Summer Harvest: Elder Care

Nourishing an interest in knowing more about shamanism, I recently read Martin Prechtel’s Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and feasted on the beauty and spiritual abundance of his writings about the Maya among whom he lived.

The people in his village lived in a weave of family and community, as I believe people in most non-industrialized societies do. What moved me particularly was what he wrote about the mechanism for caring for the elderly: the elderly were the only ones who could feed the gods, and if you didn’t feed the gods, everything would die. So you had to give food to the elders. It wasn’t being nice, kind, or unusually generous. People weren’t volunteering. It was necessary. The Mayan elders had a purpose and filled a necessary role in their society – unlike ours.

If we are judged by our treatment of our elders, we fall far short of the idea of living the spiritual life that web sites such as this and those of us who present our ideas here strive for and encourage.

There are many ways for us to walk our talk. I urge you to start thinking about yourself and those you love when you will be 70, 80, 90. If you need some encouragement, volunteer in a nursing home.

There are no easy answers – and maybe that’s an overstatement – maybe there are no answers. But it’s up to us to create them. And we’re very good at that. We’re the ones who’ve talked about manifesting abundance, manifesting the life we want. It is time for us to manifest a long-term care system that works, and we must put ourselves to this task.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions: Lobby your legislators to make sure that the professional caregivers we will all be relying on are paid a decent wage. Begin to re-examine how and where you live. Could you quit your job to take care of your mother or father, or your spouse? Few could, and fewer would want to.

But we need to start thinking about this now, individually and as a society. What would our society look like where the very old – and the very young – were properly cared for? Let’s start sharing our pictures.

(c) Leiah Bowden 2005

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essays by Leiah Bowden