“As the elders of our time choose to remain blind,Fifty years on and those who listened to, and sang along with, Donovan, are now of an age where one could expect to find elders amongst them.
Let us rejoice, and sing and dance, and ring in the new.”
Are those who were the hippies, the flower-children, now the elders of our time? Are the elders of our time still blind? Or, are there now, amongst these elders, those with clear sight?
Maybe it is best to start with a definition. What or who is an elder? One of the most insightful definitions I have found is that of Bill Plotkin, who considers an elder to be:
“… someone who, after many years of adulthood, consistently occupies his/her ultimate place without any further effort to do so. This frees her/him for something with greater scope and depth and fulfilment, namely, caring for the soul of the world. (An elder) does this by assisting others to prepare for, discover, and embody their souls, and by supporting the human-Earth system in the evolution of its soul.”1Thought of this way, an elder is not simply an older person. Nor is an elder a teacher or mentor. An elder cares for soul – both of humans and the Earth. In doing so, an elder understands, expresses, and is at home with, human-nature connection.
An elder then, assists us to connect with nature and our inner nature. An elder enables us to take life’s journey ever mindful that humans can be much more than consumers and comfort seekers, alienated from our true being.
If such is an elder, has the young generation of the 1960s/70s given rise to such elders?
Yes! True elders do live amongst us.
Bill Plotkin (quoted above) can be considered one. He has been an eco-psychologist, wilderness guide, and author of soul-infused books, for more than 30 years. His Wheel of Life profoundly maps the human soul-centred and eco-centred life journey.
Joanna Macy is another who readily springs to mind as an elder of our time. Her work on facing the despair of nuclear proliferation in the 1970s, morphed into a larger body of work she called The Great Turning, which outlines a transition from an egocentric Industrial Growth Society to a soul-centric Life-sustaining Society. She has led hundreds of workshops all over the world, and written many books enabling us to connect with our soul and the soul of the world.
Richard Louv, Thomas Berry, Chellis Glendinning, Joseph Campbell, David Suzuki, and David Korten, are just a few of the elders of our time from within the western cultural tradition.
Indigenous cultures around the world have largely maintained their elders of our times. Sadly, western cultures have not valued these elders and what they have to offer. All too often they, and the cultures they represent, were treated with contempt, and dehumanised, denigrated and decimated.
The (western) elders of our time, now treat indigenous eldership with respect.
Yes, we do have elders of our time. They are no longer blind.
Do we have the ears to listen to them?
1. Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, California, 2008