Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild Elders

Just as we could say that becoming an adult it is the overall developmental task of the child, I believe that the overall developmental task of every adult is to become not just merely an ‘old person’ but a true elder. In my second book, Elderwoman, I listed what I saw as the twenty principles of true elderhood. These are:

Ø      simplicity: living lightly on the Earth
Ø      deep vision: seeing beneath the surface, the ‘big picture’
Ø      passion: caring deeply about what really matters
Ø      compassion: for humans and the more-then-human world
Ø      non-attachment: to people, possessions etc
Ø      Earth-centeredness: living ecocentrically, not egocentrically
Ø      comfort: in one’s community and surroundings
Ø      connectedness: with all that is
Ø      respect: for others, all other life forms and the Earth itself
Ø      creativity: in what one does and how one lives
Ø      delight: in one’s senses, simple pleasures and life in general
Ø      lightness: and the freedom to become one’s true self at last
Ø      enoughness: living within our means, and those of the planet
Ø      heart-listening: trusting the voice of intuition
Ø      peace and quiet: enjoying solitude and a slower pace of life
Ø      authenticity: being all one can be, like a ripening fruit
Ø      responsibility: playing one’s part in the healing of our Earth
Ø      radical aliveness: living fully  every moment. A ‘yes’ to life
Ø      acceptance of change: knowing it's the only constant
Ø      balance: balancing the yin and the yang in one’s life
Although Elderwoman, as its title implies, was written specifically for ‘third age’ women, I have been surprised and delighted by the number of men who have written to tell me they enjoyed it too. But my list of ‘Elderwoman Principles’ is probably appropriate for both genders.

One principle I didn’t include—although in a sense it is covered, in a way, by several of the others, is the principle of wildness.

‘Wild’ is not an adjective one often hears applied to older folk. And yet, when I read the following passage on page 414 of Bill Plotkin’s book Nature and the Human Soul (New World Library, 2008) it set my heartstrings twanging. That’s why I want to share it with you. Bill wrote:

A genuine elder possesses a good deal of wildness, perhaps more than any adult, adolescent or child. Our human wildness is our spontaneity, our untamed vitality, our innocent presence, our resistance to oppression, and our rule-transcending vivacity and self-reliance that social convention can never contain. We are designed to grow deeper into that wildness as we mature, not to recede from it. When we live soulcentrically, immersed in a lifelong dance with the mysteries of nature and psyche, our wildness flourishes. A wild elderhood is not a cantankerous old age or a devil-may-care attitude, nor is it stubbornness or dreamy detachment. Rather, the wildness of elderhood is a spunky exuberance in unmediated, ecstatic communion with the great mysteries of life—the birds, fishes, tress, mammals, the stars and galaxies, and the dream of the Earth” 

Wow! Isn’t that great? I wish I could write like that!

(Thanks to Jay Luttman-Johnson for the picture. It is one of my favourites.)