grief

Corroborating the presence of elders

“The plight of elderhood is one of the human echoes of the ecological dilemma.

If elderhood is an identity and swept up with all the other identity clamor of our time then what you’d go about doing is looking for people with that quote personality type or that kind of wrinkle.

I’m gonna suggest to you that elderhood is not a figment of personality. It’s not an aspect of identity. It has nothing to do with the particular qualities of individuals.

Elderhood is first, foremost, and will always be a cultural function and in that understanding an elder is a culture worker and as such not inherently inevitably or mandatorily an old person.

Having said that I’ll acknowledge something that it would appear to me to be a truism that while all elders tend to be older not all older people are elders and so there’s something that works in that arrangement.

This means elders themselves must be on the steep learning curve and they must be deep running students of their times and their responsiveness to their times is what qualifies them. So the word response ability really works here.

You know it’s not a sense of burden the way people usually use the word, the sense of responsibility means simply the capacity to respond maybe to distinguish that from react. Maybe react, we could use that word to describe certain responses you have that attempt to satisfy you or assuage you or reassure you, whereas the capacity to respond might have nothing to do with you trying to feel better about anything – it might have to do with your sense of a kind of moral political cultural spiritual obligation to fully inhabit the conditions of citizenship if you will. But your citizenry is not to a particular geopolitical identity. Your deep citizenship is a devotional one, not an affiliation one and in in that sense you know the work that you join yourself to is dictated by your times’ troubles, and that’s what you’re a citizen of – you’re a citizen of a troubled time not Canada or the United States, or any other you know freewheeling entity today.

So if that’s possible then it means that elders are not in the business of getting themselves recognized, they’re in the business of recognizing. So you could say in a time when elderhood has gone into terrible abeyance, which is certainly our time now, then it becomes the eldering responsibilities of elders to function at the level of recognizing incipient elderhood in their midst and proceeding accordingly by acknowledging it, recognizing it, corroborating it, living as if it’s true, authorizing it without ever trying to be included in it or to benefit directly from it. You follow what I’m saying, okay? It’s a radical reading of what it means to be an elder and it’s not a club you get to join. It’s the ending of all clubs in a time like ours that no elder in a time like this, if I may sound programmatic about it, no elder at a time like this would ever call themselves an elder ever okay? Why not? Because this is the responsibility of the people around them – to recognize elderhood in their midst, to corroborate it and everything I just said. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there’s no elders to do so and because the appetite for elderhood has gone missing in the way we talked earlier about if kids or young people are not exposed to it then their appetite for it begins to atrophy and they trade it in for self-reliance or for a kind of principled anxiety that masquerades as having a conscience but it’s more at the level of just a chronic free-floating anxiety where you care about everything but only enough to paralyze you or to animate you with extraordinary levels of kind of sulfuric anger, an incandescent rage that doesn’t know how to proceed. This kind of thing, which is a kind of narcissism frankly.

So this is an awful lot to say in response to a short question but if at the risk of sounding like I’m giving a a formula of how to pull this off. I would simply say in a time like ours now, it might be the fundamental responsibility of people who may yet come to inhabit the elder function, that they must do so minus acknowledgement, minus recognition. And the way they do it is by corroborating the presence of elders around them. So a very quick way of saying it,  it would come down to this – the greater elderhood skill now is the skill of having, of knowing how to have elders in your midst. It is not the skill of knowing how to be one.”

Stephen Jenkinson


The forces that come from deep down – The Chaos of the Real

 

 

 “…when I say that artists shape the symbols, I don’t mean that they construct them according to their own preferences or opinions. That’s precisely what I call artifice in the book. I mean that they collaborate with forces that come from deep down, they call out of the chaos of the Real, new forms that they themselves won’t necessarily understand. In fact, artists may often be the people who are least likely to understand what it is they have done.

If beauty and symbol are not human contrivances but partial apprehensions of more-than-human realities, it follows that some objects or events will be more direct avenues to those realities than others are. For people of vision (whether or not they are practicing artists) all objects are potential avenues to those realities. But that’s just the point. Artists are people who can frame out the signs that make up the ordinary means-and-ends world in order to reveal those signs’ imaginal depth as symbols on the aesthetic plane of nature. As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art. The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real. Art is what allows us to glimpse the world beyond the conceptual order. So while it is true that everything is fundamentally aesthetic and so belongs to the reality which art reveals and discursive thinking conceals, we need art to see that. We need good art — that is, non-ideological art — to see that.

