Category Archives: Meaningful Retirement

Housing Options

Q: “What will this newfound present of old age and its unknown future demand of us?”
Mary Morrison, Without Nightfall Upon the Spirit, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 311

Retire according to your values: You will consult a pension specialist, call Social Security, and choose a Medicare supplement before you retire. Plans are made, goals set; you have been looking forward to this part of life for a long time.

Have you considered what you would like your spiritual life to be like in an intentional way? How do you intend to go deeper, discover meaning, be a gift to others? Thinking about this foundational part of your life will help other goals to fall into place, and will give you strength in challenging times.

Moving after retirement: Much as we would like to stay in our own homes, changes may make that impossible: you cannot climb stairs or drive, you feel too isolated where you are, your spouse dies and you do not feel safe alone. As you retire, imagine that you might move two or three times; first to a dream home or a smaller place, then to a place with more assistance, or closer to children. It may be unrealistic to say, “Don’t ever put me in one of those places.”

At some point in time, your physical and emotional needs may not be adequately met without additional support. Instead, consider educating yourself about available options, and let your loved ones know what you would prefer if you needed to live in a more supported environment. Maybe you will never need it, but it helps to prepare yourself emotionally if you do. Some options include:

  • Life Care and Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) provide a continuum of housing and services, such as independent and assisted living, and skilled nursing care. This usually involves a “buy in” fee.
  • Senior Co-Housing is a form of intentional community where people pool resources for care of one another and with attention to values.
  • Aging in Place entails staying in one’s own home with supports if needed.
  • Skilled Nursing Facility provides round the clock nursing care.
  • Assisted Living usually provides personal care such as help with bathing and medicines, sometimes with some nursing care.
  • Independent Living usually has separate units with shared meals and services such as transportation. Some support for other needs may be available.

Moving to another state: Some surveys have found that 50% of those who move to another state in retirement move back within three years. To learn more about a place you are considering, get the local paper, notice prices and political issues; evaluate medical care; plan how you would replace present activities and contacts, and how long that might take. If you have visited for vacation, have you considered what the community is like in the off-season? Would moving closer to children mean that you’d see them more often?

Aging in Place: It is increasingly possible to stay in your own home as you age. More in-home services are becoming available, such as aides to help with bathing, or chore services that will rake leaves or wash windows. Most places have at least one grocery store that will deliver. Senior Centers and Adult Day Health Programs offer opportunities for socialization and support.

If you decide to spend your retirement in your current home, look around the outside as if you were 10 years older. Could you still put up the storm windows? Paint the second story? What needs to be changed or improved now so that you might be able to stay in the same house? Now do the same on the inside. Do you need safety improvements like grab bars in the bath, banisters on both sides of the stairs, better lighting? Ask your local Office for the Aging for information on safety in the home and support services that are available in your community. Consider consulting a Certified Aging in Place specialist who can make recommendations for making your home more accessible.

In addition, some locales are experimenting with “nursing homes without walls” designed to keep seniors in their own homes with a myriad of support services, including day programs and transportation. Again, your Office for the Aging will know if such programs exist in your area. Please see the links below for more information about options.

“Make provisions for the settlement of all outward affairs while in health, so that others may not be burdened and so that one may be freed to live more fully in the Truth that shall stand against all the entanglements, distractions and confusions of our times.”
Advices, PYM Faith and Practice 2002

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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Downsizing and Spiritual Practice
Senior Co Housing and Intentional Communities

Other Articles/Links:

Friends Rehabilitation Program
Friends Life Care at Home
Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities
Friends Services for the Aging
Financing Long Term Care
Communities Without Walls

Celebrating Lives and Life Stories

One of the amazing joys of growing old is to reflect on life experiences. In fact, Sophocles in writing about old age, said, “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.” As if to say, the rays of sun finally come together in striking brilliance as a sunset. So how can this brilliance be captured for ourselves as elders and to bless the Meeting?

