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On Becoming Full

Old Anima: Unique Resources for Older Adults
On Becoming Full
By George Lorenzo • Issue #16 • View online

Image by Jim Cooke at Unsplash
Image by Jim Cooke at Unsplash
Seeking to Become "Full"
The constant barrage of dismal news has been making me feel more depressed than what is normal depression, and I doubt I’m alone.
Let’s face it, an overabundance of people in all walks of life have become walking zombies, and we are becoming a society so divided by ignorance and individual ego worship, that we seem to be on the brink of one disaster after the next, ranging from a new phase of health and economic disaster to environmental disaster to a level of global disharmony and hatred that we have not seen in decades.
What’s the solution? Can we older adults make a difference? How active should we be on all the issues confronting us today? Personally, I feel a duty to do something, but I don’t know what I should do other than to keep on writing. The important thing is that I hear my destiny and follow it, like a religion, although religion may not be the appropriate word. “Soul” seems to be the better word. I’m following my soul.
My use of soul has no straight-on relationship to any particular religion, although I was raised a strict Catholic, having attended Catholic elementary and high school and serving as an altar boy.  My use of soul takes into account all religions; all mystics; all conscious elders; all psychologists, philosophers, scientists, and sociologists; and all of humanity when you come right down to it. We’re all human. We’re all equally important in the grand scheme of life. We all have our issues and challenges, and you can’t ever judge anyone for their behavior because you haven’t lived in their shoes – and even then, it’s hard to figure out why someone acts the way they do.
There are so many folks I am angry with on just about everything under the sun these days – social media, the media in general, rampant misinformation, the acceptance of lies, and on and on. How does one reconcile these differences? My own answer has been to avoid all that I disagree with and become more gerotransendent, ala Lars Tornstam. Additionally, I’ve also been devoting more time to work when I should probably be slowing down and simply contemplating life and engaging in more soulful thinking or doing some kind of volunteer or activist-oriented work, but I’m not the volunteering type and I’ve never been much of a hands-on activist. Plus, I have to work in order to survive comfortably. So, I continue to pound the keys, which includes a lot of reading.
“The challenge is to determine what is being asked of the human spirit when the pressures of the time seem insoluble and our inherent energy begins to fray,” writes Joan Chittister in her newest book, “The Monastic Heart.”
“What internal resources can we rely on then if we are ever to become the fullness of ourselves again?” she asks. “It is time to remember what it means to go on when going on is all we can do. It’s time to discover what it takes to nourish the vein of tenacity that change requires as it reshapes the systems around us and to face having to cultivate a future we did not seek or imagine.”
From another angle, could this frequent disagreement and disillusionment with the world, and especially with my own country, be the result of garnering some semblance of wisdom in older adulthood? 
Or, is all the work simply avoidance? And what, precisely, am I’m avoiding? I think I’m avoiding saying exactly how I feel about what’s going on today. I’m avoiding being completely honest because I’m afraid it will only get me in trouble and cause more dissension, not to mention bring about a perception that I am overly self-righteous, and, in the end, overly judgmental. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote some long profanity-laced diatribe about these days and times only to delete it.
So, I write my gripes in my electronic notebook and harken to Florida Scott Maxwell’s “The Measure of My Days.” In the first page or two, she writes about her writing and feelings in a paper-based notebook, “It makes my notebook my dear companion, or my undoing. I put down my sweeping opinions, prejudices, limitations, and just here the book fails me for it makes no comment. It is even my wailing wall, and when I play that grim, comforting game of noting how wrong everyone else is, my book is silent, and I listen to the stillness, and I learn.” Further, I am “surrounded by eternal verities, noble austerities to scale on every side, and frightening depths of insight. It is inhuman. I long to laugh. I want to be enjoyed, but an hour’s talk and I am exhausted.”
Florida wrote that in her eighties. I can identify with the exhaustion and the “wailing wall” analogy. I would imagine many old folks have a wailing wall they frequent. Also, I can relate to the words “frightening depths of insight.” For me, those depths include our seemingly strong penchant to destroy ourselves. Still, from an historical perspective, hasn’t humanity always felt it was on the verge of utter destruction and some divine justice looming off in the distance that will smite the majority of us? Still, I feel like we are in a fall-of-the-Roman-Empire situation that may happen by the time 2024 arrives. 
I keep telling myself that good always overcomes evil and that sometimes it takes longer for good to win than what we expect or desire. As a ray of hope, I say to myself: “We will come together as a democracy. We will figure out how to overcome climate change. We will make Social Security, Medicare, housing, and transportation better. We will resolve our immigration challenges. We will live more harmoniously in the not-too-distant future. We will figure out gun control. We will figure out how to help the mentally ill and homeless. We will reduce violence. We will eliminate poverty. We will reduce mass consumerism. We will become more tolerant. We will eliminate racism. We will get along. We will all get vaccinated!” 
But having a ray of hope is not enough. As Chittister writes so simply and profoundly: “It’s what you pay attention to in life that determines both your commitments and your inner happiness. Time is its indicator. One of the most important questions of life is surely, Where do I spend my time and what am I doing there? The second is, What calls me back to where I’m meant to be? Money? Work? The crowd? What? … The questions should nag at you: What needs are around me? What pain, what sorrow, what grief must be dealt with before life can ever become life again? What is weighing me down? Here. In my private little world? Now.”
Thanks for stopping by,
George
Did you enjoy this issue?
George Lorenzo

The word "Anima" has a variety of definitions. Here it simply means “soul,” or one’s individuality, or one’s inner essence. An old soul has a finely tuned compassionate, tolerant, and magnanimous nature. Old Anima provides information, in a variety of forms, that can be helpful for older adults (and young souls, too), by drawing mostly from humanity’s stock of wise philosophers and scientists.

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