The Odyssey of Aging: Moving From Hero To Elder

Be a lamp, a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” Rumi

A client said to me this past week, “Where are the elders?”

I said, “They are as scarce as hen’s teeth (for those who don’t speak Southern Appalachian, that means they are rare in this youth-oriented-obsessed culture).

In a land far, far away people lived in a vertical society: sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, Grandpa and Grandma. In my family, I knew my grandparents and most of my great-grandparents.

Now we live in a horizontal society where the sixteen-year-old is afforded the same privileges and entitlements as the forty- and seventy-year-old-year-old. The horizontal society produces a large number of siblings and heroes who never become elders.

The dictionary definition of a hero is as follows, “a person who is admired or idealized for courage and accomplishments.” The same dictionary defines Elders as “the term refers to age and experience… The elders pass on their wisdom to the young.”

The following is comparing heroes to elders:

Heroes look for ladders to climb. Elders hold the ladders. Heroes are more interested in productivity. Elders are interested in generativity. 

Heroes = ambition; Elders = acceptance

Heroes = outward driven, seeking validation and appreciation from the world. Elders let go of demands and look inward.

These are just a few examples. As an elder in training, I am wrestling with, thinking about, and trying to come to terms with my movement from doing, being, and thinking heroically and gradually becoming more like an elder.

More to follow? If you find this blog interesting or useful, please let me know. Thank you.

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