Four years ago this blog was hacked and locked down. I am so grateful that a very talented computer expert was not only able to unlock my site but was able to preserve my posts. The good news is that re-reading them after this amount of time has recommitted me to continue to share my personal thoughts on aging in a world that does not honor the process or the aged. I have come to these conclusions through my own experiences as well as observations. I admire individuals who are able to express their fears and phobias and fully face them. The fear of decline and death is very subtle and resides inside all of us. We are comfortable in our own skin and who wants to watch it turn into crepe paper and wrinkle up. Philosophers like Heni Nouwen postulated that people don’t want to face their own inevitability of death and so they avert their eyes from the elderly and focus on something else. I am further down the road than most of you and believe me, it has become more difficult to avert my eyes and my focus. I am more fortunate than some to have added on all of these years and yet how many is enough? As you age, your body keeps reminding you as if mirrors aren’t enough. Nouwen encourages us (me) to make friends with the aging stranger inside of me. That is easier said than done. To do so I would have to admit that she and I are the same age! I have aged four years since I last posted on this blog and yet, it is like it was yesterday. This blog is my way of facing my inevitability and sharing my thoughts with the aging stranger inside of me. I am graced that I believe that there is more beyond this life but the mystery surrounding the transfer from one to the next is fodder for another posting. It is great to be back, four years is a long time.
The schedule that Pope Francis has embarked upon in his visit to the United States would challenge a person of any age. Yet, even at the age of 78, he is moving forward propelled by an energy fueled by purpose. Many times during the last few days of live television coverage of events, news reporters have commented on how tired and frail he appears only to have him stand and deliver an inspired, energized sermon. I believe it is not age that defeats us but lack of purpose. When we believe in something as strongly as the Pope does, we can summon energy from within ourselves to move forward regardless of our age or circumstances. The secret is to find that cause that gives us purpose. I believe we all have that assignment within us and it is up to us to bring it forth. What do you think? Let me know.
Have you ever met someone who you immediately connected with that you had nothing in common with such as: race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation or age? This happens to me frequently but it is just recently that I have begun to question why. It occurs to me that the Spirit transcends all of these differences since they are all grounded in the mind, body and emotions. The more I question, the more I have come to accept that there is a part of me that attracts and is attracted to a life force that I recognize as Spirit. This attraction ultimately invites conversation and that is the place where we disclose that fact, sharing frequently, the circumstances when and how we first “knew”. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “…some divine truths are attainable by human reason, while others surpass the power of human reason.” I find that the conversations that are the result of spiritual attraction tend to concentrate on affirming that our experiences transcend human reason and that we can connect spiritually regardless of our religious beliefs, age, race, color, gender or sexual orientation. Let me know if you agree.
I picked this topic because it is very hard for me to be the first to engage another in conversation. I tend to be shy and not take up too much space so speaking feels like encroachment. Writing has been my solution and with email and texting, no one need be bothered with my words, just scroll or delete! Blogging is even less intrusive, take it or leave it…respond or ignore. I am however, reaching out to discuss a topic that touches all mortals and that is our mortality. We inherited it, we ignore it and we fear it. Each day we survive, is a gift. Each time we distract our minds with mediocre material is one less opportunity to dwell on our ultimate end. Do not fault me for invading your space…if you have actually read this far, you have let me in. I am merely trying to engage you, in dialogue, at your pace, in your own space. Promise me you will engage yourself in the conversation. I guarantee you will have a willing listener. Try it and let me know how it goes.
My newest resolution is to “be” in the moment. So much of my life has been focused on the past and the future and being still and aware in the moment has been a challenge. Now, as I am writing this, I am feeling less pressure to go beyond this moment. Writing has always been a centering for me, a way to choose my words in the present. Perhaps that is why social media and texting are so important to society today. Communicating, using the written word, stops me for a moment in order to collect my thoughts, which happens less when I am speaking in a stream of consciousness. That is not to say that everything I write should be shared, nor is it, but it is in the moment of composition that I am truly focused on the moment. That being said, I have been on the planet during the greatest technological advances in our ability to communicate the written word. However, what is being communicated probably hasn’t changed that much in thousands of years. The desire to be understood by and to understand others is at the root of all communication. That is the purpose of my writing and this blog. I want to connect the generations and affirm that regardless of our tools of communication, and, regardless of our race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or age, we can, if we are in the moment, communicate and understand one another. Let me know your thoughts.
