Old Knowledge to Wisdom

The October issue of Psychology Today was available at my branch library so it joined my stack to check out and take home. One of the articles is entitled 16 Life Lessons and in the introduction it states that “wisdom proceeds directly from personal experience”.

The counter balance and issue that can screw us up quickly is our biases. And, if you are an intuitive person, you may be correct most of the time, but that one time wrong just listening to you gut can be really messy to clean up. NO PUN INTENDED.

So, how do you know that your experience is solid and true and that you can go forward with a new endeavor?  Is it wisdom you are hearing in your ear or a slick sales pitch?

Well, you can’t ever be sure can you–life is not tied up in a silver package and red shiny ribbon. Never has been, never will be. But, if you are tentative about using your old knowledge and going with your gut, you will undoubtably miss out on some of your last and best adventures. These are adventures you can add to your stack of wisdom stories to tell the next generation of old people. Remember, just by the way you live day-to-day you are a role model to someone. When that person needs to decide how to be when they are old, you will come to mind–either in a positive or negative way.

One of the 16 of the life lessons in the article in the Psychology Today was: When Life Issues an Invitation, Take It.  Now, here is where our aging body comes into play–is the invitation one that my body will recover from in a timely way? Will my finances? Those are issues that would not even been in my thinking 30 years ago, but now they need to be factored into the invitation. That does not make me sad or distressed, just aware that reality needs to be faced. It is wisdom.

In his book, Second Wind, by Dr. Bill Thomas, he separates elders  and the world by the way they are approaching old age. He has the group in denial, one who claims rationality as a banner and the six of us in the world who are enthusiasts.

The BIG reason that this is important is the ageism in the world and the postwar  generation that will flood America with elders. Remaking the world  based on old knowledge , wisdom and the understanding that if you are one of the people living to past 60 years old, you can help by being an active voice for new behaviors toward the acceptance of elderhood and then death.

Start doing a bit of research and see how you can, by moving a bit out of your comfort zone, but not too much to hurt yourself, help the people coming into old age learn to thrive. Wouldn’t that be a great legacy?

Get a group of like-minded people together and just talk–it is a start.






Old Knowledge

Recently my book selections have been about social network and cyber terror. Not the cyber terror where the flick of a light switch will blow up your house, but the terror of cyber companies taking over your life.

I read The Circle by Dave Eggers  and am about to finish Mr. Penumbra’s 24- Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. In both books, the idea of OLD KNOWLEDGE is thought of in a different way– old knowledge being what is not on the internet or digitized yet. At a meeting of a genealogy group this Saturday, one of the women talked about the old knowledge records in Ireland that are not digitized. The hunt for information in the book stacks seems to be the good old pure kind. Hand on paper–maybe with gloves to protect the parchment, but tactile never the less.

Your last assignment from the worksheet labeled Practices requires old knowledge of yourself, as only you can know. This of course will require that deep thinking mode and honesty to yourself.

Escape your present point of view and place of residence and people active in your life. Maybe picture yourself alone on a cliff above an ocean. Come to the excercise with a brainstorming mentality where everything needs to be put on the erase board of your life.

Start a list of your various futures and options—-this is different for an old person with old knowledge because you have a track record of change and movement and joys and disappointments. A 18 year old may not have all the baggage filled with various sizes of clothes, some stained and dirty, some worn out and some waiting to be worn. Put the list in simple words on a piece of paper that you have written on with a pencil or pen and keep it around for several days to help you see if there are some changes you can make (or should make) for the best life you can have while you have a life.

If you are stuck in the norm, an exceptional elder will ask for opinions of people they trust. Form a couple of broad questions and find some one with old knowledge to talk with.

Trust your gut,




Day of the Dead with Dignity

Numerous countries in the southern part of North America deal with death in a more celebratory way than we do. If you  have ever been to Mexico or New Mexico on what the Catholic Church calls All Saints and All Souls Day, you are in for a visual feast that honors the dead. This holiday was originally held in the spring before the Spanish colonized Mexico, and then slowly changed to reflect the church calendar.

In this country we go to the graves of our loved ones with flowers and tears and memories, but in a celebration and honoring of the dead in Mexico it can be a two-day intensive colorful remembrance. It always makes me wish that I had been a cultural or social anthropologist or a writer for National Geographic.