First, create opportunities to celebrate individual lives. Perhaps it is a landmark birthday. An 85 year old in our Friends Meeting is still relishing the joy of her 80th birthday party. She said, “It was like going to my own Memorial Service, but I got to hear and enjoy it all.” Another person slowed the pace of an eventful life work as a peace activist. A cast of characters from 44 years of her work around the world were asked to share memories and fill a scrapbook. The Meeting shared a potluck and sang the songs that accompanied the journey. . This celebration allowed all of us to reminisce about the marches, campaigns, joys, and sorrows of trying to make a difference in the world.

The second way to capture the brilliance of the sunset is through the telling of one’s own story. There are many lists of interview questions and books that can help get the story telling juices flowing, but you simply need to sit down and put your thoughts to paper.

Everyone has a story! It is easy to think our own lives are not as significant as someone else’s life story, but in reality there is goodness in each story. My mother’s story is called ‘Homemaker’. She had an amazing ability to make home in seemingly unorthodox settings, like a chicken house or a truck bed. She painted, put up curtains, raked the gravel and created a home for her family. We all appreciated her willingness to make the most of what she had and her story reminds us of that goodness.

Spiritual Communities can be especially helpful in this process of capturing life stories. Individual or group story gatherers such as Young Friends, are a gift to all. In our Meeting, the present clerk has spent previous years interviewing elders particularly on their role and experiences as Quakers. Subsequently, Times to Remember sessions are scheduled, where she asks the Meeting and all who know these elders to come, hear their stories, and share their memories. This is a delightful ongoing process.

Many find their life story contains a message that needs to be shared in a publication. This could be a journal or newsletter produced by your faith group; Quakers for example may want to publish a Pendle Hill pamphlet or an article in Friends Journal. Don’t be bashful—put these life stories in the church, synagogue, mosque or Meeting library.

Perhaps those who especially need to have your story recorded in some way is your family. An easy way to capture a life story is with the photo album. A picture of swimming at the beach in Silver Bay can be used to tell the experience of going there over a life time, while breaking out some special incidents or meaningful memories. “The Baker Family and Silver Bay” can all be built around that one picture, or many such pictures!

A good life story is one of the most important gifts we can ever offer each other.

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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Celebrating Aging in Your Faith Community
Generational Relationships: Advices and Queries
Generativity and Aging

Other Articles/Links:

Whole Life Story: ideas for story gathering

Generativity and Aging

“Live affectionately as Friends, entering with sympathy into the joys and sorrows of one another’s lives. Visit one another. Be alert to give help and ready to receive it. Bear the burdens of one another’s failings; share the buoyancy of one another’s strengths.”
Advices, PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

My Grandfather lived to the very old age of 98. He retired before I was born, moved in with us when he was in his eighties. He passed his days gardening in the shade, engineering contraptions to keep squirrels out of the birdfeeder and making current jam. He spent his nights reading and occasionally playing pool. He had a sturdy heart, and a few minor physical health issues, which meant occasional forays into the hospital and a hearing aid he rarely wore. In the years he lived with us a progressive dementia led him to repeat stories and wander, always in the same direction, following the creek and ending up in a neighbor’s back yard.

Adjusting to Grandpa’s challenges was not difficult, at least from a child’s perspective. We tuned our voices to accommodate his hearing loss, followed his tracks in the woods, accompanied him in the grocery store and accepted that he always bought the same three things, regardless of need. These adaptations I remember, largely by repetition. However, the smell of his mended cardigan, the brown felt of his ancient hats, they way he seemed as much a part of the woods as the trees themselves, those memories are ingrained in my very being. His setbacks were not recorded in my bones like the humus of leaf mold we used to bed the ferns for the winter. I suppose his gait slowed, but I could not describe that in the detailed way I can the sour of currant before it was sugared in the pot, the thrill of cold creek water on bare feet, and how it soaked the hems of our pants. I remember in detail the way he treasured his few possessions – the photographs of family and his son’s scrapbook of writing, how one gumdrop from the glass jar was precious, and enough. The changes that came to grandpa with illness and age were an accepted part of his and our routine. It is his essential teachings that shaped and formed me.

