A weekly dose of dauntlessly dealt reality from the What It Is Wednesday Blog Carnival

Along the discussion of deathwalking, at some point the idea of elderhood enters the forum. As daunted as we are to talk about death in the west, elderhood is just as taboo. We look at elderhood as the foyer of death, which traditionally, chronologically makes sense. We become elders through life experience, application of wisdom, being recognized as someone with the credibility to lead. For us, though, it speaks of getting older, looking older, taking on greater responsibility, facing duty, leadership, ancestry, and legacy. We associate that state of knowing with the life stage of ending.

What has fostered our rejection of elderhood? A key factor is our widespread social disregard for and lack of care provided to elders. Nobody wants to get old and be forgotten, shelved, or considered useless, and seeing others become debilitated by age frightens us. Instead of dealing with that reality, we push it aside, along with collective care for elders. In our culture we still base worth on what we physically contribute, not on what we know, what legacy we leave, or how hard we worked to get where we are. We don’t value wisdom as worth preserving, tending, savoring, cultivating; therefore, neither are those who carry wisdom. These lacks leave us in a state of wisdom not being carried forward; we reinvent the wheel, one generation to the next.

From a figurative standpoint we lack of rites of passage in our culture–deep, spiritual rites that flow with the change of natural season, life season. I can list lack of parenting, disconnect from Nature, lack of tribe, privilege, and entitlement as factors. All of these play a role in our collective rejection of elderhood. As a result of our cultural attitude toward elderhood, we don’t have a trove of elders to look to for cultural guidance, or we don’t embrace those that we have. When no one with leadership skills steps up to lead, we get what we get, which may not be what’s best for all involved.

The reason elderhood is on my mind is because, frankly, I’m getting older. I’ve always felt old, crone, even, though seeing the older generations of my family leave, as well as some of the younger ones, it becomes evident that somebody has to step up. Somebody has to accept the role of elder to the family, and not just because s/he’s the last one standing. In fact, we’re best fit for the role if we’ve done the work to get there, before we are called upon to be elder. We all have to come to terms with our potential for elderhood, and make heartspace for it to grow all along. We have to be willing to put our youth down long enough to realize the value of our own experience is much bigger than our single path. We have to realize the value of the experience of those who came before us. All of our path depends on it.

Who are the elders in your life? What does being an elder mean to you?

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