Posted July 2, 2008
Book: The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully
Author: Joan Chittister
Blue Bridge. New York. 2008. Pp. 222
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
The Gifts of Years looks at the many dimensions of aging, the purposes and concerns, struggles and surprises, the potential and joys. It deals with the sense of rejection that comes from feeling out of it. It reflects on the temptation to isolate oneself from the changes taking place, and on the need to stay involved. It discusses what happens as old relationships end and shift, change and disappear in favor of the many new people and new challenges that come to take their place. It talks about the fear of tomorrow and the mystery of forever and how to cope with it all. It is a panoply of central issues that emerge with age to bring us to the fullness of life, to make us new again.
An Excerpt from the Book:
In youth we learn, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote when she was seventy-five years old, in age we understand.
Clearly, here was a woman who understood the function of age, the role of the elderly.
Understanding is the bedrock of a society. It enables us to see why we do what we do, to realize why we cannot do what we want to do in all instances. It is in the development of understanding for the next generation, in the cocreation of the world, that the older generation has so serious a role to play.
The service of that the whole world needs from the elders is not the service of hours spent and time put in and documents finished and machines fixed. There are untold numbers of people who can do all of those things.
No, the service of the elders is not a service of labor, it is a service of enlightenment, of wisdom, of discernment of spirits. Only the carriers of generations past can give us those things, because wisdom is what lasts after an experience ends. We cannot expect wisdom as a wholesale item of the young then, because they simply have not lived long enough or through enough to have been able to amass much of it.
Oddly enough, this period in life when we finally get t the point that we really understand some things about living well is when we feel most out of it. It is, far too often, exactly the time when people who know more than they have ever known begin to feel useless. Out of the mainstream of the middle years, not going into the office or the store or the bus barn anymore, not responsible for the meetings or the committees or the children or the family or the business, we begin to doubt that there is any role left for us in life. After all, everything that ever gave us status or influence at all has simply dried up, disappeared or moved on.
Table of Contents:
Afterword: The Twilight Time