I define an elder as a person who has a good deal of years behind them and wrinkles on their face and a good, good heart. They could have a totally difficult time processing information, not have accumulated any ‘vast storehouse’ of knowledge, and make little sense when they talk. As long as they’re loving, I call them an elder and know that in some ways I will try to help take of them and in some ways they will help take care of me (I need help and good hearts in my life).
Being around good babies and good kids and good teenagers and good adults and good middle aged people and good elders makes me feel good. Making me feel good gives me the strength I need to proceed as a rewilder. Whether they join me or not I will be thankful for the smiles and the laughter and the richness waiting in those relationships. Of course I do not expect purity… but I work with what I can find.
See 1. Years and wrinkles and a good heart an elder doth make (in my eyes). I can only hope I am an elder in the making. I do not want to grow old with bitterness tainting a major portion of my ways.
I believe that part of the damage is the abandonment of olders/elderly and age segregation. If we don’t cultivate relationships with the elderly, how will our own children and grandchildren come to value the wisdom that age can bring to those who pay attention as best they can?
We can role model the value of whole families of all generations by talking with those who we might not consider “perfect” elders. Sometimes you just need “good enough”.
Hi Tracie, sorry it took me a while to get back to you on this…
Do they ‘deserve’ to be called Elders? Hmm, I’d agree there’s definitely a quality to the word that implies something that has to be +earned+, not there automatically simply because of having lived through x amount of years. ‘Respect your elders’ or ‘honour your father & mother’ as it says in the 10 commandments always had a strong suggestion of authoritarianism to me, though it of course depends on the definition of ‘honour’ and what kind of behaviour it actually recommends. Parents are the first line in human domestication (before school, religion and the legal system get their claws in), and the commandment supports their power over the defenseless child and acts to silence and dismiss any protest or rebellion against abusive childrearing methods that serve the civilised society at the expense of individual autonomy, freedom & general mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people.
That said, I think I was too harsh with my ‘all your parents teach you is how to be a compliant citizen and obedient, conformist worker’. That’s not all. There’s always something human that gets passed along as well, a little ‘failure’ here & there to apply all the right pressures of cultivation, even if it’s massively outweighed by all the ‘heinous crap’ you mention. I was thinking of my parents when I wrote that, but second thoughts reminded me that I also learned disrespect for pointless rules, love of the outdoors, a taste for decent, relatively healthy food, a fundamental distrust in the promises of consumerism, among other things. It’s that part of rewilding where you look to aspects of your own culture’s inheritance to find things worth keeping and perpetuating, no matter how small & apparently insignificant.
Maybe the rule is: ‘You forfeit your right to be acknowledged and treated as an Elder to the extent to which you foster acculturation to the sick society rather than nurturing the things that are actually important to the human animal and the small groups they operate in’.
Another part of this is the precarious nature of being elderly at the current moment in time when western states are starting to fail in their assumed duty to provide care & assistance in lieu of broad family support. I try to guard against notions that older people need to prove their worth or earn their right to humane treatment because that way lies fascism, ‘useless eaters’ and all the vicious attitudes & actions towards those perceived as weak or a burden to be carried resentfully - or dropped. If ‘respect your elders’ works against that outcome by creating taboos around abandonment then I’m all for it. At the same time… maybe I’m not asking the right questions or I just haven’t had access to the right people, but it’s a long time since I learned something I didn’t already know from talking to somebody in their later years. Frustratingly you often have to deal with reactionary baggage that blocks the way to deeper understanding, and you end up trying to teach them! I’m sure it comes across as insufferably arrogant, but there you have it. It would be nice if the folks who preceded you actually had some relevant knowledge to pass on. But that shades into the wider problem of going against the grain of the culture’s rotten urges - of course you’re not going to learn anything from someone who has spent their whole life pushing in the same direction! Try to get them to consider alternate directions and they will look at you like little children, so underdeveloped is their capacity for thinking outside the imposed limitations of the dominant culture. A bit like how h/ger tribesfolk take the piss out of ignorant westerners who are totally incapable of the simplest task, and just end up having to treat them like five-year-olds.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now
Parents are the first line in human domestication
woozletracker, a few thoughts from my corner: when we are small humans, our world is small, and we without much difficulty become victims of a damaging construction of thoughts and feelings and form plenty of pernicious relationships. However, there is a point where we grow and our world gets a little bigger and we either have a moving in the soul to break away and forge new cognitions (assuming we’re not being locked in a closet or something) or we remain stuck in that mire of potential for great negativity. I do not buy into the idea that people are brainwashed… we have control over our brain décor and if we always sway towards buying whenever confronted with crapola then the finger goes back to ourselves, not our preachers, not our parents, not our teachers… I suppose I am saying nurture sets the field for the future but does not contain the possibilities and does not stop the nature from finding sanity and freedom. You can take two people and put them through the same life in a laboratory with the same stimulus and when you release them into the world, one might rewild, one might become a cutthroat heartless CEO. (THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ELDERS, but I felt like writing it so I did… heh)
it’s a long time since I learned something I didn’t already know from talking to somebody in their later years
Learning happens on multiple levels. I know for a fact that as a sensing being I learn from every single thing that I go through, even if I cannot communicate what I learned or cannot feel the internal change occurring as I learn. Does watching lots of Oprah and doing little more than being a consumer stop an elderly person from lighting up your day with a well wishing word of encouragement and a gentle touch on the hand? When people interact there is a magic that occurs…sometimes it is big, sometimes it is tiny, but it is always there, a learning, a transforming. Of course I get a rush from the major challenges and gleanings, but I try not to discount the minor ones as useless. In every interaction you take the role of teacher and student… and the better you get at seeing that role playing happen the more you improve as both. Sure, I think following modern mainstream culture can at times make things associated with the follower seem shriveled and without purpose, but if you look at it right, the purpose and the opportunity is there, juicy and waiting for you to do your best with it.