The longer I am on the planet, the more I realize that age, as with anything subjective, is relative. We begin the aging process the second we are born but it doesn’t really impact us until we reach the age that we, ourselves, define as “old”. I have reached that age several times during my seven decades but then decided to “kick the can down the road” to a new benchmark once arriving at what I had previously designated. My first recalculation occurred at the age of 25. I thought this was the beginning of the end having lived a quarter of a century! I have to admit, once getting over that hump, no birthday has held as much significance but I still measure the decades with qualifiers. For example, getting to my half century celebration gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I no longer had to try to work so hard at qualifying as “young” looking or acting but I could take it easy being on the young side as a woman of a “certain age”. Well, I have blown through that little facade and am now contemplating a three quarter century mark, still a few years away, but close. I can only tell you that I still don’t know how old is old. I thought I did several times until I reached the target I had designated in my own aging process. If you are older than I am, you think I am young. If you are younger, you think I am old and you will think that, until you get here.
AGEISM…MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING! I recently read Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. This is my third reading of this thought provoking manuscript and since the first time I read it in my 30’s, each reading changes the way I view the life I am leading. Frankl completed this book in nine days following his release from a concentration camp at the end of WW II. He writes that his story is: “not about the suffering and death of great heroes and martyrs…but the sacrifices, the crucifixion and the deaths of a great army of unknown and unrecorded victims.” Frankl recounts that he was no longer a psychiatrist but only number 119,104. This is very significant since he was totally removed from his identity and given a totally new one. This is truly what all of the stages of our life are about. I will be sharing thoughts from this book with you through the next posts but the focus will be on what Frankl has to say about being stripped of all that is known and familiar and being reduced to the lowest denominator of sometimes hourly survival. I honor this man who so fully lived and documented man’s search, our search for meaning. What is your experience? Have you read this great book? We would love to know.
There is nothing like a birthday to wake me up to the reality that time is marching on. Marking time’s passage is an occasion for celebration of life as family and friends gather to witness the blowing out of candles and the eating of cake. To have survived another year, to have experienced the ups and hopefully fewer downs, is indeed a cause for joy. We celebrate aging but not the aged. As a society, how do we reconcile the dichotomy? After all, to age is to survive. Surely that is the hope we have as we witness the fragility of life around us. Natural disasters, senseless killing, accidents…others have left and we are here, we have figuratively and literally “dodged another bullet”. What is our purpose? Is it merely to survive to blow out the candles and eat the cake? Viktor E. Frankl is the author of a book that literally changed my life decades ago. I am grateful not only for his survival but for his ability to put into words and actions a philosophy for life and living. I would like on this, the occasion of my birthday, to reflect in future blogs on his book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. It is based not only on his physical survival but the growth of his spirit while in a concentration camp during WWII. Frankl’s survival is a testimony to the reason we blow out the candles and eat the cake. It is to celebrate not just the aging of the body, the physical testimony to longevity…it is to celebrate the growth and blooming of the Spirit of man which never dies but continues to rejuvenate through the passage of years. Its message is to look beyond the physical and celebrate the Spirit within…let us light the candles that never go out and eat the cake of wisdom. Dr. Frankl wrote his book in 1945 in 9 successive days and he wrote it as he states: “to prove that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones”. I hope you will read and comment on the upcoming blogs.
Happy 4th of July/Independence Day!
