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“Come of Age”

I am listening to the audiobook of “Come of Age”, written by Stephen Jenkinson, who also wrote “Die Wise”.

“Stephen is a teacher, author, storyteller, spiritual activist, farmer and founder of the Orphan Wisdom School, a teaching house and learning house for the skills of deep living and making human culture. It is rooted in knowing history, being claimed by ancestry, and working for a time yet to come. ”

“In his landmark provocative style, Stephen Jenkinson makes the case that we must birth a new generation of elders, one poised and willing to be true stewards of the planet and its species,” says the description of “Come of Age”. In chapter four the man has me so depressed that I wonder if I can continue. Not because he writes badly or because his topic is not relevant. On the contrary, his topic is so real and so relevant that it scares the living daylights out of me. It is about ageing.

The writing is truly poetic, with gravitas in his own reading. He describes old people as “the trash on the landscape of their older adult-burdened children”. It hits the wind from my gut. What a horrible statement. And yet, in many cases so true. Older people are often discarded, like trash flying around the landscape, blown in the wind to be caught in the fence of some institution. Caught, to be weathered and worn by the harsh elements, slowly decaying and decomposing.

“NO!”, I want to shout, this is not true. You are too cynical. And yet, I wish I knew the statistics of where true filial piety is successful, the percentage of children who really and truly care about their parents, who look after them, not with money or the occasional visit but with genuine, loving care. We have become just too fast, too self-centred, too busy to care. And in the interim, we have created this vast enterprise called “aged care”. The human dumping site, where samaritans scramble to help those who have been discarded.

Somehow, this scares me more than climate change. Maybe because everyone is talking about climate change, I have some vague hope that my learned friends will come up with a solution. That someone, somewhere (the Greta Thurnberghs of this world) will make enough noise to help save the planet. There is very little noise to create a different world for older people. On the one hand, we do everything in our power to extend life. Longevity. On the other, we battle to legalise assisted suicide for older people. Why does that dichotomy not sit well with me? What am I missing…?

I suppose we go back to “the good life”, which according to Plato we all desire. But do we even know what we mean by “the good life”? Somehow I get the idea if it does not involve perky boobs, no wrinkles, t as a jockey, a razor-sharp brain, lots of money and awesome sex (a lot of it too) we would not consider it to be “good”. We cannot stare ageing in the face, least of all our own face. We have to stay young, we have to “successfully” age, defy ageing, and be productive, whatever that might mean. It has to be perfect. If not, please let me opt out.

I will continue to listen to the audiobook and keep you updated with the (God I hope) good news to come. I see no silver lining (pun intended). We need a movement as huge as that of the climate change movement, we need to become activists for ageing.

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