Honoring Our Elders . . . . . . and our Progeny
Christmastime is family time, a time when the kids call home, or travel to be with family and loved ones; a time to share in the joy of being together in an atmosphere of love and generosity, sharing in the Christed spirit that rises in our hearts every year at this time and bubbles over into tree-trimming and decorating, caroling, gift giving and merry making. The world is transformed in the outpouring of love and joy. Christmas is obviously good for the economy, too. It’s the giving spirit that fosters abundance.
My thoughts today are of the Elderly watching our offspring from afar as they create an altogether different world than the one in which we grew up and raised families of our own. Closer to home, I think of our dearly departed Mother who spent the last days of her ninety-years on earth in a care center. None of us eight siblings were in a position to provide care for her in her home, where she wanted to spend her last days. Closer yet, I think of my own Eldership and that of my spouse and fellow septuagenarians whose homemade nests have long been empty. Ours are both “broken homes” whose family members live miles apart from one another making it stressful for our children to visit both parents and both grandparents during the holidays, assuming they can afford to travel at all. Thankfully, we have electronic media like Skype and Google Duo and Hangout, or ZOOM, to bring us closer together, at least virtually.
It’s a bit disheartening to see how our elders are set aside into care centers where they can be properly cared for while we get on with our busy lives. Gone are the days when we provided living quarters in our homes, or on our properties, for our ageing parents and grandparents — but not that far gone. Our parents actually built a cottage in our backyard for our grandparents. Our ancestry is Sicilian, and Italians historically honored their fathers and their mothers and took great care of them. “The Godfather” portrays this tradition in extreme. What has changed?
It seems the youth of today want to distance themselves from their roots and their elders as soon as possible, especially when our wisdom of yesteryear doesn’t seem to help them handle the complex world of today into which they have been thrust — nor facilitate the realization of their own dreams and aspirations. They have their own thoughts, as we are reminded by Kahlil Gibran. Sometimes we find ourselves turning to them for help navigating this new terrain of electronics and economic uncertainty.
Now, I do appreciate the obvious need to let go of the past and “the way we’ve always done things” for centuries and millennia. Tradition has always attempted to stand in the way of “progress.” I say “attempted” because progress inevitably wins out over “TRADITION!” — as Tevye finds out in “Fiddler On The Roof.” And I suppose I should not have implied by my use of quotation marks that progress isn’t really progressive. All too often, it seems, so-called “improvements” only make things worse and more difficult, especially when my computer software updates itself, and when Facebook makes changes in the way we navigate social media. Changes seem so much more a bother as we age and resist shifts in our routines.
Sometimes progress is an improvement, even inevitable as our species progresses through a radical transformation, both in consciousness and in physical form — becoming an entirely new species, according to such forward thinkers as Barbara Marks Hubbard and others. I like the way she sees herself and all of us as being “on the other side of our lives” and “becoming newer” rather than older. We are being upgraded genetically by Cosmic forces that are altering our very DNA, turning on genetic switches that have lay dormant for thousands of years. No, we are definitely not the same species we were a hundred years ago, even fifty.
This is so evident today with the arrival of the electronic age in which our grandchildren are needed to show us older folks how to use and troubleshoot our cell phones and computers, both new and complicated additions to our “old-school” ways of communicating by phone and “snail” mail. Who writes letters anymore? Our ageing Mother, rest her soul, after hearing a daughter talk about her hassle with her computer, asked in her beautiful ignorance, “What in the world is a mouse doing on your desktop?!” We all enjoyed a good laugh, realizing at the same time the obvious gap her query brought to light between the old and the new. I continue to be amused while listening to one of our sons who works in the tech field talk about his work using what sounds like a foreign language to us. They speak in acronyms these days rather than with fully-worded sentences. The youth of today were born with brains hardwired for this new electronic age. Where is it all heading? Apparently toward a totally new species, which one author recently dubbed “Homo Universalis,” one level up from Homo Sapiens.
Honoring Our Bridges
All I can say to this upcoming generation is, while your lifestyle and technology are rightly leaving us old folks behind, please do not forget us. We are the bridges you all crossed over in order to get where you are today, and you do not need to burn all your bridges, just the ones you don’t need any longer and are holding you back. We do still want to at least feel needed. The bridges we are will fall away soon enough leaving you the simple legacy and memory of our loving and caring presence in your early years of growing up and assuming your rightful places in the world, a world that you will transform beyond recognition in your day. We are always glad when you call home occasionally to see how we’re doing — and to share your lives and your worlds with us — but especially to say those heart-warming and family-binding words, “I love you.” Really, all we want is to hear from you as often as possible and to reaffirm the love we have for one another and our ongoing presence, and interest, in your lives and in your worlds. Our children do that and it does lighten our lives and bring joy to our hearts.
I would like to leave you with these words of “The Prophet” Kahlil Gibran that have been, and continue to be, a source of light upon our shared parental path.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, speak to us of children. And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward or tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children like living arrows are sent forth. The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with his might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I read somewhere that we are loved more than we will ever know. I know this to be so, and I feel it more as I age and leave behind my illusions of limitation and low self-esteem. That’s a big one for so many of us to overcome. I know for a fact that I am worthy of love — that I am love. You are loved more than you will ever know. You are love.
Until my next post in the New Year,
Be love. Be loved.