Family gatherings, whatever the reason, tend to reveal a lot about who you are, where you've been and where you may be going.
(Where you are going is always a choice.)
I looked around a crowded room at my family and friends recently and was struck by how we had all aged. My father, now in his eighties, is still a pretty healthy guy. Many of the people I remember as much younger than who they are now. The reason for the recent coming together was a sombre one; my Mom's funeral. It occurred to me during the long drive home that these people, these elders, would be me in not so many years. The passing of my Mom made me realize I was becoming one of the older folks in my “tribe” but was I becoming an Elder or simply becoming an older version of who I was in my teens or twenties?
Am I still twenty-five in my head or have I drunk at the well of life enough to impart some form of functional experiential wisdom?
In our culture, we lament aging; aching joints, failing eyesight and hearing and stepping slower than we once did. We fear the aging process past thirty to the point of making humorous birthday cards and, to modernize it, memes, that joke about getting older. We spend thousands of dollars trying to look like some reasonable facsimile of a Vogue cover. We look at aging as if it were some cruel punishment for over-exuberance in our teens, twenties and thirties. Indeed, I know many people who still are behaving as if they still live in their teens and twenties despite bodies which are much older. We fight the aging process tooth and nail as if getting older were some crime and our slowing, aching, wrinkling, sagging body and underachieving metabolism were the prison.
We are viewing it wrong.
Aging is part of the process, not only in body but in mind, emotional stability and humility. It is an honour to age. It is an honour to become humble and quieter in spirit. It is an honour to choose wisdom over physical prowess. As we grow older, we need to become grounded in ourselves so we can ground others. Rather than rile the masses or pit one side against the other, being an Elder is the reasonable voice in conflict.
Anything else is a combative adolescent in wrinkled skin.
How does one become an Elder?
What is the difference between an older and an Elder?
Becoming an Elder is not simply a function of age or of experience. It seems becoming an Elder is more a function of one's disposition. In fact, if one looks at the presumed function of an Elder from historical times, they were learned people with life experience and not only knew right from wrong, but had the common sense to make decisions that were best for an entire group rather than a select few. Those who would have been deemed to be Elders during tribal times would not have had personal agendas knowing their time of personal gain decision making had passed. Those Elders were stable, centred, grounded while carrying wisdom and balance into their resolution of issues.
It seems to me elders are about continuation. That is, passing on a stable legacy for all.
But then, that was a tribal elder as opposed to a country's elder, right? It's more difficult to find one single person to run a community as large as a country without them having a personal agenda. After all, it's the societal structure we (the global we) have designed and have come to know. Decisions are made with regard to profit or loss. That is, whether it costs more than an alternative rather than whether the alternative is better for the global community as a whole.
We see it in North Dakota at the moment where a money making entity pits itself against the well being of citizens where money may well be the deciding factor. Too often, the money wins.
I don't believe that is what an elder does. I believe an elder makes decisions that are sometimes difficult (financially or otherwise) yet result in what is best for the whole of society and the future continuation of that society. By making decisions based on cost or convenience and not long term functionality and healthy citizens, we are often discounting new ideas for the comfort of old, outdated, less costly systems.
And then there is an election.
I won't go into what I believe is right or wrong with the presidential decision. My opinion matters not. I am, however, compelled to ask some rather pointed questions.
Does the new leader make decisions based on the needs of society's future or based on the cheaper, more immediate financially lucrative path?
Does he have a history of basing his decisions on people rather than money?
Does he have a track record which is inclusive rather than exclusive?
Is he an Elder or simply an Older?
Has he any bias toward a group of people?
While we may surmise what a future with this leader will be like, we really don't know for certain what it will be. At the same time, we have only the history of this man to judge from. He may, in fact, be brilliant for the United States. While that fact may or may not be true, I have a peculiar feeling he is not going to have a far reaching positive affect on the world.
That makes him not leader of the free world.
That makes him not inclusive.
That makes him an Older, but not an Elder.
That makes him an little boy in big boy pants.
For myself, I know, as time passes, I am becoming an Older. Evidence of that was punctuated at the funeral. My wondering is whether I am becoming an Elder.
As with this recent decision by the people of the United States, only time will tell.