Human life seems to have evolved into a life and death confrontation between the reptilian brain, located at the back of the brain stem, and the empathetic brain, located in the frontal cortex. The reptilian brain is concerned only with personal survival, power, and pleasure. It is the vestigial brain that once served an evolutionary purpose. It still has its place in certain situations, but is not fit to dominate our lives. It is sociopathic in essence. I can think of no better way to describe the effects of this reptilian brain than to point to Donald Trump. He represents a leadership quality completely devoid of empathy, compassion, and wisdom – qualities of the frontal cortex that is a relatively recent evolutionary development. If we are to continue on our journey towards a renewed humanity and a renewed Earth, we must find a new kind of leadership, the leadership that grows only in the spirit of true elders.
Wise elder leadership does not happen automatically. It requires willingness, commitment, and the courage to step outside of the cultural conditioning that flows deep and hidden within the human mind. It requires the support of the community and of other elders. Simply growing old creates a certain kind of “experience” that is by no means automatically wise. Many older adults solidify their lives around decades-old assumptions and let the energy of culturally approved attitudes carry them to their graves. They become fearful and self-absorbed, isolating themselves in retirement communities where distraction remains the norm. This occurs, not because older people are more selfish than younger people, but because they, like all of us, have been conditioned by powerful messages from family and culture. When those messages go unexamined for decade after decade they become a worldview that is hard to shake.
I long for a recovery of true “Elder Wisdom” and also long to be able to find myself in a circle of Elders whose wisdom is tolerant, thoughtful, deeply spiritual, gentle, and supportive of a long-term view of life on Earth – to the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first generations. I long for a circle completely unlike the virtual discussions of social media.
In such a circle ideas would be expressed with thoughtful words and attitudes. Listening would also be thoughtful and founded in respect. Acceptance and tolerance of differences would be evident. Differences, however, would arise from different gifts and talents, not from different fundamental assumptions. The good of the people and of the Earth would always be understood to be the guiding principle.
I can’t begin to count the ways in which this council differs from modern forms of discussion, neither can I imagine how we might eventually return to such a forum, but perhaps my imagination is too conditioned by culture.
I can, however, imagine how I and others might meet in such a forum and share in a manner that is fundamentally different from the kinds of discussions that seem to be the standard today. I wonder if, starting next summer or fall that some of us might gather here in Mt. Shasta to sit by the fire under the stars and converse in this manner? I have the place if you have the time. Consider yourself invited.
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