I believe that one of the hardest tasks we have as human beings is to see ourselves in others. I have heard it said that our natural tendency is to fear in others what we fear ourselves. I have also been taught that fear is the basis of all prejudice. If this is true, then we must realize our mortality in the aging since as a society we seems to toss them aside. Henri Nouwen set out in his book, “Aging, The Fulfillment of Life”, to convince society that, “we will never be able to give what we cannot receive. Only when we are able to receive the elderly as our teachers will it be possible to offer the help they are looking for. As long as we continue to divide the world into the strong and the weak, the helpers and the helped, the givers and the receivers, the independent and the dependent, real care will not be possible, because then we keep broadening the dividing lines that caused the suffering of the elderly in the first place.” Henri continues, “the most important important contribution to the elderly is to allow them a chance to bring us into a creative contact with our own aging. Just as the handicapped should remind us of our limitations, the blind, our lack of vision, the anxiety ridden, our fears and the poor, our poverty–so the old should remind us of our aging. Thus we can be brought in touch with the fullnessof the life experience by an inner solidarity with all human suffering and all human growth.” Henri also states that denying the aging process can cause “great harm” to the person not receiving this truth. This blog will continue to study other philosophies on aging, please add your thoughts and personal experiences.
Henri Nouwen has postulated that, “care for the aging means, more often than not, means confronting all men and women with their (our) illusion of immortality out of which the rejection of old age comes forth…Care for the aging, after all, means care for all ages, since all human beings–whether they are ten, thirty, fifty, seventy, or eighty years old–are participating in the same process of aging.” He wants us to encourage the acceptance of aging in youth and the understanding that “being” should not be measured by “having”. Henri proposes that society encourage that instead of measuring success by grades, degrees and positions that we help everyone focus on contact with our inner selves where we can experience our own “solitude and silence as potential recipients” of the light. “When one has not discovered and experienced the light that is love, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, and deep joy in the early years, how can one expect to recognize it in old age?” He reminds us: “If you have gathered nothing in your youth, how can you find anything in your old age?” (Si 25: 3-4). Henri considers confrontation the “radical side of care, because it promotes a risky detachment from the concerns of the world and a free manifestation of that love which can change the shape of our society. It not only unmasks the illusions but also makes visible the healing light that gives us the ‘power to become children of God’.” Remember our earlier discussion of Rembrandt? He visually employed both acceptance and confrontation by painting his self portrait as he aged. He faced his own brokenness and invited us, while viewing his self-portraits, to confront our own illusions. Do you confront your aging self? It is a gift…embrace it. What is your experience? When was your first awareness of your own mortality? Take this moment to confront and embrace it…
Henri asks: “What does caring mean when we think of the many people for whom growing old has become a way to the darkness. What is there to say to men and women who feel forgotten and lonely, and who are approaching death as the only way to escape their misery?” He admits there are no easy answers and points out to us that : “The painful suffering of many old people which makes their aging a way to the darkness cannot be understood by pointing to their mistakes, weaknesses or sins. By doing so we might avoid the realization that the fate of many old people reflects an evil that is the evil of a society in which love has been overruled by power, and generosity by competition.” Henri’s conclusion is that we must see our own “greedy faces” in those who have been rejected by their society. “In the honest and painful recognition of human rejection God’s acceptance can be affirmed.” I love Henri Nouwen’s explanation that even the victories of one’s life do not matter as the end approaches. I am paraphrasing, but he states is that what is needed is someone to reach out and understand with compassion and a listening ear and affirm that: “I know–you had only one life to live and it cannot be lived again, but I am here with you and I care…God’s acceptance can be felt through the gentle touch of the one who cares and allows the miserable stranger(our own fear and denial) into his own home.” Do you have any thoughts as we reach the conclusions of Henri Nouwen’s ,”Aging”? Have you had the privilege of bringing your own fears into the light? Do you find yourself identifying with and connecting to someone who is obviously reaching the end of their life’s journey? We need to know!
