We all need role models to show us the way. But do we have role models for this new generation entering into our 3rd Acts”? We are beginning to bring together all the themes and sub plots we want to keep in our lives. Who will show us the way; who will be a model to guide us in weaving together what we cherish from our first and second acts with how we want to be in our third act? We all have different aspirations for our third act but most of us want to move towards completing our life in an authentic way.
We know people in our lives who have aged well. But no generation before us has had the longevity boost of thirty years. We are the first generation to enter this territory. Perhaps Theodore Roszak is a model. He continues to write inspiring words. He has just delivered his newest book “The Making of an Elder Culture”. It is another provocative, challenging work from the man that help to explain the 60’s generation to their elders in “The Making of a Counter Culture”. He calls forth the idealism that many of us in the 60’s acted on.
Ted Roszak looks to Maggie Kuhn, the founder of the Gray Panthers of Berkeley, who said “old people and women constitute America’s biggest untapped and undervalued human energy source.” We don’t call ourselves old people now but Maggie was definitely on to something. She has passed on, but even so, she challenges us to move forward in a new and more inclusive relational way.
For me, I think of Jimmy Carter as a role model. Here is a man who held the reins of power of the mightiest country in the world and found a way to move beyond even this seductive 2nd act focus on external power and a sense of failure to a place of poetry and peace. He continues to write and travel the world with a message that emanates not from doing but from a bursting forth of authentic being and a blending of the best of his gifts.
I believe that one of our tasks as the Generatarians (a term I am using to describe one side of the dialectic that Erik Erikson related to us in his stages of life i.e.: generativity vs. stagnation), is to create new role models for the generations to follow.
I think our model must include a conscious embrace of death. We can demonstrate that the awareness of death can be an aid to clarification of focus and desire.
It should also include an exploration of the nature and value of being and presence; and that this state brings to our movement through life, a sense of grace and gratitude.
Studies are showing us that much of the brain activity that elders have is focused on the right side of the brain. This is the area of the brain that relates to emotion and relationship. So our new role model most also include a more right brain perspective. A perspective where emotional connection with other humans moves to the forefront of our interests. Leaving subjective “me first” focus in the background. Quite a switch given that we are also known as the “Me” generation.
Our sense of compassion and collaboration as opposed to individualism and self-interest will be a part of the mix, as well as a reconfiguration of what it means to be truly masculine and feminine as our bodies transform their shape and hormones dip and shift.
As we move forward we will be creating maps for those who follow. Let us join together as cartographers, mapping as much of the terrain as we can, using the insights of the heart and the wisdom of experience.