If we are lucky, we have a relationship with an elder or the memory of one to treasure. Yet we live in a complicated time. The values of our family and faith community about how we view older adulthood may conflict with messages in our fast-paced society that promote youth and productivity. We are encouraged to resist even the natural physical signs of our ripening to old age, smooth our wrinkles, subdue the silver in our hair, and keep moving. These messages suggest that growing older is a decline, and we may question our own purpose as we age. We know that despite any number of challenges, our elders are precious. How can we come to hold our own aging in the light that we view those who came before us?

“In primitive tribes we observe that the old people are almost always the guardians of the mysteries and the laws, and it is in these that the cultural heritage of the tribe is expressed. How does the matter stand with us? Where is the wisdom of our old people, where are their precious secrets and their visions?”
Carl Jung, “The Stages of Life

Today, these questions raised in Carl Jung’s essay diverge from the messages of popular culture that promote eternal youth and productivity. Suggestions that we must look young saturate us, we are supposed to stay active, buy and produce, and there is little to encourage us to examine values or pass on wisdom. As Friends, our beliefs and values about growing old may contrast with much of what we experience in the larger world.

Examples of the preponderance of messages against aging abound on television, magazine ads, and on the internet. December 18, 2009, simple internet searches yielded the following:

  • “Anti Aging products”: 48,300,000 results
  • “Look Younger”: 70,500,000
  • “values”, “aging”: 12,500,000
  • “spirituality”, “aging”: 6,500,000
  • “Values in Aging”: 672.

In an attempt to be more specific, a search for “Quakers”, “Aging” and had a hopeful 270,000 results, only to discover that many had to do with (sorry, Friends) recipes calling for Quaker Oats. (Note: to their credit, articles related to aging on the Quaker Oats website talked about nutritional and exercise needs at various stages of life, and did not emphasize an unhealthy obsession with staying young.) Considering that much of the results for the search “values”, “aging” included advertisements for “Anti-Aging Value Packs”, numerous articles on marketing for older adult housing, and at least one story about an aging sports stars ”losing value”, the priorities, at least related to what is promoted and talked about on the internet, are evident. Instead of befriending the ripening that comes with age and cultivating all that has to offer, we are encouraged to fight the natural process of aging as if it is an enemy.

Print or internet advertising and television commercials may not have as much influence on Friends and others who are clear in their values or who intentionally avoid media where such things are rampant. However, we cannot ignore the widespread impact of media messages on the world around us, nor can we ignore that these messages not only influence our culture, but also reflect it. We live in a world of unrealistic expectations, and the focus on eternal youth blurs the voices of the aged and diminishes the value of old age.

“If we take seriously the nurture of our children in the worshiping group, we must start re-appraising the whole life of the group. What kind of communication exists between us all? Do we know one another as people sharing joys and sorrows?…Are we across all ages a community learning together? Do we constantly look for experiences that can be shared by the whole community?…”
Peggy McGeoghegan, 1976 PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

We are at risk of neglecting the vital contribution elders can make: seasoned wisdom, institutional memory, historical lessons, and gentle perspective that develops over time. As much as we cherish our grandparents and elder community members, we cannot deny that for many, an aura of anxiety about aging and diminishment shrouds our view of the elderly.

This anxiety may block our access to the heart of the person within the aging body. We hear only the weakened voice, not the wisdom it speaks. We lose sight of the person as if they are gone with their lost memories, and miss the precious focus of this moment in their lifetime. In our communities, we segregate the most frail and needy, providing care and comfort, but often forgetting that this person has something to contribute to us as well. Unless we recognize the worries and stigma that affect our individual responses to the elderly and others who face challenges, we will have difficulty finding a healthy acceptance of aging that allows us to make the most of our own lives and relationships.

Is Aging an Option?

