Have you ever read a book where you find yourself underlining furiously, nodding, and saying "Yes!" out loud?
That's what happened to me when I read Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing. He had me from the first paragraph when he described a depression that had come upon him at sixty; a sense of loss and difficulty imagining a good future oppressed him.
Reb Zalman was looking at a world that no longer valued him in its quest for newness and speed. Aging brought no benefit, yet it wasn't always this way.
He writes, "Elderhood is a time of unparalleled inner growth having evolutionary significance in this era of world-wide cultural transformation. It is a call from the future, a journey for the health and survival of our ailing planet earth." How much more so now! He envisioned spiritual eldering institutes to teach us how to reach this growth of which he spoke. Fifteen years ago, when he wrote the book, many of us weren't at an age where these words reached us. Now we understand and we're ready.
An elder is someone still growing, still learning, and still with potential. Life continues to have promise and a connection to the future. An elder deserves respect and honor, because it is he or she who will synthesize wisdom from a lifetime and turn it into legacy for future generations.
While Reb Zalman's institutes never happened and we're still a generation in search of wisdom, I have an idea that takes its inspiration from the women's movement. Back in the seventies, pioneering women formed conscious raising groups to evolve a new place for women in our society. Only together, by speaking our truth, could we imagine a world where women had the same rights as men. It was in these groups that the new voice and presence of women emerged.
Following the structure of the CR groups, I'm starting a facilitated weekly Sage-ing group that will use the teachings of Reb Zalman and others to explore a new vision for aging. Mary Catherine Bateson in her latest book, Composing a Further Life, observes that we have thirty more years than our ancestors at the turn of the twentieth century to mature into elderhood, and no generation has had access to so much information. Let's get started!
We'll begin by reading and studying From Age-ing to Sage-ing to inspire the deep conversation. Guided imagery, journaling, meditating, and chanting will also help us. Just as the feminist groups gathered women who individually felt that something wasn't working in their lives and they discovered that they weren't alone, we'll gather to share how we understand the relationship of time and wisdom, and how we can be a vital force for good in the bonus of years given to us. If you'd like to make the last third of your life the richest and become part of a movement to reclaim the wisdom of time, please join us Tuesday, 18 January at 7 PM.
Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker