Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Recognizing the Wisewomen....

Last night, I got to thinking about how we recognize our elders. First, I had to define "elder".

The primary characteristic is wisdom. The secondary characteristic would be a balanced view and understanding of the life cycle. The third would be compassion and kindness. It would be very hard for me to consider someone my "elder" who doesn't consistently exhibit these characteristics.

Most of the cultures I've studied view an elder as being one who has lived the longest. That doesn't seem right somehow. Age doesn't guarantee wisdom, balance, compassion or kindness. I am older physically but am a rather young soul in many ways.

My two elders are years apart in age. One is 67 and the other is 39. I consider both of these women to be my elders, my mentors, because of the way they live, the way they think and the way they believe.

The 39 year old woman, Dalaja, came into my life three years ago. We met in the oddest way. I was working at a wretchedly horrible job, the one that led to my ultimate choice to pursue disability. Dalaja was a big part of that decision.

She is an amazing woman. She is intelligent, beautiful and one of the most balanced people I've ever met. She radiates depth and wisdom. Somehow, she manages to get along in the world with fluidity. She is an old soul who has been here many times before. Nothing much ruffles her. She is from India and has studied with masters there on several occasions during her travels. Her parents moved here. She was not a part of that decision. She acknowledged that she would have been happy to stay in India.

I remember one day sitting in the cafeteria of this workplace with her and she began reading my palm. She said, "you have a big choice to make. You can die very soon or you can change your life." She provided details sufficient to convince me she knew what she was talking about. She wasn't playing parlor games. She used that framework to give me some important information that she was getting psychically. And Dalaja is psychic. Not the Psychic Friends Network variety or the New Age fluff bunny kind. She's the real thing. She uses palms the way I use numerology. It's just a prop.

At some point, we had a conversation about elders and age. She was telling me that in India, I would be her "auntie" since I am a generation older than she is. I told her that I didn't feel much like her "auntie" because in my estimation she has more life experience, more wisdom and more knowledge. "You are my elder," I told her, "no matter how old I am physically." She looked at me for a few minutes, thought hard and finally agreed. She is. She is an older soul. So, we decided that in Indian terms, we were sisters.

All of this to say that I believe elders present themselves in many ways, in all shapes and forms. Most of the world's cultures put too much emphasis on age alone. I believe they come to us on some level we can't articulate and we recognize them.

Who do you recognize as your elders?




Mom O Matic said...

What a lovely thought. I will have to consider it today.

Pam said...

Our culture is so youth and appearance oriented that it misses your point entirely. Elders are considered old rather than wise, not that all of them are.
And we look at youth on the surface and often miss our old souls. My husband's Aunt is a true elder and not because of her age of 82.She is very wise, kind, understanding and just.My 43 year old daughter is also an old soul and I look up to them both.

dmmgmfm said...

I agree with Pam, our culture values youth and beauty much more than wisdom. That being said, I have to say that my 24 year old son is an old soul in many ways and I consider him my elder.

Thanks for making me think, as usual.

Anvilcloud said...

In my circles, I feel like an elder. maybe in other circles I wouldn't. It doesn't mean that I'm old or particularly wise or particularly smart, but I do have some sort of accumulation of life experiences that provides me some insight and (dare I say) some wisdom.

Bob said...

I've been thinking off and on all day today and I can't think of anyone that serves that role for me. My dad did such a good job teaching me to be responsible for myself that I don't look to others for guidance. I don't have a social network that would lead me to find one either.

Kinda sad, huh?

KC said...

this is a hard one.

I would say one of my co-workers whose office is next to mine. She is a grandmother of 2, has been a doctor for a long time, and just knows so much more clinically from her medical experiences. each time I knock on the door to ask her something, I feel very young and excitable to her wise and all-knowing.

I trust her medical opinions implicitly.

Girlplustwo said...

i read this early this AM. sat dumbfounded. thought about it today. i have no answer tonight.

this could definitely be a big problem in my life. i have no elders I learn from right now. when i possibly need it the most.

thailandchani said...

Lotta, it is something that just seems essential ~ at least for me. I need to be surrounded by wise women. :)


Pam, that's why I feel lucky to have found Thai. I love it so much! The youth oriented stuff grates me. Young people certainly have much to offer ~ life would be horrible without them... and they will run the world one day... but youth is fleeting.


dmm, It is especially special (that's a Chani-ism that should never be used...ever.. but.. :) when you have a child who is an old soul. Are you familiar with Indigo children? There are many old souls coming back now because we need them so badly.


Anvil, I am going to take a wild guess that you probably do have a great deal of wisdom. Even though we are similar in age, I've lived such a peculiar life that wisdom isn't something I will have in abundance in this lifetime. Sure, I know metaphysics and all that.. and am pretty good with it.. but wisdom that comes from life experience, no. I'm trying though. :)


Bob, yeah.. kind of sad.. and not atypical. Western culture is so dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency that most of us are in that position. I don't have much of a social network, either, although I've been fortunate to draw a teacher or two over the past ten years. Before that, nada. It's not all that uncommon.


KC, wow.. you are really fortunate to have her around! Somehow, I'm guessing you have plenty of wisdom of your own, too. :)


Jen, check your email. :)


Thanks, everyone. I know this is a particularly busy time for most of you ~ and that you would take time to leave comments for me is very kind.. and I thank you. :)



meno said...

Having thought about it a bit, i have elders that are of various ages, and are both men and women. People who remind me just by the way they are to calm down, and that there is more than one way to look at an issue.
I feel lucky that i have friends of all ages, it will make being old less lonely.

Cuppa said...

Chani - I just read your most wonderful blog in Sage about being and not doing, but when I came over here to capture it to send to my sister - puff - it was gone.

Will you please send it to me at my email addy if for some reason you don't want to post it again.

Gobody said...

This is a beautiful post, again, Chani. I am an odd ball, because in my whole life I never had anyone to look up to! That might sound strange or even arrogant, but the reality is that even at a young age, people much older than me came to me with their troubles. I felt that I needed to dependable, and available. Somehow I feel that this feeling might have stripped me of a big part of my childhood! At the age of 41, I haven’t meet many people who I can consider older, maybe only my 6 year old

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have lost two elders whom I loved and respected in recent years. One was Slow Turtle, Chief Sachem of the Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod. I did a post about him some time ago.

Another one was Two Trees, a medicine man of the Cherokees in NC.

Both were wise and transparent, honest and simple, by which I mean unpretentious. Their goodness was a beacon which I felt physically from about a mile away as I approached their homes. I actually felt myself filling with joy and burdens lifting off me. It was a tangible thing, and always astounded me.

I think my three children are all my elders in different ways, too. One daughter was told by a psychic that she had been my mother in several previous lifetimes, and I believe it.

I have a dear friend who is 104, about whom I also did a post. He is my proof that senility is not mandatory, and he gives me the affection my parents were unable to give.

I once had an Exmoor pony who was my elder. After he died, I cried over his body and told him how much I loved him, and a single large tear slid out of his eye. He and my children taught me to open my heart, even when it scares me.

Thank you for asking. I am richer than I knew.

QT said...

I have thought about this all day Chani and I don't know that I can name anyone that I know personally. I don't feel bad about it, but it is strange to me. I have always been a person that is approached by others for advice, so perhaps I have failed to cultivate any resources of my own?