This question appeared as a pop-up ad on my computer screen after I had conducted the series of age-related internet searches. Though the advertisement suggests otherwise, aging is not an option. We all have been aging since we were born and we will continue to do so until we die. None of us knows what lies ahead on our path through the journey of aging. If we live long lives, as most people do nowadays, we may reach a point where we are no longer productive economically, or perhaps we are more physically, cognitively, or emotionally dependent on others. Does accepting aging and other challenges mean we resign ourselves to a segregated life of leisure while others carry on the “real work”? What then, is our role to be?

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Celebrating Aging in Your Faith Community
Celebrating Lives and Life Stories
Generational Relationships: Advices and Queries
Older Adulthood and Stewardship of the Environment

Other Articles/Links:

Sage-ing Guild
Green Seniors
Generations United

Diversity by Tom Atlee

Diversity is as big as the universe

by Tom Atlee

Diversity is difference. It is a natural phenomenon, intimately related to uniqueness and identity. There is a rich world of discovery awaiting us when we are ready to fully encounter our diversity. But first we have to lift our heads above the bustle around us and look at the big picture.

As important as it is to have women executives and people of other races in our neighborhoods, diversity is way, way bigger than that.

Our use of the word “diversity” primarily to address issues of racism, classism, sexism, and other oppressive isms has blinded us to the fact that diversity is a vast fact of life, deeply embedded not only in humanity but in natural systems and in the very fabric of the universe.

Diversity, like fire and genius, can be problematic. And like fire and genius, diversity has creative power we can use to make life better.

Co-intelligence is largely about using diversity creatively. Understanding diversity is an important part of working consciously with co-intelligence.

This article is an exploration of how big diversity actually is…

Diversity is a fundamental property of the universe, along with matter, energy, space, time, relationship, unity, and many other phenomena that are present everywhere. Everything that you see (or don’t see) that is different from anything else — and every difference between them — is an aspect of diversity.

So diversity exists. Everywhere. It is a fact of life.

But there’s more to it than that.

Diversity makes life interesting. “Variety is the spice of life.” If every house on the block looked the same, if every restaurant served the same food, if everyone talked at us for hours in a monotone about things we already knew — well, then life just wouldn’t have much aliveness, would it? I have a funny feeling some of us would do something about that…

Think diversity.

Diversity makes whole systems possible: You need diverse parts to make a bicycle. A barrel of handlebars won’t do the job. Likewise, an ecosystem is made up of diverse species, making up complex food chains and cycles that keep the whole thing going.

Relationship, community, interdependence, mutuality — even the entire economic system with all its different jobs and products and services and forms of exchange — are all totally dependent on diversity.

As is freedom. Uniqueness is the inside face of diversity. If I want to “be myself” and “do things my way,” I have to live in a culture that respects diversity. The more free a society, the more diversity it tends to generate. And that diversity tends to beget even more diversity as diverse people, stimulated by each other, find new ways to be unique…

Diversity is key to resilience. “Diversify,” say the investment counsellors. If one variety fails, life can switch to another. This is the principle behind biodiversity: If all our corn is genetically identical, and a virulent bug attacks it, it may all be killed off. If our corn is genetically diverse, then some of it will succumb and some will survive. The survivors will reproduce, resulting in greater resistance to that bug. (Of course this natural selection process is busily at work on the bugs, too, so the dance goes on. But for any given species, its diversity — and the diversity of the organisms and systems it depends on — is a vital factor in its survival.)

If everyone depends on one mega-corporation for a monopolized product… If everyone uses the same operating system for their computers… If all the production facilities use the single most efficient form of production… If all the ferries are put out of business so all traffic must go on the bridges… If we all get our electricity from a single grid with no distributed local energy sources…. we make ourselves vulnerable to the collapse of the single things we all depend on. This is what freaked people out about Y2K, that it would knock out some basic central systems, triggering a catastrophic domino effect. This is a nightmare for terrorist emergency response planners, that terrorists could knock out some vital link in some technological system that we all depend on, for which there is no good alternative. Alternatives, diversity — even redundance — are key to resilience.

