Creating a just society starts with honoring our elders.
Just like I am wiser than I was when I was younger, people older than me are wiser than I am. I look upon the world with the wisdom I have acquired, but elders look upon a world and their view is much more informed. Elders are the gems of humanity. Especially women. Females are objectified and sexualized so often in mainstream culture, then disregarded with age, while men are typically recognized more for their character, their actions. While talents flourish given enough attention, graces are polished by austerity.
Now, one could argue that wisdom does not necessarily come with age. I believe that it does. It might be possible to point out small children who are so gentle and in-tune, they seem much wiser than most adults. Who’s to say this child is not an old soul from a past life? Or could it be that they were raised by wiser elders than the average adult who was not fortunate to have such guidance?
All of us grow wiser in time. Time the all-powerful. The natural rhythm of life unfurls the beauty of humanity, like a plant which sprouts, blossoms, fruits, and bears its seed. We can try to lie to ourselves, but it doesn’t work. If there is one thing that human beings all do, it is to learn, and experience is the greatest teacher. Plain and simple, the eldest among us deserve the most respect. We are not on earth to compete to be the wisest, nor to measure others and degrade whom compete less. Humanity is at its best being quiet, selfless, noncompetitive, therefore heralding age over personal achievements fosters higher virtues. It may be directly a result of not having respect for elders’ if their wisdom is hidden from us. The truly wise are humble. All their precious life experience, ripened in their souls, is overlooked by those lacking gratitude, respect and curiosity towards the blessed old folks among us.
Another possible doubter might say, “but look at all the mistakes previous generations have made! See the mess we’ve inherited?” How can “millenials” like me expect to be treated if upcoming generations take such a hostile attitude towards us? Surely there’s plenty of ‘damage’ being done ‘on our watch,’ so to speak. If we cannot forgive our parents, grandparents and their parents for the mistakes they’ve made, we are simply blind to their integrity. Worse. We are cruel.
Elders are not generally honored in the culture I find myself surrounded by. Sadly, they do not typically glow the way they do in cultures where elders are valued highly and included, (though I know many exceptions to this.) People are not stupid. We innately care. We love the earth. We are designed to learn, though modern education is designed to distract us from the underlying learning going on all the time within by memorizing facts. Cruelty is an educated response, a socially acceptable dismissal of our own inquisitiveness and sensitivity.
We can remember that we are learning all the time and trust our growing inner treasure of wisdom more and more. For example, unconsciously we are learning, by observing the world around us, that our society will take care of us, but only minimally by paying social security. Other than that, we are each on our own. Cruel. This learning leaves a sad feeling in the heart and fosters despair and egotism. The inner life knows what’s going on without needing to read the papers, rationalize or manipulate. Remembering simply means paying attention to the soul, the interface between body and mind. The soul is a verb, a felt sense, where experience is deposited, distilled by recognition of the innocence and compassion of who we really are. Unlike facts, it is not repetitive. Wisdom evolves. It is alive and ever-changing.
No matter how elders may appear to the judgmental onlooker, they are smart enough to see how out of balance the world is. It is also good to keep in mind that we do not have control over anything, including our ‘selves.’ Elders are not to blame for the wars, for the greed-based economy, for global warming. Those consequences can be traced back to qualities based in ignorance, which we all host in our hearts. Ignorance being associated with youth, and humanity being still very young. The ‘problems’ on this earth do not exist because our elders failed us. They exist because humans are free and not yet fully responsible for this.
If we cultivate the qualities in our hearts to love and cherish the elders in our communities, we will have gained the capacity be the best we can be for those on their way. In turn, we will have become wise ourselves.
This post is dedicated, with the utmost respect and gratitude, to my mother, Lorey Kathleen Zahn, who turns 70 years old today.
Many women are recognized primarily in their role as a mother. I would like to acknowledge my mother as a spiritual teacher I choose freely, independent of our blood ties. It’s common to appreciate the ones who gave birth to them and sacrificed to raise them, but many people have to look beyond parents to find people who epitomize the human archetype, which improves with age. If I had to count on one hand the women I most admire in this world, including historical figures, my mother is among them. Why do I see my mom as a spiritual teacher? Because she walks the talk.
Mom, you are my heroine, the best kind of spiritual friend. You model for me that we can never stop learning and growing. Most extraordinary, amidst all the generous service you have given to me, my brother, your parents, and to your colleagues, students and their parents throughout the years, you never neglected the quiet humble duties of a true seer, caring for yourself and for nature. Watching you age is like witnessing a fountain of youth. Namaste (I honor the Light in you.)