Aging in an Animist World
I was at a family function recently when a child said to me with the typical unfiltered honesty that only a child can muster, “I don’t like your grey hair. It makes you look old.” Ooh, snap! I could have taken this as an opportunity to be hurt or offended or to teach him about being polite. Instead I chose to give him a lesson in aging in an animist world and challenge his idea of what it meant to be “old.”
To him “old” was useless, slow, not fun, and ugly. I threw down the gauntlet that elders could be wise, beautiful, invaluable, and full of life. You see, the wheel of life starts with gestation. This is a dark, formless space of becoming that can’t be seen with the eyes because it takes place within. Birth happens when that becoming is complete and is brought out into the world. It’s the spring that brings for new life. We then move into maturation, and this is where modern society gets into trouble.
We like things that are cute like puppies, Bambi, and baby goats. They are full of energy, courage, and daring. They are cared for, desirable, and are ignorant enough to get away with making mistakes. When we get into adulthood and maturity, the fun stops. Work begins and life’s not sexy or interesting anymore. That is just a slow decline into infirmity and death. We have got to change that! That’s not in alignment with Nature at all.
In the wheel of life, maturity is where life’s juice begins to flow, not ends! We start to have enough knowledge and experience to make things happen. We have enough resources to give to others and begin to share life with others. When independence combines with stability, wisdom, support, and confidence, we can start companies, families, and projects that can change the world. We can grow our spiritual sides so that we feel we’re living a worthwhile life. Bambi might be cute, but you can’t do that as Bambi.
Being a mature adult is a responsibility. Children and elders stand closer to Death and therefore the spirit world. Adults have the responsibility to care for them. Babies are weak. They need nurturing to grow into adults. Elders are often physically weak and need support to connect that ancestral energy and wisdom that nurtures the younger generations. Someone has always tread a path before you. Wise elders can share of that wisdom to make that path easier.
When we try to stop the wheel of life by acting like we’re still children, we ruin the order of things. If you want to be healthy and happy, you have to be present with where you are. Every stage of life has something to teach us. We are depend upon each other as teachers to help us grow. So when we step out of our place, we not only impact our own growth, but that of our families and larger societies.
So, if you are like this child who thinks of “old” as something undesirable, I challenge you to embrace a new viewpoint when it comes to aging. We need elders to show us how to transition from doe-eye innocents to mature movers and shakers. Elders can help those movers and shakers then become the future elders. But this won’t happen if children don’t become adults and adults don’t become elders. We have a huge populations of adult children right now. I urge you to take a look at where you are in the wheel of life to see if that is where you really belong.