallythought we needed those leaves when we were imitating James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. So we’ll celebrate whatever “successes” they count as important with them, nomatter how silly we might think they are.  Why? Because, like us, it’s only by having enough of those “successes” they cancome to want something more.  

Andhow do we come to “want something more”?  

InSecond Age we initially deal with opposites by deciding one is good and its opposite isbad.  Having achieved such black-and-whiteclarity, we then go about maximizing “the good” (our fast-track career) and minimizing“the bad” (distractions from that fast-track career like relationships, ethics andtime in nature).  If we don’t move along ourpath as speedily as we think we should (and we hardly ever do), our desperation insists weincrease the imbalance in our lives to have those “successes.” It is a terrible thing to be caught here, and few escape. But if we can manage to have enough “successes,” at some point this game beginsto feel hollow because we have sacrificed so much to it. Now we parents and grandparents can be helpful…  

ThirdAge Holds the Tension - and the wholeness…

How do we come back to wholeness?

Whenwe've had enough EITHER/OR, we open ourselves to something beyond our comprehension – a Third Way and a Third Age.  As children we’veexperienced undifferentiated wholeness, and we don’t have a clue about how to get itback.  As young adults we’ve experienceddifferentiated partialness, and we don’t want it anymore. But we don’t know if there is anything more -- and if there is, what do we do tofind it?

Thereis a way.  It’s not easy or familiar. It has been available and ignored for centuries. My friend, Atum, has phrased it most clearly for me. “Hold both the EITHER (your achievement in the world) and the OR (the quality ofyour life) and stay in that tension until a new possibility (something you’ve never seenbefore) arises in your consciousness.  Whenthis happens, you still have, and love, the awareness of the opposites, but you nowparticipate in a wholeness that allows you the fullness, wisdom and ecstasy of BOTH/AND.

Thisis what happens in The Whale Rider when Paka hasthe revelation that his granddaughter, Pi, can be the tribe’s new chief – even thoughshe's not a man.  It's what happens in The Karate Kid when Daniel understands "we learn to fight so we don'thave to fight."  It’s what happens whenwe grasp there could be no resurrection without a crucifixion, that there could be nochosen people without the suffering and persecution.  It’swhat happens when we celebrate the complexities and deliciousness of being both Spirit andFlesh.  It's what happens when we finally “getit” that there can be no light without dark, no good without bad, no life without death.

Understoodand embraced, these (and an infinite number of other Second Age paradoxes) become thestuff of our Third Age – and our launch pad into infinity! As Hafiz wrote:  

Youhave all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare

Orto build a swing for God in your backyard…

Buildthe swing.


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