Newsletter – December 2015

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THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – DECEMBER 2015

1.  FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

2.  ANOTHER MOON – AN ELDER MOON – IS RISING IN OUR SKY

3.  NATURE IS PRESENTING US WITH A GIFT OF ELDERS

4.  SURRENDERING AN OBSOLETE IDENTITY IS HARD – AND WORTH IT!

5.  IN OPENING TO ELDERHOOD WE OPEN TO NEW REALITIES

6.  FOUR DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES OF ELDERHOOD

7.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH – SENECA THE ELDER

     “As for old age, embrace and love it. It abounds with pleasure if you know how to use it. The gradually declining years are among the sweetest in a man’s life, and I maintain that, even when they have reached the extreme limit, they have their pleasure still.”
 
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1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

Season’s Greetings, Dear Friends…

I’m doing something a bit different in this newsletter, and that is to present a single article. It’s too much to take in at once. Good friends have suggested encouraging readers to have a number of ‘sittings’ with it during the month, so I’ve divided the piece into sections with suggested ’sitting places’ that look like this…

Sitting 15-12 4

And your ’sitting places’ may be quite different than mine. So ignore mine if they don’t suit you – and I must agree with old friend, Chris Rago, that they are definitely a part of Elderhood…

I’m offering an evolution of self that old FW is embracing as some of you reading this will be, too. While it is not a totally new perspective on my own aging, it is a significant step in my moving into Elderhood. I thank  David “Lucky” Goff for great help in this. His article, “The Evolving Elder,” makes enormous sense to me at 77, and enlarges my understanding of Elderhood and how to open fully to it.

Reading David’s piece clicked me into realizing how much I’d underestimated the difficulty we encounter in transforming from our Adulthood identity to an Elderhood identity. All previous shifts in identity – from infant to child  to adolescent to young adult to mature adult – were made easier because the cultural winds were at our backs pushing us forward. Those winds continually whispered in our ears, “You want to be bigger, stronger, more grown up, more powerful…” This cultural/peer support made our earlier changes in identity seem natural and like good ideas.

But when it comes to moving from Adulthood to Elderhood, those same cultural winds are suddenly in our faces shouting. “You don’t want to get old! You want to stay young and vital and attractive!” And so I thought, for way too long, that I should resist becoming fully who I now am.

This is a mistake with potentially terrible consequences, not just for those of on the brink of Elderhood, but also for the world. Elders are desperately needed to heal a world suffering from lack  of wisdom, a lack that continues to lead us into endless wars, global warming and mass psychosis. Elders can guide us to a better world. However, opening to Elderhood is not easy in youth-glorifying or religiously-rigid cultures.

David helped me see I was on the path to becoming an Elder who could love his life and serve his community. He describes four Development Challenges we must expect to meet on our way to Elderhood…

     “Life knows what it is doing. Becoming older can confirm that. This is one big surprise. Instead of everything being over, locked in some dusty past, Life continues the process of shaping us. Coming to recognize that it isn’t all over, despite the losses that ageing, infirmity, and death bring, has a wisening effect that cannot be predicted. The human journey suddenly takes on new, mostly unforeseen, dimensions.

     “Here are the unexpected developments that occur with ageing that lead up to the most essential surprise of all — our presence in Life is not an accident. These developments each seem unpredictable, even unlikely, but they are most probable in later life, and they make the process of becoming an elder something of a coming home to our species’ true nature. With age the likelihood grows of:

                    Becoming more fully oneself…

                                           Discovering how to best serve…

                                                                  Aligning those two developments…

                                                                                                  Learning through community…

It’s a great gift when someone helps you see who you are, what you’re becoming and how you’re doing it. David did that for me with these challenges. I hope my story, which you’ll find mixed in with the sections, will help you with your journey into Elderhood.

What follows are slide images I found to put with David’s wisdom. The words on the images are from his article, and the FW comments between are my personal interpretations. I’ve ordered the slides differently than in his article, and you can see how in the links at the end. I’ve also taken the liberty of suggesting ’ sitting times’ when pausing to reflect has been helpful to me and might be to you.

Look through the sections and slides, pausing as suits you, and, if you’re as intrigued as I, you’ll find links for the David’s full article and a profound radio he and Alexandra Hart, his partner in this work, did on New Dimensions.

Love, FW

www.fatherwilliam.org
 
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2.  ANOTHER MOON – AN ELDER MOON – IS RISING IN OUR SKY…

EoE 01 Two Moons

This second moon is the moon that pulls us toward Elderhood, and it is new on the horizon. The moon of Adulthood, while moving away, is still high and exerts great power. The metaphor of two moons pulling in opposing directions perfectly captures the paradox Elderhood presents. Our culture glorifies youth, worldly achievement and linear rationality. None of these is what an Elder does.

Overcoming cultural imprintings is extremely difficult. Even though the Elder moon may be regaining its place in the firmament, the Adult moon still has us in its grasp. This is because developed cultures, which overemphasize the material and physical, extend that prejudice to aging, experience and maturity.

