10.22.18 | You're Only Old Once
A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there. "He's of no use any more," the son thought to himself, "he doesn't do anything!" One day the son got so frustrated by this, that he built a wooden coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to get in. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside.
After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. "I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?" "What is it?" replied the son. "Throw me over the cliff, if you like," said the father, "but save this good wooden coffin. Your children might need to use it."
Wooden Coffin (Zen Buddhist story)
One reacts with a mixture of bemusement, disbelief, and righteous indignation upon receiving this missive from the universe via the postal service: your personal 50th birthday invitation to join AARP. Congratulations, you have just graduated from the old age of youth to the youth of old age.
Joining us as lead participant in our Member Monday (10/22/18) discussion is our very own Member Monday friend Rick Moody who recently retired, as it turns out, from AARP as its Vice President. From that perch along with a writing and teaching career that beggars the imagination, Rick is up close and personal with every single debate on the topic of aging e.g. social security, assisted suicide, biology of aging, future of Boomers -- everything. And, so, we will let our collective imaginations run wild as we probe and discuss the nuts and bolts surrounding the second half of life.
But wait. There's more.
Rick is a philosopher at heart. This calling has taken him as the organization's director of academic affairs on so many life discoveries -- human development policies and ethics for an aging society, stages of the soul, seminal book on gerontology -- that to go beyond the fact he is the chairman of Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) would probably embarrass him. So let's just leave it that we are incredibly fortunate to have Rick as our wisdom source while we take on our subject from three dimensions i.e. successful aging, productive aging, and conscious aging (Positive Aging).
Special mention, then, to a subject compelling enough to perhaps merit its own discussion i.e. the role of dreams to guide us through the second half of life. Yes, some of you may recall dreams were the subject of our Member Monday (1/30/17)/Sleep, Insomnia, and Dreaming discussion but Rick's perspective launches us into entirely new dimensions as it relates to the journey into old age: Jung's archetype of the spirit; the Elder and the Ideal Ego; struggle with disengagement; ego-integrity v. despair (see Dreams and The Coming of Age (Dreams and The Coming).
So powerful is this notion that inner dreams may manifest a value that more than compensates for outer losses. This is the real gift of time. Positive disengagement. A spiritual or contemplative dimension. A sense of completeness, even enlightenment. Life seen in totality.
These are the real postcards from the edge.