Saturday, May 2, 2015

In Praise of Oldness: Longevity, Vitality and the Fulfillment of Meaning

Since I returned to Oregon from Mexico in early March, I have plunged back into the creative development of Sage's Play, and in the process of that, I have naturally found myself immersed in contemplating and considering our culture's perspective on oldness, aging and elders.

Desmond Tutu dances at the Dalai Lama's birthday party
"Why does our society believe old people need help?" asks author James Hillman. "They are the ones who would be, in some other society, passing on help to others: teaching skills, telling stories, leading rituals, caring for children. They have a contribution to make, and instead they are segregated as sick people who need to be nursed. This is ridiculous."

With all this I wholeheartedly agree.

When I am sitting here with my Sage's Play hat on, and my Sage's Play glasses on, I am often inspired to sing praises to oldness, to its value, richness, depth, and the essential resonance of oldness, which we find so powerful and comforting. Oldness, staying power, lasting, the accumulated pile of life experience, of knowing, caring, leading, setting a good example, keeping the faith, passing on the old stories, showing how to plant the seeds and cultivate the garden of this life.

Maya Angelou
As I have said before, I believe it would do us all good to create an Elder Hall of Fame!  I have a list of many people I have been collecting and all of them are worthy candidates. Of course there's the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, both of whom are great examples of sages at play.

And poets Maya Angelou and Stanley Kunitz. Comedian Betty White, along with Yoko Ono, Mick Jagger, Pablo Casals, Pablo Picasso, Bernie Sanders, Tao-Porchon Lynch, teaching yoga in her 90s,  Robert Redford, Leonard Cohen, Jane Goodall, among others. Because I am interested in art, many of the elders I chose are artists of one sort or another.  Who would you want to add to the Elder Hall of Fame if there was one and you were on the panel?

Perhaps you might find it useful, as I have, to take a long look at the old people you admire. What is it that you find most fascinating or touching about them? What kind of oldness do you want to embody? What qualities do you want to continue to cultivate in yourself as you age?

Twyla Tharp
This morning, I listened to a great talk by Ashton Applewhite, a pro-aging activist based in NYC whose work I admire and support. In her talk, Ashton discusses prevalent stereotypes about aging and how they impact older adults and society at large. Because let's face it, not all older people are as clear in their life mission and work as are those I am mentioning here. Many elders find it difficult to push through the age prejudice in our society to contribute their valuable skills and knowledge.

Age discrimination and prejudice are bad for our health and the health of our world. It's as simple as that. You can watch Ashton Applewhite's incisive, information-packed talk on ageism here. I highly recommend can also take a look at her website This Chair Rocks.

Incidentally, I post a lot of great articles and observations about aging on the Sage's Play Facebook page.

Well, that's a collection of links for you to explore...and here is one more,  just for good measure. Have you taken a look at our revamped Sage's Play website? There are some delightful changes and additions you might like to see.

Right now, I am revising Your Audacious Aging Kit and  developing a new e-course titled Into the Mystery: The Healing Power of Memoir and Life Review. I feel rejuvenated and filled with fresh inspiration from my sojourn in Mexico. Stay tuned...and enjoy the magic of the approaching full moon!