‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Written by Elder Joseph at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine
A full year has come and gone since an unprincipled and unbalanced man secured the power of the United States presidency. In that period of time he has, in turn, chosen and dismissed a bevy of sycophants wielding personal agenda hatchets. The new year will likely be another onslaught of still unknown “never-thought-this could-be-possible” events.
Change is always difficult, but those imposed on us by this administration reek of so much chaos, it seems like we’re observing the dissolution of even the idea that truth exists. It wasn’t a surprise to me that the hottest holiday gifts were in the category of “virtual reality.” Since dishonesty is rampant, lies are established as truth simply by sufficient repetition, and none of the rules of civil society seem to apply anymore, why not retreat inside a version of make-believe reality you get to pick off a shelf?
As a counterbalance, a strategy for moving forward, I offer you the perspective of Carol Osborn, PhD, Founder of Fierce With Age. Her words, and the words of other Elders she references, inspire me to stay the course I’ve been on toward my reality of a satisfying and purposeful life. I am encouraged to hold on to my own path with heart just as her work, years ago, helped me embrace aging as a time equally filled with potential as all other phases of life,
While our elders enjoin us to act for the greatest good despite the odds, they also teach us to be patient with our pain. We cannot rebuild broken hope lest we mix loss, humiliation, powerlessness and uncertainty, into the straw and mud, along with courage and compassion. Only by admitting to the crumbling of the illusion of our mastery and taking into account what we now understand to be the truth about human nature can we begin the critical work of providing a stronger basis upon which a more authentic future can be built.
There is hope, no matter how great our disillusionment, because the present moment is always free and full of possibilities. But to be fierce with life, we must waste no time relinquishing the expectation that we will get things back the way they were. We must offer ourselves up to become profoundly changed. In the words of author May Sarton: “Pain can make a whole winter bright, like fever, and force us to live deep and hard.”
We who are fierce with age did not choose this struggle. There are no guarantees. The risk is great. But the world needs us now more than ever. Yes, the future is uncharted territory—but it is where hope lies.