Rumpelstiltskin by Judith Helburn
Oh, what, oh what shall I be called? Oh what, oh what do I want to be called? From the time we are born we are given labels. The doctor says, “It’s a boy,” or It’s a girl,” and we on the way to accumulating names and labels over a whole lifetime. Some stick around such as our given and family names. Others don’t, such as toddler or teen.
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi [of blessed memory] told some of us that we are diamonds with many facets. At various points of our lives, different facets of our lives, our diamond selves, glow strongly and others dim. His name is an example. He added the Shalomi to his name later in life because he wanted to emphasize the peaceful aspects of his being—and Schachter, in Yiddish, means butcher. In many cultures young men and women are given new names as they reach puberty to reflect who they have become. And, in other cultures, people’s true names remain secret, known only to with whom they are intimate. In some cultures, the name of someone gravely ill was changed so that the angel of death would have difficulty finding them.
So, here we are, mostly in the second half of our lives. What do we want to be called? Names can be either empowering or denigrating. Remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin. When the young woman finally called him by his name, his power over her was diminished. Do we want to be labeled geezers or crones? Crones, maybe, if we are referring to the older, respectful definition of wise old woman. Do you feel elderly or aged? Are you confident enough to be called perfected? How about perennial? I, for one, have no illusions about lasting forever—and I don’t want to. I want to leave room on this planet for newcomers. And, maybe, just maybe, there is something in reincarnation. It might be nice to begin again. Maybe I’d do a better job the next time. No perennial for me.
Florida Scott-Maxwell [of blessed memory] wrote that when we age we become “that nameless, boundless part… who knows with clear conviction there is more to us than age.” Perhaps we can all agree that there is more to life and there are many labels for those of us in the second half or third third of life. Do we even need to be pinned down to one term or even several? Elders might work for most of us, but Sages might not fit all [other than ourselves, of course] I like the “gerund” concept—that of adding “ing” to whatever we want to be called. We are not stopped here and now. We are growing, changing, learning, sage-ing and more.
In any case, what we want to be called is the basis for a lively discussion in a Wisdom Circle, within a family or with a group of friends. Sage-ing International plans to have a poster board on an easel with a long list of possibilities at our October 2018 conference. We’ll have lots of small dots for participants to stick next to their favorite label or two. We’ll see, by the ending dinner, what label is the most popular. You could help us create the list. Send your favorite to Judith Helburn.
Judith Helburn has been involved with Sage-ing since the early 1990’s, and received her CSL training from Reb Zalman at the Spiritual Eldering Institute. She was on the initial Board of the Sage-ing Guild, serving a year as Chair. She was the initial CSL Training Coordinator and has contributed deeply to the structure for certifying Sage-ing Leaders. Her ongoing contribution is to develop and produce the quarterly Sage-ing Newsletter, The Communicator.