Diversity has many other roles, as well. Perhaps the most important is that it makes synergy dynamic. Three metal bars welded together into a triangle are stronger (more synergistic) than three metal bars welded into any other shape. That’s why engineers use steel triangles to build bridges and industrial support structures. But that’s static synergy. If you want to see dynamic synergy, check out the conversations between scientists like Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, or any other people passionate about a subject, who have different views but share a dedication to finding greater truth. Since each sees things from a different perspective, they can see each other’s blind spots and evolve together into bigger, clearer ways of seeing the world.

Or you can simply contemplate the synergy between your lungs and your heart, or between oxygen-breathing animals and carbon-dioxide breathing plants, or between musicians in a jazz combo, jamming… The synergy in all these cases is dynamic and alive, thanks to the diverse participants in the dance.

Among us humans, diversity is virtually infinite. A good long list of characteristics is provided in an article on “Human Diversity.” Our diversity is a resource. In particular, we can tap our diverse strengths — skills, aptitudes, forms of intelligence, experience — in ways that make us much more powerful than we could ever be separately.

This is a fundamental principle of modern social organization: Make a lot of diverse specialists, producers and consumers and then connect them up to exchange information, services and products. The “invisible hand” of interlinked diversity in economic systems works by itself — although if you don’t design it right, it can have enough of the wrong kind of power and momentum to destroy a planet!

In short: Diversity has creative potential in it. The key is using diversity well. That’s one of the defining characteristics of co-intelligence — using diversity creatively.

OK. So that’s the bright side of diversity. Now let’s take a look at the all-too-familiar dark side.

Diversity is about differences. Diversity all too often means dissonance — discomfort, dissent, disagreement, conflict, polarization, battles — even oppression, war, terrorism and genocide. The list of horrors is enough to make some of us cringe back into polite (or even enforced) conformity and homogeneity.

One of the saddest facts of our human history is our use of our differences to disrespect and oppress one another. Not only has this produced a depth and breadth of human suffering that is hard to comprehend and heal, but it has eclipsed all other forms of human diversity. Today, when someone says “diversity,” most people think of different races, different genders, different classes, different sexual preferences — all the differences that have been used oppressively. Few realize that the diversity within any of these classes (women, black people, people of wealth) far exceed their similarities. And even fewer realize that those eclipsed differences are where the greatest potential synergies lie, to help us have thriving communities and a surviving civilization.

This is the legacy we face from attempts to establish usually (but not always) light-skinned heterosexual cultures dominated by property-owning men. We are thankfully breaking out of that, with great energy and at great cost. As we move through that cultural task, we need to expand our consciousness to embrace our full diversity.

Efforts at sameness are doomed to failure. The seeming comfort of conformity and homogeneity (which only masquerade as unity) tends to undermine co-intelligence. The synergy and potential — described above — are lost. The dragons of dissonance that we banish to netherworlds have a habit of surfacing again elsewhere, at other times, with even greater inconvenience and destructiveness and even more terrifying roars.

So what do we do?

Ultimately the creative use of diversity involves having some kind of common ground to stand on while exploring difficult differences. One of the most dependable forms of common ground is what I sometimes call our “core commons” — that place in all of us that is rooted in our shared humanity, our shared aliveness, our shared spirit.

Whether through our own personal development, through good group process (helped perhaps by facilitators or mediators), or through fortunate religious or cultural conditioning, we may be able to see each other through our differences to the depths of our commonality. When this is done in healthy ways, it isn’t done to deny our differences, but to maintain heartful, mindful pathways between us as we seek to understand our differences and their role in what comes next. We want our differences to make us powerful partners, not aliens and enemies.

Other forms of common ground include shared goals, visions, values, passions and purposes — or shared crises that render all other factors miniscule in comparison. Shared history, culture and language can make it much easier to work through differences, as can being together in the same place.

