Wisdom of the elderlyMy friend Gary shared this article by Michael Meade and it’s so applicable to the current passage of Pluto through Capricorn.  Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, also known as the Greek Kronos, also known as “Father Time.”  Saturn and Capricorn remind us that our life is short and that we must be smart about how we spend the time that is allotted to us.

In traditional cultures, the elders are expected to remember the essential things that everyone else keeps forgetting. After “growing up,” a person is supposed to grow down and become rooted deeper in the ground of being, like an old tree that draws from ever deeper resources. In traditional cultures, the elders were considered to be a valuable resource without whose guidance the whole society could lose its way.

Yet in modern life, instead of people growing “older and wiser,” people can simply grow older and older. People can live longer and longer without becoming any wiser for it. When there is no genuine growth in growing older, aging can become all about loss. The longer people live the more of life they seem to lose. Instead of developing wise and seasoned “elders” who can help others find meaningful ways to live, modern societies are in danger of producing “olders” who blindly seek ways to hold onto life at any cost.

This can be seen as the problem of the olders vs. the elders. Traditionally, elders carry a greater vision of life because they develop insight into their own lives. The elders are those who found threads of purpose and meaning amidst the illusions and delusions of life. Amidst the inevitable troubles of life, the bubble of the “closed ego” bursts and a deeper, wiser self is born. Such psychological maturity involves a shift from a self-centered life to one of genuine meaning and of greater service to others.

Yet, in a culture where older folks are in the majority and people tend to live longer and longer, there seems to be an increase of fear as well as a loss of wisdom about life and about death. There seems to be a lack of knowing elders who can recall essential things in midst of the great crises troubling both nature and culture. What is the point of living longer if it doesn’t mean becoming wiser and being more able to serve something beyond one’s little-self?

This is what Pluto in Capricorn is teaching us, and since it follows the passage of Pluto through Sagittarius, in which entertainment and “bigger is better” ruled the days, there is a fair amount of contraction that needs to be done now in order to make that passage between “little-self” and the deeper wisdom of the elder.

This process is probably particularly difficult for the Pluto in Leo generation, my own generation (1939-1958) for whom developing the ego and the little-self has become an art form.  But we are the generation that is looking now towards the abyss of old age and wondering how we will be able to find our way.  Meade says:

An old idea suggests that the only ones more idealistic than young people are the elders. It’s not that the elders naively believe that the great ideals of humanity, peace and justice, healing and compassion, are simply attainable. Rather, the idea is that without a commitment to such ideals a culture simply collapses into political infighting and economic warfare. The gridlock in the nation’s capitol may be an increasing national shame, but the grid lock on American imagination may be a greater tragedy in the making.

While the political parties fight over who might be the “adult in the room,” there is a desperate need for elders in communities throughout the country. Whereas the ’60s were characterized by change brought on by a youth revolution, the current morass may only be changed by an elder awakening. The revolution waiting to happen in this country may involve an awakening to the necessity of the role that elders can play in the great crises facing both culture and nature.

We are these elders we’ve been waiting for.  It’s time to step up.

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