After dealing with “caring as the way to the self”, Henri ponders “caring as the way to the other”. According to Henri, “caring can lead to a new self-understanding, but this self-understanding can never be its own goal”. Instead, “we are called to put our aging self at the service of the aging other. The challenge of the care for the elderly is that we are called to make our own aging self the main instrument of our healing.” Henri goes on to assert that “caring for the elderly is not a special type of care.” This is a lot to digest. It almost seems like a riddle but let me try to work through this in my own experience since my current position is is designed to work with the elderly. According to Henri, “as soon as we start thinking about care for the aging as specialization, we are falling into the trap of societal segregation which care is precisely trying to overcome. When we allow our world to be divided into young, middle-aged, and old people, each calling for a specialized approach, then we are taking the real care out of caring, since the development and growth of men and women take place, first of all, by creative interaction among the generations.” The bottom line of this premise is that we ourselves in the aging network are helping perpetuate the “ageism” which we are fighting against! Henri believes that , “grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren–make up the whole of our life cycle visible and tangible to us at every moment of our lives…Therefore, caring for the aged asks for a life style in which the generations are brought into contact with each other in a creative and recreative way.” It makes sense and this happened naturally in past generations. The challenge is to recreate this environment where it doesn’t necessarily exist by creating programs to connect all of the generations. Do you know of any “best practices” that exist in your community to bring together the generations?
Henri advises us that compassion can grow in a poor heart, “because in a poor heart the pains of growing old can be recognized and shared. Compassion is the second most important characteristic of caring, since it allows us to overcome the fear of old strangers and invite them as guests into the center of our own intimacy.” He believes that the distinctions between young and old are “artificial” and that, “those who care and those who are cared for no longer have to relate to each other as the strong to the weak, but both can grow in their capacity to be human.” I particularly love his definition of compassion. “Compassion makes us see beauty in the midst of misery, hope in the center of pain. It makes us discover flowers between barbed wire and a soft spot on a frozen field. Compassion makes us notice the balding head and the decaying teeth, feel the weakening hand grip and the wrinkling skin, and sense the fading memories and slipping thoughts, not as a proof of the absurdity of life, but as a gentle reminder that ‘unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a right harvest.'” (John 12:24). I am beginning to realize the need to not only die in the flesh but to die intellectually and emotionally in able to embrace our inevitable human death. In order to do this we must connect to those among us who are closer to this inevitability or, we can continue to pretend that this event will not be part of our experience or can be delayed. I challenge you to follow the advice of Henri. Join and embrace the growth of aging. Is there anyone who wants to share their experience in working with the elderly. Please let us know if what Nouwen says is true.
Using Heni Nouwen’s book on “Aging” as our guide, we last discussed the futility of going out and finding the elderly to help them. Henri believes, and I agree, we have to draw them to ourselves by connecting with the aging stranger within ourselves. Beyond that he explains that, “the old stranger must first become part of our inner self and a welcome friend who feels at home in our own house.” Henri then proceeds to define the characteristics of a caring person, “of someone whose care brought him in contact with his own self.” He concludes that although there are many characteristics that , “two seem most important here: poverty and compassion”. In this blog we will discuss poverty. Henri defines poverty as, “the quality of the heart which makes us relate to life, not in property to be defended but as a gift to be shared. Poverty is the constant willingness to say good-by to yesterday and move forward to new, unknown experiences. Poverty is the inner understanding that the hours, days, weeks, and years do not belong to us but are the gentle reminders of our call to give, not only love and work, but life itself, to those who follow us and will take our place.” He admonishes: “How can I create a friendly space for the elderly when I do not want to be reminded of my own historicity and mortality, which make me just as much a ‘passer-by’ as anyone else?” He concludes that to care for the elderly we must allow them to, “make us poor by inviting us to give up the illusion that we created our own life and that nothing and nobody can take it away from us. This poverty, which is an inner detachment, can make us free to receive the old stranger into our lives and make that person into a most intimate friend. We can pay attention to what they have to offer without being concerned about what we can give. We can see what they are in themselves without wondering what we can be for them.” Can you relate to any of this??? I think it is easy to relate to children because we have experienced that phase of life. Do you think it is possible to push past our denial and connect with that aging part of ourselves in order to connect with the elderly? I believe it is necessary in order to participate more fully in our own growth as fully developed individuals. What we fear can only paralyze us.
