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From the editor...

“Go far enough on the inner journey,” Parker Palmer tells us, “go past ego toward true self — and you end up not lost in narcissism but returning to the world, bearing more gracefully the responsibilities that come with being human.” Appropriately our yearlong exploration of The Spirituality of Later Life whose first two issues focused on the inner work of eldering now turns to work in the world. After the tribute below to Dene Peterson by Drew Leder, guest editor Claudia Moore introduces the theme of this issue, “Serving from Spirit,” and the writers who contributed articles. We hope you enjoy it!

Honoring our elders...

  My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.

— Florida Scott-Maxwell

These words aptly describe Dene Peterson, not in their particulars — she was passionate in her 70s! — but in their spirit. I remember seeing Moulin Rouge with her when she was but a spry 72. The movie about a poet in love with a cabaret actress/courtesan was sexual, rocking, flamboyant, and outrageous in its rapid-fire cinematography and cutting. It left me in the dust, but not Dene, who enjoyed it thoroughly. I couldn’t have had a more fun date than with this ex-nun and distinguished elder.

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PHOTOS: Top — a  morning chat at ElderSpirit
Bottom — ElderSpirit labyrinth (left) | residents at the 5th anniversary fetê (right)


In this issue...

Click on the author's name
or photo to access the article.

Roger Walsh

Judith Helburn

Robert Atchley

Jock Brandis

Paul Severance

Carol Cober

Claudia Moore

An essay by Roger Walsh frames the conversation, exploring the two central goals of spirituality: to awaken to our true nature and to help heal and awaken others. If by healing ourselves, we in fact also heal the world, as Judith Helburn affirms, what is the next step? How can YOU serve? Robert Atchley asks. How do you — in Paul Severance’s words — “answer the call from the future”?

Two of our writers — Claudia Moore in “Pentecost with Andrew Harvey” and Carol Cober in “Everyday Mysticism” — reflect on powerful personal experiences which called them into service. Finally, Pat and Steve Taylor, in “Championing Stone Age Technology,” profile the inspiring work of Purpose Prize winner Jock Brandis.

A quartet of articles round out the issue. In “Remembering Christopher,” Second Journey founder Bolton Anthony pays tribute to the life and work of a young photojournalist killed in Libya. Second Journey sage in residence, John G. Sullivan, looks at “Service Through Life’s Seasons.” And Barbara Kammerlohr reviews books by Deborah Windrum and John Sullivan in “Metaphor and the Aging Process.” Finally, we reprise a foreword by the late Theodore Roszak that challenges “America’s most audacious generation” to take up again “the unfinished business of the sixties.”


By Claudia Moore

The idea of service beyond self — what sometimes is more narrowly termed altruism — traces its roots in the human psyche as far back in time as what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age, the period between 800–200 BCE when the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid. Service to the greater good — service to Spirit — was a core value in the seminal philosophies that appeared simultaneously and independently during this period in China, India, Persia, Palestine, and Greece.

Over the past half-century, the voices urging that we recommit to this higher service have come from many quarters. To note just one example — as relevant today as when they were penned back in 1964 by the hippie troubadour/prophet who turned 70 on May 24, 2011:

Your old road is rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
if you can’t lend your hand.
For the times they are a-changin’.

The baby boomers, a massive vanguard of elders-in-waiting — “the best educated, most widely traveled, most innovative generation we have ever seen” — stand ready to serve humanity. Will they choose to do so? Some observers, like historian Theodore Roszak, are hopeful:

What boomers left undone in their youth, they will return to take up in their maturity, if for no other reason than because they will want to make old age interesting. Just as the Dutch have won land back from the sea, we have won years back from death. That gives us the grand project of using those extra years to build a culture that is morally remarkable.

Another observer — philosopher Ken Wilber — offers a more tempered diagnosis. Members of the generation that fought for civil, women’s, and gay rights, staged war protests, and pioneered concern about the environment appear now to be gripped in a collective paralysis. They suffer from boomeritis, Wilber argues, a malaise caused by “the belief that reality is flat, that there are no levels of consciousness. We basically live in Flatland.”