There are many other forms of common ground, as well. But nothing can replace really listening to each other — hearing each other’s stories, thoughts and feelings — in the faith that we are all trying to do what makes sense to us, at some level, and that we can ultimately understand each other’s diverse ways of making sense. Sometimes it takes a third party, a “designated listener” (mediator, facilitator, counsellor, diplomat) to make such a deep hearing possible. And so we find and train and become such people because real listening is likely to make all the difference in the world.

And as we become more skilled, we find ourselves able to bring together the torn fragments of our communities and societies. We realize that for the healing to happen it need not unfold within and among every single individual. The healing can happen — to a surprising degree — among the differences themselves, archetypally and publicly. Notably diverse people can be brought together in public forums and helped to fully hear each other. The community or whole country can watch them come to terms with both their differences and their deep humanity. And what if the world watches them suddenly becoming co-creative, making a better life for themselves and their children, side by side with people who were so different? And what if this happens over and over…?

There is a breakthrough dormant in this ability to work with such “microcosms of our diversity.” There is elegance and power in selecting from a community an intentionally diverse group of citizens and helping them hear each other and co-create together in ways that everyone in the community can see and benefit from. There is a long track of such “consensus conferences,” “citizen panels” and “wisdom councils” to show the potential of this approach. Both the healing and the juicy creativity available through good use of diversity in such a group can — especially if it is very visible — ripple out into the world, transforming the way we address diversity in all parts of our societies.

When we come right down to it, however, this is often easier said than done. Thankfully, there’s more to it than how hard it may be: When it is done well — when we have used our diversity truly creatively to free the insights, relationships, and possibilities waiting to be born from our interactions — the results are nothing short of magical.

Our challenge, then, is to learn to perform this magic to the best of our ability, and to expand our capacity to perform it continually — and to create families and organizations and communities and cultures and democratic institutions where this magic happens routinely because everyone involved knows that diversity is a treasure. They are not about to let it be destroyed, denied or wasted.

Diversity, like fire, is a powerful part of life. Let us use it well on our shared journey, weaving our unique stories into new possibilities around the great shared fire of life.

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Ways to Be Wise by Tom Atlee

I am writing about wisdom
to recover it from esoteric realms
and place it solidly in the middle
of our collective lives
where the world lives or dies,
depending on how wise
we learn how to be
together.

Some ways we can be wise
by Tom Atlee, November 2003

When people talk about wisdom, they often use sight-related words like insight, foresight, discernment, farsightedness, brilliance, reflection, illumination, enlightenment, visionary and seer. The owl, often a symbol of wisdom, has prominent eyes that see clearly in the dark, and seem to be watching everything with penetrating attention.

This metaphor of seeing makes a good place to start in our exploration of wisdom.

Among other things, wisdom involves extending our seeing beyond the appearances of life, while also looking deeply into life. We are wise — at least to some degree — whenever we extend our seeing from any small perspective into a larger or deeper perspective. This expansion of perspective takes us closer to encountering the Whole of life. Even though that Whole can never be experienced in its full scope and detail, it seems to me that any motion in its direction is a motion into wisdom.

This way of thinking about wisdom can help us understand ways we could be wiser — individually and collectively. It can help us evaluate the wisdom of decisions, actions, policies, leaders, and so on. As the scope and complexity of our world’s problems grow, so grows our need for wisdom.

So let us consider some ways we are already wise and could be more so.

We are wise when we extend our seeing into the future to the consequences of our present actions — and learn from reflecting on those consequences, especially before we act. There is much wisdom, then, in applying this expanded perspective to help us meet our needs in ways that don’t undermine the ability of our children’s children to meet their needs. Some call this “sustainability.”

We are wise when we extend our seeing beyond the clamor of this moment’s shallow desires and immediate demands and opportunities, to understand and care for our deeper, longer needs. This is doubly wise because, while our desires and appetites may feel vividly personal, private and unique, our deepest needs are universal. Great peace can be found in satisfying them in harmony with others and in co-creating the common good. There is much wisdom in pursuing our own best interests through the pursuit of a world that works for all.