Henri Nouwen believes that the question is not:” how to go out and help the elderly, but how to create the space where they can be heard and listened to from within with careful attention”. He goes on to say that we often want to: “preach, teach or cure” and that prevents us from: “perceiving and receiving what those we care for have to offer”. Henri believes that: “healing first of all takes place by the restoration of self-worth”. He believes this is not possible: “unless there is someone able to discover the beauty of the other and willing to receive it as a precious gift”. Henri concludes: “where else do we realize that we are valuable people except in the eyes of those who by their care affirm our own best self?” He admits that this is: “far from easy. Old age is hidden not just from our eyes, but much more from our feelings. In our deepest self we keep living with the illusion that we will always be the same. We not only tend to deny the real existence of old men and women living in their closed rooms and nursing homes, but also the old man or woman who is slowly awakening in our own center. They are strangers, and strangers are fearful. They are intruders threatening to rob us of what we consider our own’. That paragraph is so powerful! I believe this is the heart and center of all ageism! I repeat Henri’s words again: “They are strangers, and strangers are fearful”. That is the fact and as he points out many times in his book on Aging, the only cure is to make friends with the stranger we are becoming. The best way to do this is to connect with those who have lived into the reality we fear. That is why we must draw them to us and make them welcome for as Pogo said so eloquently: “We have met the enemy and he is us!” By making friends with the elderly among us, we make friends with the stranger within us. How many of you agree? Have you had a different experience? Please share.
Henri Nouwen believes that the only way to combat ageism and care for the elderly, a person must first: “enter into close contact wth your own aging self, to sense your own time, and to experience the movements of your own life cycle. From this aging self, healing can come forth and others can be invited to cast off the paralyzing fear for their own future.” Nouwen futher explains that: “as long as we think that caring means only being nice and friendly to old people, paying them a visit, bringing them a flower or offering them a ride, we are apt to forget how much more important it is for us to be WILLING and ABLE to be PRESENT to those we care for. And how can we be fully PRESENT when we are HIDING from our own AGING…how can we offer companionship when we wnat to keep our own aging self out of the room, and how can we touch the vulnerable spots in old people’s lives when we have armored our own vulnerable self with FEAR and BLINDNESS?” Nouwen speaks of “welcoming the elderly into our aging selves so we can be good hosts and healing can take place.” We will discuss how this can happen in the next blog but first I need to digest what he has already said. It makes sense that the more we can relate the more we have to give someone in the gift of truly being present to their need. We begin aging the moment we are born and my experience is the only one I can relate to but aging is a reality to every life form. To me he is saying that the age doesn’t matter but the human experience does. When I was 10 I thought 30 was ancient and I am sure the judgement started way before that. The decision is to examine the judgement and pronounce it as just that and embrace the common experience. It makes sense, what do you think?
Henri Nouwen in his book, “Aging, The Fulfillment of Life”, presents the premise that: “There can hardly be a better image of caring than that of the artist who brings new life to people by (his) honest and and fearless self-portrait.” He references an example given by Horst Gerson in his book, “Rembrandt Paintings”, in that the artist painted sixty three self portraits not just as “a model for studies in expression” but as a “search for the spiritual through the channel of his innermost personality”. Henri concludes that, “Rembrandt felt that he had to enter into his own self, into his dark cellars as well as into his light rooms, if he really wanted to penetrate the mystery of man’s interiority. Rembrandt realized that what is most personal is most universal. While growing in age he was more and more able to touch the core of the human experience, in which individuals in their misery can recognize themselves and find ‘courage and new youth’.” Henri states that unless we are able to paint a realistic self-portrait, we will never be able to reach back and help others “in the midst of the darkness”. He concludes that: “To care one must offer one’s own vulnerable self to others as a source of healing.” But isn’t that the purpose of this blog? What happens if the very people who have this valuable information, the aging among us, are feared and their wisdom ignored? Any thoughts?