Previously the powerful winds of culture have been at our backs, pushing us forward to be bigger, stronger, more powerful. This doesn’t happen as we age. Suddenly we find those winds in our faces, resisting our every attempt to embrace Elderhood. As my great friend, Glenda Bissex, said, “AARP puts pictures of 70 year old women on its cover, but they all look 45.” That’s the continuing power of the Adult moon…

EoE 02 Adulthood=Pinacle

Mine certainly did – and does. It teaches the only place to go after Adulthood – this perpetually glorious upward life of getting bigger, stronger and more powerful – is down.

But maybe not. Maybe there are other possibilities. Maybe a culture can get just as out of whack as a person. Maybe there are other possibilities a culture hasn’t evolved to embrace yet…
 EoE 03 Identity Being Toppled

 Leaves, with their photosynthesis capabilities, have been “making it happen” for a long summer season. Then comes a time when leaves wither, dry and fall from their trees. And the trees don’t die. Can we imagine we are the tree rather than a leaf?

EoE 04 Vulnerability

Do trees feel they are dying when this year’s glory is released? I doubt it. Still, we feel terribly vulnerable when we surrender parts of ourselves that previously served us so well. This can be a very difficult time as we must release parts of our Adulthood identity we’ve been so sure for so long…

EoE 05 Personal Power Fading

Yet what the world needs is Elders to give, even if the world doesn’t know how to  value the gifts Elders can bring. And, because it can seem a big ’stepping up,’ it begins with little steps…   

EoE 06 Aging as Deficiency

Yes, this is what our cultural perspective sees. It’s a shame, a waste and what way too many believe about aging…

Sitting 15-12 1

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3.  DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS MEAN A LARGER POOL OF POTENTIAL ELDERS

EoE 07 Our Species Is Evolving.001

EoE 08 US Pop 1950-2100 Square

The changing shape of these age profiles of humanity suggest a dramatic evolution of our species toward maturity, experience and awareness…

EoE 09 Evolution Is Disruptive

Evolution of awareness always disrupts, and, in the absence of maturity and experience, results in conflict, often terrible conflict. Such new awarenesses were accompanied by the horrors of the French Revolution, America’s Civil War, China’s Cultural Revolution, 9/11 and the Arab Spring. When elders, like Katie John and Nelson Mandela are not embedded in and guiding stressed communities, such catastrophes only continue and multiply…

EoE 10 This Increase in EldersKatie John

Elders have always been with us, but not nearly in such intimate contact as the world needs now. Technology has given every level of awareness, regardless of maturity and experience, a bullhorn. With so many able to be so loud, we need wise and knowledgeable elders as a guiding force in every community, especially those in turmoil. The good news is Nature, in its wisdom, is gifting us with a much greater number of potential Elders…

EoE 11 Mandela

Humanity’s history of conflict has built a mythology that celebrates the warrior mentality. But most tribal cultures evolved sufficient respect for maturity so Elders could restrain warrior chiefs from some of their worst follies. Egalitarian and technological cultures, like America, have pretty much done away with Elder respect. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” is a slogan I know first-hand; I turned 30 in 1968 when that mantra was in full swing.

And, even at 30, I chanted it, because the people running things seemed criminally ignorant. Many still do. But these are not Elders. Contrast Katie John or Nelson Mandela with most of them, and the difference becomes crystal clear…

EoE 12 Aging Ripens Us

And, as we ripen…

EoE 13 New Form of Wisdom

These possibilities are not available to the Adulthood “make it happen” mentality. As I worked so hard and long to be a “successful” Adult, I could never have imagined I might want to give up “making it happen”…

Sitting 15-12 4

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4.  SURRENDERING AN OBSOLETE IDENTITY IS HARD – AND WORTH IT!

EoE 14 Thru the Looking Glass

Surrendering an old identity that no longer fits is hard – just ask any butterfly you know! It helps enormously to create a positive, inviting  vision of our evolving self to pull us forward into and through the chrysalis stage. We have to see ourselves and the world through a new looking glass, and this will require ways of being we haven’t imagined possible before…

EoE 15 Elderly are not Elders

This is a tricky distinction. As friend Ronn said, “It seems like we’re setting up a superior/inferior class here.” There is that risk. But every age group has maturity levels ranging from nil to saintly, so I believe Goff intends this as a wake up call to potential Elders to consider carefully which version of aging they’re choosing. He makes clearer his distinction in the “Four Developmental Challenges of Elderhood” mentioned in the Musings and expanded on in Section 6…

EoE 16 Wise Grampa & Girl

Isn’t this slide wonderful? Elder ‘presence’ here does not mean being importantly imposing (an Adulthood interest), but to simply being there and open for whatever is needed…

EoE 17 Big Painful Loss

Yes, giving up Adulthood can be “a big, painful loss,” but haven’t there always been ”big, painful losses” when we’ve needed to grow into a new self? And they are hard. And a gift of maturity is that we’ve done enough of these to know we can do the next one…

EoE 18 Loss AND Gain

I’ve not yet arrived fully at this place but am mostly there. I do feel the disappointment of others when I’m not as they wish I’d be, but that’s part of the freedom paradox Elders enjoy…

