Oprah asks a question of the people she interviews That question is: "What do you know for sure?"
I always love hearing what people answer to this question.
Really, the very deepest and most simple teaching of many wisdom teachings stresses that our work is always interior. The inscription over the archway at the ancient Temple of the Oracle at Delphi said simply "Know thyself." "DO YOU" is another way to say it. It is a message that resonates from classical wisdom east and west all the way to Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons and beyond.. But the process of becoming truly ourselves can take a lifetime..
The Latin root of the word Education means "to draw out", and speaks to drawing from our deepest selves the essential gift that is uniquely ours to share. Rather than pouring information or manipulative bromides into students, great teachers work to encourage life long learners. The philosopher Socrates developed a method of teaching through asking wise questions of his students. Knowing how to ask a good question is really an art form. So Oprah asks "What do you know for sure?" And that is a great question.
In September of 2014 I entered the 2015 class of Leadership Long Beach, pretty sure that I wanted to loop back around to a deeply cherished project of mine of several years ago, to address the high number of middle school dropouts by creating a Conservatory Level Arts Academy for under served middle school youth in Long Beach, CA. I know the power of the Arts to teach critical thinking, augment academic learning, to engage and empower..and I am still passionate about somehow opening the door to success through that medium.
I have always done work I love, so the concept of retirement has never really resonated with me, but I was fascinated when not one but several friends asked me- as I entered the challenge of a new program of skill building through the year long program of Leadership Long Beach-, "are you the oldest person in the program?" Huh? It never even occurred to me! But when they asked, I started to psych myself out. "AM I???" the oldest person?? Is that bad? Is that good?" You know...the basic madness of a paranoid moment.
So over the months, I have really been working with my own ideas about aging, How do I feel about becoming an elder? I know that I will continue to be vital and alive, physically active and curious, open to new ideas and challenges.I have a lot of projects I am excited about, and am writing not one but two books too. I even helped to develop a curriculum for a gerontology program at a college in Southern CA some years ago, but I wasn't thinking about ME when I did that!
There is a lot of cutting edge work on longevity, and on what is actually a whole second adulthood many are experiencing. Jane Fonda calls this new thirty year extended adulthood our Third Act. It is a whole new developmental cycle that we haven't looked at before, because it hasn't existed before, and the possibilities are intriguing.We are living on average thirty four years longer than our grandparents did. (although my grandmother lived to almost 101 so...)
Anyway, you can imagine my delight and gratitude when Mayor Robert Garcia appointed me to the Commission on Senior Issues for the City of Long Beach, CA. Not only will I have the opportunity to talk about this stuff with others who are equally interested in the topic, but I will have the honor of being part of yet another cutting edge set of questions being entertained by one of the coolest 21st Century cities in the U.S..And best of all, I will truly be able to be of service, which is the best gift of all.
So what do I know for sure? One thing I know for sure is...that more is always revealed, if we stay open at the top. And another thing I know for sure is that I am a Baby Boomer. And the Baby Boomers are rapidly becoming older. It is my hope to also open opportunities for us to become not just older, but elders. Any healthy society needs elders to bring wisdom and balance to the community. We have some work to do in America to get a sense of this sacred role back in perspective.
And honestly, this Boomer generation is a good one to take this on. We have made new models in each stage of our lives. and I know this new frontier of transforming attitudes about aging is going to be no exception.
I read an article in New York Magazine years ago in which the author observed that you could ride the subway and see where people had "stopped' by how they were dressed. He suggested that you could see when people had become stuck in an era. and he thought this may have been the happiest time for them. There are so many adjustments to make and losses to grieve along life's path. It is easy to understand how we might become a little stuck sometimes. But with friends and community, and the all important self knowledge, there should never be a reason to have to stay stuck.
In the meantime, check out the work of the amazing and youthful eighty four year old Barbara Marx Hubbard, of Dr. Mario Martinez's Mind-Body Code and Jane Fonda's 'My Life So Far." You will love what you discover, I promise you that.
So...What do YOU know for sure?? I'm all ears.
Sending love across the quantum field,