I have always found it interesting that we are available to the status in other cultures of the wise elder. If we stumble across the archetype while watching a film where the indigenous Chief is dispensing wisdom we open ourselves to their words, the values and their status as those who have cultivated a lifetime of experience and need not fight to be heard within their own community.
I have found the same to be true about religion. When I speak to people of the tradition that they were brought up in they are often dismissive if not hostile. It is , they say, the cause of much misery in the world. However, if I speak instead of the mystic tradition of the Sufis with their trance dancing, the meditative practice of the solitary monk or the eight thousand faces of the divine in the Bhagavad Gita, there is a softening. At times even a reverence.
We have taken to calling those who are in the autumn of their lives, Seniors. The word rings hollow for me. It is devoid of respect and places them in a chronological cubby-hole that finds it’s best expression in retirement villages marketing, government programs and assorted discounts at the drugstore, transit line or movie house. It is a com-modified representation of who we are at a certain point in the consumer timeline. Much like the label taxpayer, it reduces us to economic units of transaction. Taxpayers, and seniors are customers with rights, citizens or elders are people with rights as well as duties and obligations.
If you take duties and obligations away from us as we age, we are left with very little except fear of marginalization as our buying power diminishes. Elders take time to reflect, and from the swirl of life gravitate to a point of stillness from which wisdom and legacy can grow. Let’s look , not to the exotic other for an aging road map. Let us look within.