Reply To: The Power of the Personal,” with Mythologist Dennis Slattery, Ph.D.”
Dennis; I just want to say how meaningful it is to be able to have these discussions with you and to explore all these different dimensions of these various themes and why they are so important to all of us. I want to add one more topic ingredient to the pot because I definitely think it mixes in with the entire soup batch we have been cooking because I think we need to be thinking in a different way than we are use to about this last component which is “aging and Elder-hood” as opposed to child-hood. If we spent our entire life acquiring: knowledge, wisdom, and experience, why in the world as we age is all of this value that has been accumulated dismissed and as people age; (which by the way we all have a stake in); and the answer is “ageism”. I think this topic is of enormous importance in relation to understanding and making use of not only the mythical dimension of the life process and it’s connection to the ends and means of living itself; but to the very same social and emotional isolation that youth is experiencing and the resulting imbalance within society. The Elderly are isolated from society in much the same way as the young who are just entering Adult-hood; so that the inter-personal inner sense of meaningful life trajectory is not experienced in the same manner and in many ways is excluded and not acknowledged the same social value. With the young it usually goes something like: “Oh, they are too young to know better”; with the elderly: ” They are too old to grasp what is in front of them”. And their social worth is not validated in the same manner or way because it is minimized.
So let us dig a little deeper when we think in terms of social isolation and personal meaning that someone might have or feel when we start to see the rise in suicide rates; (which by the way this pandemic has exacerbated); and add in where the Elderly often wind up as they age-out of social importance and engagement as in retirement for instance. Senior care facilities often become warehouses for the sick and dying without the proper emotional and spiritual nourishment and attention which they might need to draw from; but also we are as a society are denied the accumulated wealth and benefits of their experiences. If we have a youth oriented culture that puts all emphasis on what Adults can offer; how and where will the life experience come from if not from those who have already experienced it? In other words Adults have “immediate” know how; the Elderly have “long range” know how. (Children need both immediate and long range know how.)
So here is where I’m heading with this. For most of human history the elder adults lived and died within the family unit; and grandparents were an essential part of the family structure because the interplay between: young, middle, and elder individuals not only gave life meaning and purpose; it provided the necessary tools to navigate the life process; but there have been some huge alterations within modern society that reflect so much of it’s present dysfunction.
There is a great deal more that could be added about the pressures the modern individual is experiencing concerning not only: digital technology, social media, how the actual living structure of houses and cities have been altered; play into this; but more importantly as Joseph has pointed out there is the loss of social myth and how it has affected this; (which he called our new “Free Fall into the future”); which has to do with the actual glue the older myths provided that once held them together. Because he saw these older mythic structures were losing their relevance because of science and a more secular individualized personal mythic form was taking it’s place.
But saying this I don’t want to make this addition to the topic to complex and I will just stay with “aging” for the moment because it has not been covered and has a great deal to offer this subject of the: “The Power of the Personal”. We need to think about aging differently as AARP’s Dr. Bill Thomas: (recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on Geriatrics has been suggesting). And like Joseph has been a real maverick in the groundbreaking way he has been helping to instigate a new healthcare revolution in the way we perceive and approach this oncoming tsunami of elderly coming down the road. (Think Boomer generation population explosion that are now retiring). His books, lectures, and projects are too vast to cover here; but my objective is to point out this subject has been completely left out of most discussions concerning the social relevance to this topic of social isolation; and along with youth needs and development are so important to the way we think of our total life processes, meaning, and interplay concerning where we are now going forward. So with that in mind I’m going to leave a very short YouTube interview that explains some of his insights.