We have explored humor as a way of connecting generations and “creating communication” as Henri Nouwen has defined it and now I am led to explore this common experience of the symbolism of “light”. Henri states that, “light might dissolve much deeper separations and bring all humanity into a liberating unity.” He highlights the experience of Father Han Fortmann who wrote on his deathbed, “I proceed from the simple irrefutable fact that in the crucial moments of life…(such as death), event though people come from diverging cultures and religions, they find that same essential word: Light! For isn’t it true? There must be a basic similarity between the enlightenment spoken of by the Hindus and Buddhists and the Eternal Light of the Christians. Both die in the Light. One practical difference could well be that the Buddhist, more than the contemporary Christian, has learned to live with the light (nirvana) as a reality long before he dies…The need to pose skeptical questions about the hereafter seems to disappear as the Divine Light again becomes a reality in everyday life, as it is meant to, of course, in all religions”. Henri concludes, “these words written by a dying man, reveal the nearly overwhelming vision that aging can be growing into the light, the light which takes away all the dark and gray lines that divide religious cultures and people and unites all the colors of the human search into one all-embracing rainbow.” Do you agree?
Henri speaks of the vision, which grows in aging, leading us beyond the limitations of our human self “It is a vision that makes us not only detach ourselves from preoccupation with the past but also from the importance of the present. It is a vision that invites us to a total, fearless surrender in which the distinction between life and death slowly loses its pain”. The author, Aldous Huxley describes the exact moment of his wife’s death: “Let go, let go…go forward into the light. Let yourself be carried into the light. No memories, no regrets, no looking backward, no apprehensive thoughts about your own or anyone else’s future. Only light. Only this pure being, this love, this joy.” This month I lost two of my most dear friends, Mary and Lynn. Both were cheer leaders in my life, both called me to be my better self and loved unconditionally. I believe it is is true that they were carried into the Light and they now know the folly of worry about yesterday or tomorrow. It is ironic that the very event that we fear and the aging that confirms it is the path to our liberation. They completed their life’s mission and I miss them but I believe that they heard these words: “Welcome good and faithful Servant!”. Rest in peace, Dear Friends. The loss of loved ones is a common human experience but the gift of their lives is a blessing to us all. The lesson is to build on to the gifts of all their lives and on and on and on. Thoughts?
Since the way to the light is through hope, humor is part of the process. According to Henri, “humor is knowledge with a soft smile…knowledge with a soft smile is a great gift.” If we laugh at ourselves in our life situations, we begin to realize that all is temporary. We begin to acknowledge that , this too must pass. As we gain the age of reason and beyond, it seems that those who grasp this truth are able to move on gently with grace to the next experience. I wrote a poem in 1986 during a rough patch that I would like to share with you. I can honestly say that we do have a choice of how we view our circumstances and choosing the light will always bring us home.
“If ever I come to this place again…I will remember
I will remember the pain I left here
but, I will not take it up again.
It is like an old skin I have discarded
and it will not fit anymore.
There will be new growth and
the pain that will accompany it.
But that too I will be asked to discard
so that I may go on and on and on…
each time renewed…
Hope and humor are the keys. Do you agree?
According to Henri: “One way of describing the way to the light is to call it a slow conversion from wishes to hope. You wish ‘that’, you hope ‘in’.” He explains that wishes are for concrete objects while hope is open ended and we believe we can fulfill our promises. “Therefore, the conversion from wishes to hope asks for a slow process of disengagement in which we are willing to detach ourselves from many little and big things of the moment and open ourselves to the future,” states Nouwen. Robert Kastenbaum in, “Theories of Human Aging:The Search for a Conceptual Framework”, states: “this conversion does not take place when someone is labeled ‘old’ by society. The disengagement which makes hope possible, ‘requires a changed perception of time and death around mid-life.” Are you hopeful about growing old?