We are wise when we extend our seeing beyond current events — both personal and collective — back into the history behind those events, and forward into possible futures. In that history and those futures lie causes and stories and motivations that call forth the events of today, and that can therefore be worked with to call forth new options and energies on behalf of greater life. There is much wisdom in bringing the power of such Deep Time understandings into the present unfolding of Life.

We are wise when we extend our seeing beyond our personal view — and beyond the dominant view of our group or culture — to hear and understand the views of others. Every view has blind spots, and all knowing rests on unexamined assumptions. As these are revealed through encounters with other views and other knowing, understanding can deepen and become more whole. And so we are wise to value diversity, dissonance and dissent and to learn how to use their potent gifts well, as we’ve learned to use the potent gifts of electricity and fire. There is special wisdom for democracy accessible through the brilliant use of dialogue to help us tap that latent power together on behalf of our whole community.

We are wise to see beyond our narrow plans and wishes to the larger field of life within which we are pursuing those plans and wishes. Other lives and greater forces are at work in that field, whose presence can aid or hinder our efforts and whose journey is impacted by ours. There is great wisdom available in understanding those indigenous lives and forces well enough to work with them, collaborating in the co-creation of outcomes that serve all parties involved, using thoughtful inclusion, existing passions, and cultivated synergies to proceed with more elegance than effort.

We are wise when we extend our seeing beyond convenient labels and judgments, to see things more as they are, which is always beyond labels and judgments — and even beyond words. “There is more to it than that, always.” We are wise to become familiar with the ways our personal thoughts and feelings — and, collectively, our culture and media — trick us into narrowing our view. This awareness can help us return to a bigger, truer picture of life where greater wisdom awaits us.

In particular, it is wise to see beyond the dichotomies dictated by our culture, our language, our preferences. Good and bad, order and chaos, individual and collective, you and me, simplicity and complexity — these tantalizingly useful distinctions hide the fact that reality, in all its dynamic wholeness, embraces both sides of every dichotomy. There are ways in which order and chaos, good and bad, individual and collective not only define and depend on each other, but live within each other and dance together. Much wisdom lies in coming to understand that, and joining that dance, lightly and mindfully.

We are wise to see beyond isolated facts and linear logic into the whole fabric of life, using all the forms of knowing that are given to us, particularly intuition, heart, synthesis, spiritual experience, and the sciences that attempt to appreciate the whole and our relationship to it — such as ecology, living systems science, complexity and chaos theories, quantum mechanics and the consciousness sciences. With each way of knowing we access new dimensions of reality. Much wisdom lies in weaving them together, painting our knowing with a full palette and using each tool in our cognitive toolbox according its best purpose, along with all the others, and letting none colonize our awareness to the exclusion of the rest.

We are wise when we see beyond certainty to the underlying, all encompassing, ever unfolding Mystery of life. Not only does this lighten our ideological burden and open us to each Other and to Change, but it allows us to befriend the ultimately unknowable Whole. Once we see through the illusion of certainty, humility is natural, humor is natural, and paradox, ambiguity and change become furry friends and teachers on our Journey though life. In the midst of wonder, we encounter each situation with the curiosity and sense of adventure befitting wise and joyful spirits — and our wisdom expands through the learning we do as we marvel at the nuance and vastness we encounter at each bend in the road.

We are wise, in general, as we see beyond our personal world — or through it, deeply — to the world of our fellow humans and all other life. We can track this larger reality through our own opened hearts or through the rich fabric of natural and social systems studded with living beings and their stories. This reaching into the world of other lives is the wisdom of compassion — and of what has come to be called “enlightened self-interest,” the realization that our destiny is bound up with the destiny of all others. At the center where we are most deeply ourselves, we are also most deeply kin to all Life, and no one’s story is fully alien to us. From that deep common center — and from realization of our vast and vivid interdependence — flow many soulfully effective solutions to the diverse sufferings of our world and its people. We need our wisest eyes to find them.

Those wise eyes are ours. We share those eyes. We could see through them together, if only we would look together.

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