Today I am remembering a project that I worked on with my two youngest brothers; I am the eldest of six. We were involved with digging a trench and installing a drainage pipe for an ancient septic system. None of us had ever tackled such an “aged” project before. We all had our own unique technical knowledge, gained from other projects we had been involved with over the years. We all had some transferable skills to offer the project.
What struck me most was my brothers’ mode of interaction. We listened to each other respectfully, considering each concept presented. What a pleasure, a deep pleasure, it was to interact with these two men as a member of a team. It is not often males have the personal confidence to allow egalitarian female participation. I think our parents did something very right by us.
Older people have a lot of something that is really, really important to the human species. Experience. There are different kinds of experience. One can, for instance, gain experience through experimentation; experience that is isolated in time and space. The experience that older people have though, is a richer kind of experience, because it is cumulative, based on generations of experimentation and practice. This kind of experience is invaluable. This kind of experience cannot be gained in a classroom, it has to be developed “in situ”, over generations.
My Grandparents were the source of all wisdom in the world where I grew up. I adored them. I admired them. I respected them. I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could manage. Luckily, through the 1970s, I lived within driving distance of their home. I visited them several times a week, and always came away feeling enriched. I had a close and loving relationship with my Grandmother, who never spoke a harsh word about anyone, and tolerated no “nonsense”. Our time was spent being together; I helped with whatever my Grandmother was doing. We spent time together, in her world.
When my Grandmother passed away it shook my world. I continued to visit my Grandfather several times a week, spending time, helping with whatever he was doing at the time, in his world.
I still long for the company of my Grandparents, always will I suppose.
I learned a lot from my Grandparents, things I could never have discovered through my own experiences or education. It wasn’t just how to bake bread, or how to keep a fire in a wood stove. There is much to life (and survival) beyond the physical. I learned that love and respect are vital to peace of mind and healthy living.
Through my many years I have built on the cumulative experience that was shared, mixing in bits and bobs from my formal “education”, BA, Hon BA, MA, PhD, and marrying it to that cumulative experience whenever I could.
It has been heartbreaking to watch information become a cheap commodity on the internet. To find that self-proclaimed experts abound, and that the difference between self-promotion and knowledge is not recognized by a lot of people.
“Respect your elders” has come to have very little meaning in today’s world. That is the basis for social breakdown, when humans cease to recognize the value of cumulative experiential knowledge, passed down through connected generations; it is the DIVIDE AND CONQUER of the information age.
For example, in Nunavut people are primarily dependent on imported foods, and have lost the ability to sustain life on local resources. Their survival skills are all but lost to them. A whole history of cumulative experience exterminated in one generation.
The Changing Food Economy in Nunavut: Will Country Food Stores Secure Nunavut’s Food Supply?
Nunavut Food Protest: Inuit Organize Widespread Protest Over Hunger And Food Costs
When young people gain knowledge, support, and experience from older people it has to work both ways, benefits must be available to all parties involved in an equitable exchange. “Mining” older people’s knowledge, resources, and experience without reciprocity degrades the quality of the exchange, inhibits flexibility and balance.
I suspect that if you are reading my journal, you have already considered all of these points, and more. Thanks for listening!
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Humidity: 95 %
Wind: NW 5 km/h
“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”
1911 – 1980
You speak to my heart, as well as my mind. I have long been distressed over the chasm between the accumulation of knowledge (aka data bits) vs the gaining of an education. And your commentary about the cross generational exchange adds depth to the conversation. Not only do elders have accumulated experience; they also have acquired perspective. Things that have a painful immediacy when we’re young can be seen now in the light of the passage of time and repeated experiences.
Wonderful points Sarah, I had almost forgotten the painful immediacy of youth!
This was my entry for International Women’s Day. It was about being treated like a person by men, and treating men like persons. Pretty simple stuff.