Wisdom from The Elder Corner—Series 1
Stan Paine, CSL
Stan Paine is a Certified Sage-ing Leader who has been actively involved in bringing Elder wisdom into his local church community in Eugene, Oregon. We will be periodically publishing articles he has written on the SI website as blog posts. Here is the first series.
“It is said that wisdom comes with age.
But sometimes, age comes by itself.”
It seems that there are no guarantees of becoming wiser as we age. Simply getting older doesn’t seem to be enough. Many older people deny any wisdom they might have. They say, “I don’t have any wisdom.” Maybe they have some wisdom, but they don’t realize it, or they are uncomfortable acknowledging it. Or maybe they could have some, but they don’t actively seek it. But we need all the wisdom we can muster in these challenging times, so we must consider the possibility of cultivating and harvesting our wisdom as best we can. Perhaps the yield won’t be abundant this year, but we must glean what we can, for we, ourselves, and others around us need all the wisdom we can find.
How do we do this? Where can wisdom be found? And what are we to do with it once we stumble upon it? Consider that perhaps wisdom is born of our experiences and our perspectives. By intentionally reflecting on our experiences and gaining clarity on our perspectives, we can begin to better understand and accept ourselves, our circumstances, our fellow citizens and our world. And when we ground our “possible wisdom” in our purpose, our vision for a better life, our values, our character and our faith, we grow in confidence that maybe there is some wisdom within us and that it could be put to good use.
So where do we get wisdom? We actively, intentionally grow it—we plant it, nourish it, cultivate it, and harvest it by reflecting on our experiences and discerning their meaning. Call it meditation, prayer, or simply reflection, but be still and turn inward. Seek wisdom. There in the midst of your mind, you will find that which you (and we all) need–the seeds of wisdom planted there long ago and emerging now, ready to feed your soul and that of a hungry world. Do not hesitate to share this bounty with others, even anonymously, even one person at a time, even simply by example. For the wisdom of one can multiply in others and become part of the vision for a better world. It seems simple, but it could be a wise thing to do.
Okay, so maybe there is something worthwhile in the realizations rising from our reflections. How then do we pass them on, if, indeed, we dare to do so? We can write, leaving a “legacy message” for those who will find and read our words; we can teach others; we can parent, grandparent or otherwise nurture a young person; we can mentor a youth or another adult; we can speak our wisdom to anyone who will listen; or we can listen and reflect the wisdom of another person, perhaps helping them realizing their own wisdom for the first time. We can also listen and pass on the wisdom we hear, for the wisdom we share need not be our own. We can be the relay messengers for someone else’s wisdom. This approach can be helpful if we are concerned that we might be labeled a “wise guy/gal” by spouting wisdom. We can always attribute the truth we speak to someone else.
“The eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” –Terry Tempest Williams
(American author, conservationist and activist who writes on behalf of an ethical stance toward life)
There is a group based in Portland called SAGE—Senior Advocates for Generational Equity (http://wearesage.org)*. The concept of “generational equity” is a compelling one. It has rich implications that speak clearly to the strong value placed on intergenerational connections in our stage of life. SAGE defines generational equity as “the principle that each generation should sustain or improve the quality of life for the next”. The group “raises awareness about the major social, environmental and economic challenges that younger and future generations will face in their lifetimes” (e.g. climate, air and water quality, food supplies, shelter, peace, education, income security, etc.), and “it engages people over 50 in addressing those challenges.” As such, it is a multi-faceted social justice initiative that “encourages middle age and older adults to engage in and support causes and non-profit programs that are vital to the needs of children, youth and future generations.” They call people to give forward with their time, talent and passion to enable future generations to thrive.*
The concept of generational equity calls to mind the principle of ‘seventh generation sustainability’, an ecological concept that “urges the current generations to work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future” and all those along that path. It comes from the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation, “which holds it essential to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years or more) in making decisions that ultimately have implications for generations far into the future.” They ask, “Where are we taking our children and grandchildren? What will their lives be like because of our actions?” These questions give us all a great deal to think about in these times—and to act upon.
It is not a big step to go from these questions to the issues of our day. How are we doing in working toward the health of our planet, toward adequate food and water supplies for all, toward peaceful relations with other people and other nations, toward helping others meet basic needs? SAGE offers us a simple way to address these questions:* 1) identify a challenge facing younger and future generations (our children, grandchildren and beyond), and learn more about how you can help; 2) take some personal action to help address those challenges; 3) give forward of your time, talent and resources in an area that speaks to you. Each of us can do something more. Our children, grandchildren and those who will follow them deserve no less. (*sources: SAGE website; Wikipedia)
“Are we being good ancestors?” (Jonas Salk)