Some artists couldn’t care less about any of this, and that’s no doubt for the best. I didn’t write this book for artists who are getting on with it; I wrote it for people who are concerned about where our culture is going, as well as for genuine artists who may be experiencing some cognitive dissonance between their deepest intuitions and what contemporary culture tends to promulgate as fact. There are very good reasons to believe that art is much, much more than a form of entertainment or a platform for communicating opinions.”

J.F. Martel

 

“When we are frightened it can feel like we are trapped under water, under ice. The mythic directive in such a moment is unusual. It says this: go deeper. Attend to the Goddess underneath the unfolding. There’s no restoration without courtship. Don’t smash your knuckles raw on the ice, but dive down further – seemingly the opposite of what everyone on the surface wants you to do. But of course, the diver swims down not just with their terror, but with their stories, their artfulness, their skill. Most importantly, most wonderfully, their love. Ironically, only by diving deeper can the ice melt. In such times, attend to your soul-ground. And that is not some interior – unless everything is interior – it radiates out to a related field of kiddies, sickly elms at the edge of a motorway, the distracted young mum at the food kitchen, the galloping ecosystem of your nightly dreaming.

We are living in a time when every one of us is going to have to make that descent. All of us. Not in some inflated way, but “with the grandeur of our ordinary tears”, because it is what defines us as true human beings. It is simply the right way to behave. If we can’t find our mythic ground, then we have little ground. When you swim down to Sedna you are in the business of alchemy: the tributary of your own fears meets the ocean of your artfulness and suddenly you are giving a gift, not seduced by your own wound. It is quite wonderful. We could learn the home-making skills again to welcome such stories back into our lives. We can’t stick plasters over the Fisher Kings wound.”

Martin Shaw

 

 

“Sometimes, anger and grief is a necessary precursor to transformation. Sometimes, we need to let the wild woman rage. To grow feathers and fur, and run wild through the woods. Sometimes, we need to bite. To stop being nice and talking about love and light and thinking that we can make the world a better place just by pretending that it’s so, or that we can make Donald Trump a better man by sending him love and light through the ether. (Yes, I’ve seen that proposed as a solution to yesterday’s catastrophe by women I’d expect to know better. It beggars belief.) These are dark days in our history, and dark days for women. If women want to change that, we need to take hold of that pure, honest energy which fuels our necessary rage and grief, and use it next for transformation. Find the hag energy. Use it. Transmute it; transform it. It’s what all good alchemists do, and women are born alchemists.

What I particularly like about the story of Mis is that her transformation comes from bringing together both male and female energies. Dubh Ruis is a gentle man; he literally loves her back to life. Like Mis, women can’t do this work alone. Fortunately, there are still good men out there, and I believe that between us, we can do the great work of turning the base metal of a decadent and decaying culture into gold.”

Sharon Blackie

 

(All Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann)


I have saved all my ribbons for thee

David Remnick in his profile on Leonard Cohen shares this coda as Cohen discovers his early career muse, lover and long time friend, Marianne Ihlen, is on her death bed.

In late July this year, Cohen received an e-mail from Jan Christian Mollestad, a close friend of Marianne’s, saying that she was suffering from cancer. In their last communication, Marianne had told Cohen that she had sold her beach house to help insure that Axel [her son] would be taken care of, but she never mentioned that she was sick. Now, it appeared, she had only a few days left. Cohen wrote back immediately:

Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

Two days later, Cohen got an e-mail from Norway:

Dear Leonard

Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends.

Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her.

It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength. . . . In her last hour I held her hand and hummed “Bird on the Wire,” while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left the room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words.

So long, Marianne . . .


The Dream of the Modern World

(Image by Pash Galbavy and Larry Pollock)

The following is an excerpt from an article by Martin Winiecki

In the 1990s an unusual encounter took place in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In plant rituals, shamans of the Achuar, a tribe living in pristine forest that had never been in touch with Western civilization, received the warning that the “white man” would try to invade their lands, cut down the forest and exploit the resources. Deeply shaken, they called out to the Spirits for help. Soon after white people did approach them, coming to them however with supportive intentions – a group of activists from the United States, searching for ways to protect Indigenous Peoples from the oil industry. The Westerners found a deeply interconnected tribal society living in profound symbiosis with the Earth. Seeing the bulldozers coming closer and closer, they asked the Elders of the tribe how they could survive. Their answer was surprising and straightforward: “Don’t try to help us here. Go back to your own culture and change the dream of the modern world! It is because of this dream that we are perishing.”

Read the rest of his post here.

 


An artist trying to find his way through the darkness *

“Most of us don’t want to change

Really

I mean why should we

What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model

We keep on being ourselves

But hopefully better versions of ourselves

But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic

That you just change

Change from the known person to the unknown person

So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were

But the person inside the skin is a different person”

*One More Time With Feeling