If you have been a hardy soul, you have endured the previous blogs that scientifically document the potential to fall prey to the dark side of aging but take heart, there is an alternative. Henri reminds us of Moses instructing his followers to: “Ask…of your elders, let them enlighten you.” (Dr. 32:17). Henri states that those that can enlighten us are here today. “Do you see them in our midst? They are there, but statistics, surveys and questionnaires seldom reveal them to us. The darkness of old age has been pretty well documented, but the light does not seem to fit into the computers and tabulation machines of the profit-makers,” states Nouwen. Concerned people have now taken on the studies to dispel some of the myths of aging and close the gap separating the generations from each other. Psychologist Bernice Neugarten writes: “So long as we believe that old people are poor, isolated, sick and unhappy (or, to the contrary, powerful, rigid and reactionary), we find the prospect of old age particularly unattractive. We can then separate ourselves comfortably from older persons and relegate them to inferior status”. Do you agree with these theories? Do they resonate with you? Do you sterotype people by age? Let us know what you think.
According to Nouwen, as debilitating as segregation and desolation are in creating “severe alienation in the elderly…the most destructive, is self-rejection. This is the inner ostracism by which the elderly not only feel they are no longer welcome in the society of profit, or able to keep their small circle of intimate friends together, but by which they also feel stripped of their own feeling of self-worth and longer at home in their most inner life”. This seems the most destructive to me since this last insult is self directed. That makes this conversation all the more relevant to each generation, since if not recognized by each individual no matter their age, it has the potential to infiltrate their thinking. Nouwen says the signs are easily recognized in individuals whose identity is absorbed by the past and have little satisfaction in the present. Nouwen states, “there can hardly be a more alienating feeling than that which believes, ‘I am who I was’.” The late great Robert Butler who coined the definition of ageism observed that, “this preoccupation with the past imprisons old people in anxiety, guilt, despair and depression” Butler further postulates that they, “become victims of a society which identifies their humanity with their productivity, and prisoners of others who made them believe that their self-worth was determined by their friends. Both Nouwen and Butler recognize this potential for every individual who ages.
WAKE UP PEOPLE, THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU WITHOUT CHOOSING SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Education and self-awareness are the way out. Nouwen states that in this place where people lose their self worth: “When people have lost their own ‘self” they are without hope… this darkness can be filled with resentment, anger, jealousy and sometimes violent rage.” I put out a challenge…reach out to an individual you know in this state and affirm their value. This will benefit you in return to identify your own potential to fall into a black pit. Let me know if you have reached out. Were you successful? TO BE CONTINUED!
Let’s go back to the July 2 submission in which we disclosed that Henri believes that aging causes the elderly to feel ostracized due to three factors, “segregation, desolation and loss of self”. We discussed segregation on July 2 and today we will deal with desolation. Henri defines desolation as, “the crippling experience of the shrinking circle of friends with the devastating awareness that the few years left to live will not allow you to widen the circle again.” What do you think about this premise? Are old friends the best friends or is it possible to establish a new circle? Two perspectives: do you have friends 20, 30 or 40 years older than you? and, if you are over 70, do you find that ‘youngsters’ are reaching out to you? Please respond!
Yesterday, July 8th, on one of Chicago’s premier TV stations, NBC, three of Channel 5’s morning anchors engaged in an on-air verbal volley on the how ugly a shirtless picture of the octogenarian, Betty White would be. She was actually referred to as eliciting a vision of the “California Raisin”. It isn’t about Betty, she is a celebrity and paid handsomely for whatever is lobbed at her. What surprised me and I guess disappointed me, was the insensitivity of the anchors to the fact that many of their elderly viewers might be offended and rightly so. They were sharing an inside joke and invited everyone in, not taking into account that some of their greatest supporters are experiencing the aging process. I don’t know if they all could have participated if the joke was about Latinos or Blacks but in a sense, it was about everyone of every race and creed and gender who has reached a “certain age”. Interestingly, the only on-air personality that tried to steer the conversation was the young traffic reporter. Kudos to him and his parents who obviously taught him that humans deserve respect at every age. I would love to use this as an opportunity to have the conversation. I challenge the station to explore the question. Is ageism the last frontier of prejudice in this country? What do you think?
This space is dedicated to sharing the Good News with one another as we journey Home.