EoE 19 Ripening Into Elderhood

When we are not so caught in the ‘shoulds’ of Adulthood, we feel vibrations of the ‘imperative’ David speaks of here. His use of the ‘ripening’ metaphor fits for me, especially wanting to leave something that will help my kids in their unfoldings – even though the way their  lives unfold may be beyond my understanding…

Sitting 15-12 3

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5.  IN OPENING TO ELDERHOOD WE OPEN TO NEW REALITIES…

EoE 21 The Paradoxical Realm

You’re at the END but there’s NO STOPPING – this is one version of the “Paradoxical Realm.’ And there an infinite number of others. Elders become comfortable with paradoxes and infinity. One of those is Einstein…

EoE 20 Einstein & Solitude

I needed a ‘sitting place’ here, because I love solitude and was questioning David’s development principle that “Elders Learn in Community.” I seek and enjoy solitude now and avoid community. For some years I’ve celebrated my life as a monk who has his own monastery. When I told my lovely Donna that I don’t want to spend time “in community,” she said, “You live in community all day on the Internet!” – and I immediately saw she was right. I mostly avoid being with people in person, but you’re welcome on the internet and some days for a glass of wine between 6-8. So thank you again, David Goff…

EoE 22 Elders Open to Differences

It’s helped me to open to differences by being in very different cultural environments over the years. Not everyone gets to live among such diversity. Even so, my opening hasn’t been easy. What saved me was sex.

I was raised Catholic and took it seriously, even thinking as a very young man I wanted to be a priest. One of the worst ’sins’ was to make a ‘bad confession’ meaning you really didn’t intend not to do again what you confessed. When sex became a part of my life, I gave up confession because I knew I was going to do sex again. How wonderful of Elder Pope Francis to say, “Who am I to judge?”

EoE 23 Paradoxical Awareness

I still struggle with this because judgmentalness has been and is a huge part of me. So while I may be ’talking the talk,’ I’m still working on ‘walking the walk.’ It is seeing those growing lines of connection and ‘fantastic discoveries’ that keeps me evolving…

EoE 24 Slowing Down

Yes, it does…

EoE 25 Elders See the Whole

And, yes, we are…

Sitting 15-12 2

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6.  FOUR DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES OF ELDERHOOD
 
David offers four Developmental Challenges of Elderhood. They are exactly what I’ve been doing for years, and they have greatly helped me articulate my process of evolution to myself. I hope they may be of such help to you as well…

                    Becoming more fully oneself…

                                           Discovering how to best serve…

                                                                  Aligning those two developments…

                                                                                                  Learning through community…

EoE 26 Becoming Fully Oneself

I’ve been trying to do this ever since I can remember, and trying hasn’t worked. In later years it interfered. Then my friend and teacher, Elder Ed, offered me what I needed. He called it ‘Relaxing Into Participation’ (R.I.P.), meaning surrendering your attempts to control your life so you can receive it as a gift. This would not be a good idea as an inexperienced child, of course, but, as Elders, we easily manage the daily stuff on auto-pilot. And when I ‘relax into participation,’ I find myself ‘Through the Looking Glass’ in whole new realities and possibilities…

EoE 27 Discovering How to Serve

“Relaxing Into Participation” works here as well; by  surrendering to the obvious, we discover our unique ways of serving. What can R.I.P. make so obvious?

That our service is what we have consistently loved doing over all our years regardless of world’s opinions! I have always loved learning new stuff, simplifying it with images (photography was a hobby) and sharing that simplicity with others- as I’m doing right here, right now. This is my service…

EoE 28 Aligning Self & Service

Now, like Einstein, I spend most of my day in solitude, in my quiet Internet library, learning, simplifying, illuminating and summarizing. I look forward to wine and late dinner with the lovely Donna in the evenings. As she is gone most of the day with her many friends and activities, our largely separate lives suit both of us.

Once we accept and know both ourselves and how we love to serve, our lives simply flow and carry us along…

EoE 29 Learning in Community

And community, as Donna taught me, does not necessarily require being in others’ physical presence, so my paradox of having BOTH solitude AND community is resolved. Thank you, Donna and David!

This group are literally ‘The Elders’ and models for all of us. Learn more about them here: http://theelders.org/about

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David ‘Lucky’ Goff & Alexandra Hart’s Website

Link to ‘New Dimensions’ interview with David and Alexandra

Link to David’s article without slides

Link to David’s article with slides

PS: Here are David ’Lucky’ Goff, Alexandra Hart and Elder friends who are present, interested and available. So can we all be…

EoE 30 Life is Reaching Out

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6.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS:

     AN ELDER GIFT OF LIFE…

https://www.facebook.com/star1045/videos/10152871613882066/

     10/7 YEAR OLD BOY/GIRL SING UNBELIEVABLE ‘YOU RAISE ME UP’…

http://richards-page-creations.net/page3/You-Raise-Me-Up.html

     SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’S PRAGMATIC CASABLANCA’S FINALE…

http://www.openculture.com/2015/12/casablancas-hilarious-alternative-final-scene.html

     THIS FLOW CHART WINS EVERY CLIMATE ARGUMENT…

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/03/chart-how-win-climate-argument

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© Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam.

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