The Odyssey of Aging: From Hero to Elder

A good friend of many years asked me the other day, “John what are you working on these days?”

“I’m working on aging these days; good work if you can get it and keep it; pay is not that great but better than the alternative.”

I must admit I’m still sort of tempted to try and reproduce and repeat the “glory days” of mid-life. I’d try harder to do some of the activities if not for the arthritis setting in; in other words, stay in hero mode.

Heroes are mostly outward focused, still courting validation; still looking for appreciation; still looking for dragons and damsels, and ladders to climb.

Elders, as I understand the term so far, is mostly about turning inward toward Source and Soul and looking for those who are wanting and waiting for mentors to give them a leg up in their own life’s journeys.

Elders are still adventurous and open to trying new things but with the objectives being securing peace rather than profit, receiving visions rather than commercial victories, and resting in the results instead of pushing rivers.

Carl Jung says during the first forty years we’re just doing research and reconnaissance. Mid-life heroes are still engaging the ambitious life, building family, careers, empires, and receiving credits.

Elders are about giving credit where credit belongs and are still learning and growing while sowing spiritual seeds for future generations. We’re still interested in being productive, but less for money and more for meaning and connecting to something as my dear friend and colleague the late poet Robert Bly says: “…larger than anything you’ve ever heard, vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats… when someone knocks on your door, think that he’s about to give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven, or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s been decided that if you lie down no one will die.”