Saturday, January 31, 2009

Morning Meditation - Spirituality of old age

"We are born with a bottomless sense of inadequacy. Augustine named it original sin. When we are young we spend a lot of energy countering it, proving ourselves. Old age permits a tolerance through the slow realization that 'these are the jokes,' this is the 'me' that there isn't enough time to reconstruct. Old age offers the space to forgive myself as well as others, to accept myself just as I am, self-deceits and all, to accept our children, our siblings, our friends, just as they are. The process begins with entering a dark wood with steps both timid and bold, holding the paradoxes, absorbing the opposites, remembering that we are part of a dying and rising universe."

Frederika Carney, And Laugh at Gilded Butterflies, in Contemplation and Action by Richard Rohr and friends, p. 101-102

I have been thinking for some time about the spirituality of seniors. As a senior myself at age 63, I have noticed that the quality of my spirituality seems to be changing. I still have the fire in my belly and want to embark on new things but then I have to remind myself that I am 63 and that I should be winding down not starting things up.

There are days when I want to look for a new job, find a mate and have a child, make bold plans to build a house, and engage in other life changing activities. I know that I can do some of these things, but some of them are just not age appropriate even though others have done them.

And so, I settle down, and reflect and wonder what I should be doing at this stage of my life? The householder stage is over and I am entering the phase of the wise elder or the monastic stage where there is more time and energy to examine the spirit. There is more time for contemplation and to be of service. There is a wisdom in later life that comes from knowing what matters. Sharing this with the younger generation as they flail around trying to make meaning out of their life is a worthwhile activity.

I think as one gets older the values of Unitarian Universalism become more salient. They resonate more deeply. It becomes much more apparent that there is an inherent worth and dignity to every person something overlooked when one was younger, more competitive, trying to get ahead in the world. It becomes much more apparent that life is about justice, and equity and compassion. One is tired of being a winner at the expense of creating more loosers. There is a new found desire for truth and meaning and a willingness to rise above old prejudices and look for truth and meaning in places rejected earlier in life. There is a growing appreciation of the interdependent web of all existence and a recognition of the self being a very small part almost insignificant in the wonder and mystery of it all unlike the heady days of adolescence when we believed our navels were the center of the universe and the sun rose and set for our benefit alone.

The spirituality of old age is lovely. It takes one places that one needs to go to get ready to die which is one of the biggest challenges which we, as human beings, face. I have found that my Unitarian Universalist helps me with this task in very satisfying ways. The idea that we are not a self but just a small part of an interdependent web of existence is a profound insight that contributes to a sense that death is not extinguishment but a transformation and that in some sense we all are eternal.


  1. Nice post, David! I just joined the "60-somethings" and, besides another round of routine physicals, etc. (...the etc. part involving drinking horrible liquids and then being treated in an inherently undignified manner...), I think about all of that mystery and wonder more as well. Now I understand how it's entirely possible to be a rational mystic.


    ( and )

  2. "Now I understand how it's entirely possible to be a rational mystic."

    Well said. I have been a quite rational mystic for some time now. Here is a sample of my Rational Mysticism courtesy of the Way Back Machine -

    The Human Form Divine