All of this came to mind during the meeting of the Death Café this past Sunday. I have attended several times now, and each time learn something, feel something and come away humbled at the openness and non judgemental attitude of the group. Since the group is not static, there are new people every time, I can only think that the attitude and ability of the facilitators and the willingness we all have to explore the subject makes it a productive group. We are gentle with each other. With a new end of life amendment for the Colorado constitution coming up for vote , the discussion was partially concerned with the law.

My attendance his time had a purpose: a need to personally define what the phrase “death with dignity” meant to me. Coming away from the 90 minutes experience, the personal definition of dignity for me was clarified. Feeling honored, by being taken care of in accordance to your personal choices and wishes would be my goal. Because we are always given limited choices in life and death, the choices may be difficult for me, but the way someone helps me carry them out would show me worthy of care. I may not know what that looks like until it happens, but at least now it is more defined that it was.

You can show esteem and honor to the people who will deal with your last illness or accident and death by having your papers and wishes in order. Let people know what you want. You have been a shining light all of your life, don’t fizzle out now because this is difficult. Next Sunday, some of the Cafe members who are hospice volunteers or nurses, will bring the forms needed to get those pesky ducks in a row..a DNR form and in Colorado what we have called the MOST form about last wishes .

Help your loved ones know how to treat you with your personal definition of dignity.







Next to Last

We are down to the next to the last assignment on some of the important ways to keep yourself involved with life as you age. One of the parts of my education that helped me more than I knew at the time, was gaining the understanding of Aggressive, Passive and Assertive Behavior–and that all time awful one Passive Aggressive.

That bit of education gave me language that could come out of my mouth when a conversation needed to be turned around or ended.

Your assignment for this piece of the puzzle:

If you are not capable of transforming uncomfortable emotions into a positive interaction with someone you trust with your emotions, why not? How and who can you get to help you? This is the time of our lives with many uncomfortable conversations with family and friends and medical professionals, so put this on your list to ponder–soon. The place to start may be just identify how you feel–and then expressing it. Get busy, it is later than you think!


We have beautiful fall weather forecast for this weekend–if you do too, go for a walk for a different point of view.




To Watch, To Read, To Attend

Instead of one of the last assignments on the Practices handout I give to students, there are a few items of interest for you of older age.

To Watch:

The PBS special based on the book Being Mortal. It is outstanding

The PBS special named Beyond Our Differences. This one helped lift my mood during a difficult time listening to hate speak from news programs.

If you live in Denver or the suburbs you are welcome to attend the monthly meeting of the Death Café, which is held on the 16th of October at 3:30 pm in the orchestra area of the Colfax Tattered Cover. On the 23rd of this month they will meet again to fill out some of the paper work for advanced directives at the end of life.

” Those who learned to know death rather than to fear or fight it, become out teachers about life.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (On Children and Death 1985)


There is another documentary I found on Netflix that make me think—which is both a good thing and a not so good thing. But, the content is full of information already known to me and many perspectives wrapped up in a different package than I had seen before.

Sex, Death and The Meaning of Life, by Richard Dawkins.

Remember that keeping your mind and heart open as you age is critical for physical and emotional health. Staying in touch with what is current, topical and maybe even unpleasant keeps the brain moving.


ps. I teach a call at Colorado Free University next week end….go to freeu.com to register.


I Sing the Body Electric

You are the only one that knows the degree to which your body is working or not. Medicine and diagnosis is important, but using the correct language to tell the practitioners your pain level, over all health and the amount of sleep and exercise you get is the first step.

We are close to the end of the list of practices that will help you live the best life you can. The last several are more than just using a pen or pencil and come down to the core of old age and the physical husk you carry around that is falling apart.

Number 9

What ways ar you currently feeling challenged in caring for your body? How can you better nourish and nuture, strengthen or tone and cleasnse and detoxify your body?

Name one behavior you can adjust. When can you start and can you make this healthier behavior a habit?

A body in motion, a body with less pain, a body that meets your needs for activities and relationship makes what ever number of years you have attained, wear more easily on your mind. May your attitude about living  lighten and lift the corners of your lips.

My reading this last week included two novels about bodies in change…one was about a family  discovering Huntington’s Disease in the gene pool and the other about a man having locked in syndrome in a coma. Heavy reading, but lessons too about loving and enjoying a body that is working fairly well and VERY well in comparison.

Enjoy the fall days outdoors and the sun shining on the leaves.