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The Prague Spring of 1968

It Is I Who Must Begin

It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try —
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
— to live in harmony
with the "voice of Being," as I
understand it within myself

— as soon as I begin that,

I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

— Vaclav Havel

Brief Notices...


The Heart's Desire

A Film / Discussion Series
September 20-December 1, 2011
Seymour Center in Chapel Hill

The six programs in this series explore the Heart’s Desire in later life to rediscover and reinvent itself and live a more simple, yet larger and more meaningful, life — a life that opens it to the joys and sufferings of the family of Earth.

Featured films include The Visitor, Monsieur Ibrahim, Places in the Heart, Crash, The Straight Story, and Antonia's Line.

Bolton Anthony and Kay-Robert Volkwijn serve as series hosts.


On Contentment

“How can I rest?
How can I be content?”
With death so near
to me — to us —
to the world we
can no longer trust?

How can we be content
with the broken streets
and broken faces
in Jenin, Ramallah, Gaza?

How can we be content
with lies?

How can I be content
with contentment
in a world constructed
of greed and rage and
betrayal and pain?

How can we rest?
It is time
to use all we have,
all we are,
to the fullest,
to create
a world within our world,
a community of caring
and of truth.
Till then,
how can we rest?

from Tricks of the Light and Other Poems by Nina Mermey Klippel (2010)

Index to other poems: from Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard
from East Coker by T.S. Eliot ♦ The Low Road by Marge Piercy
Sweet Darkness by David Whyte


 Click on the title or image to access the full article

Remembering Christopher

What kindles our compassion and spurs us — often against our own narrow self-interest — to act for the sake of another is always a part of our own unique story. Why this movement of grace happens in some lives and not others is shrouded in mystery. But some lives do shine, some lives do sparkle. More than others...

The Making of an Elder Culture

My own hope is that the boomers — the best educated, most widely traveled, most innovative generation we have ever seen — will, in growing numbers as the years unfold, recognize that the making of an elder culture is the great task of our time, a project that can touch life's later years with nobility and intellectual excitement...

Service Through Life’s Season

Our service derives from how we are present in the world. If we are relatively sane in the midst of collective insanity. If we understand what is real, what is true, what is good, what is beautiful and hold to the real, the leaven is there for all, the lamp in the darkness does not go out. A smile remains. Love remains. Compassion remains. Joy resurfaces. Peace returns...

Metaphor and the Aging Process

Metaphor is one of the world’s greatest teachers. She facilitates understanding at an intuitive level where facts, feelings, ethics, and consciousness come together to form meaning. Sitting with Metaphor until the Aha! moment [often] leads to something so profound no words can express it adequately...




Individual reprints of each of the four issues in the 2011 series on the Spirituality of Later Life are available from Amazon for $10 each. To access ordering information, click on the cover images below

Click for information on Second Journeys: The Dance of Spirit in Later Life Order Serving from Spirit from Amazon.com Order Rites of Passage into Elderhood from Amazon.com Order The Inner Work of Eldering from Amazon.com Order Writing as a Spiritual Practice from Amazon.com

Second Journeys: The Dance of Spirit in Later Life, published in 2013, is also available from Amazon for $20. Its essays along with the many poems scattered throughout the anthology — the contributions of 44 writers and poets — explore the “dance of spirit in later life.” New essays companion earlier essays from Second Journey’s 2011 exploration of The Spirituality of Later Life. All four sections contain a tribute to an elder whose life has been emblematic, each concludes with an Invitation to Practice. Interspersed throughout, authors who have been our virtual partners in the work of birthing a new vision of aging for our time offer reflections on the books from which they have drawn sustenance. Dip into this rich collection at any point and you will find yourself drawn to linger and reflect. For further about the anthology, click on the center cover.