"When I forget my ways, I am in The Way"

Philosophical and experiential notes on Nothingness, with supporting insights from martial arts, quantum physics and Taoism

12 August 2016

You don't deserve to be an 'Elder'

Elders are often unrecognized. Maybe that's because of the prices they've paid.

Today's adults have forgotten how to grow up. So many of them are blatantly mean, manipulative and rude. Others are immature, swallowed up with the obsessiveness of the self-absorbed. The damage these attitudes inflict on family and culture is, in many ways, unconscionable. I refuse to call such people Elders. They are worse than truant children throwing their immature, juvenile temper tantrums. They are the undeniable product of our society, a muddy glorification of the unsustainable philosophy of 'me first.' 

On the other hand, there is an older generation, for example, who matured in a different world. A world that was far more focused on life and death. World wars and millions of body bags do that to you. Those gruesome times built steel tough discipline, heroic thriftiness and iron fist determination. But the call to rise to the occasion changed those people permanently, often in ways that left deep mental scars and hidden emotional disfigurements. This is something easily underestimated and overlooked in the 22nd century, particularly in light of our widespread focus on self-indulgence and personal fulfillment.

The truth is that the older we get the more transparent certain behaviors become. The easier it becomes to see that we keep making the same mistakes over and over, one generation after another. 

The role of the Elder is to be the custodian of the secrets. To be the wise guide who helps calibrate and orient the compass of a much younger ship. To help us ride the transition from one generation to the next in a manner that improves us as human beings. Improves our connections to higher values and to each other.

But in a smart society, full of smart technology, smart cars, smart watches and smart apps, there's little room for the wisdom of experience. Because we're all too smart, because we all have endless 'resources' at our fingertips. And because we've all trained ourselves to be quippy, successful, centers of excellence and revered subject matter experts.

Meanwhile, another set of life cycles end. And the chance to harvest wisdom ends with it. And the cycle of repeating the mistakes of preceding generations continues unchanged, as the Elders shake their heads sadly, and die off once more.