The Odyssey of Aging: From Hero to Elder

“…The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning… Whoever carries over into the afternoon the law of the morning… must pay for it with damage to his soul.” —Carl Jung

What does my soul ask of me now that I am 71 years and 3 days old? Statistically a baby boomer dies every 18 seconds. Damn! I better get on with my late-life identity crisis, which by the way does not look, feel or sound anything like the mid-life crisis that seems not so long ago. Mid-life is mostly focused on “doing” and it seems like late life is to be grounded in “being.” Being what? An elder and what is that all about?

Here are some random ramblings for whatever they are worth – probably not much for those of you 40 or under, but then you have probably already stopped reading this. But read anyway because your time will come.

So, eldering entails a lot of letting go. Letting go of many of the messages we got about aging and the negative messages we may be sending out. Letting go of the hero role and other identities and crossing a threshold into a new awareness of oneself as soul while harvesting the memories, insights, experiences, failures and successes and offering them to the common good of the community and those younger coming behind us. Eldering seems to call for us to move from transactional productivity to generative creativity, from strategizing to intention, from pushing to flowing, and from faster to a bit slower but not stasis or “stuckness.” Indeed, many of the people you and I may know are stuck in mid-life at age 60, 65, 70 and even 80 refusing the call to begin the odyssey of aging.

Eldering then is a dynamic, fluid process. Eldering is evolving. Eldering is an internal demand to honor and listen to the voice that says, “service with more soul and less hero and ego.”

“Elders are the jewels of humanity that have been mined from the earth, cut in the rough, then buffed and polished by the stonecutter’s art into precious gems that we recognize for their enduring value and beauty.”  From Age-ing to Sage-ingRabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi