we might go about reviving rites of
passage into Elderhood — and why we
should do so — is the focus of this Fall
2011 issue of Itineraries.
Guest Editor Randy
When asked to sum up what is most important
to know about being alive at this time in
history, Fred Lanphear (to whom this issue
is dedicated) replied, “It’s all about
Story!” At first I thought he meant the
story we tell of our lives. That personal
story, of course, changes throughout our
lifetime, as we remythologize our biography
on a regular basis. But then I remembered
Fred's fascination and commitment to the
“The Universe Story” which the work of
Thomas Berry had inspired. Fred had often
reminded me that the story of the evolution
of the cosmos — from the Big Bang to the
birth of our galaxy and solar system, to the
emergence of life on earth — was “the
greatest story ever told.” He believed it
had the power to reconcile science and
religion and lead humanity to a new
awareness of its identity as a single whole,
dedicated to the sacred task of maintaining
the living systems of the earth in a new
As the threat to our existence as a species begins to accelerate
through global warming and overconsumption, Fred’s response reminded me of how
important it is to tell a good story about what is happening to us. For example,
we could tell ourselves that there is nothing wrong at all with how things are
going. Science and a growth economy will see us through our current
predicaments, so we can go about our lives as we always have. Nothing needs to
change. Or perhaps we tell ourselves a different story. Confronted with the
evidence of a deteriorating planet, we could tell ourselves that there is no
hope for the future at all, that the human species is doomed to live out the
dire consequences of its actions and will simply go extinct, like 99 percent of
other life forms before us. In this story, a story of the “Great Unraveling,”
all we need to do is to serve our time in a prison of fear while love and time
fade around us.
In this issue...
to an Earth Elder
Fred Lanphear’s remarkable life and
his pioneering attempts to restore rites of
passage to elderhood is recalled in the
articles written by
Craig Ragland. Jim elucidates Fred’s
philosophy, while Craig gives an example of
how Fred lived out that philosophy.
for Initiated Elders
Next, the issue turns to a call by a
“younger” for elders to step up to their
rightful place in culture. With the
impatience of youth,
Darcy Ottey demands that elders tell
their stories and share their wisdom.
Edith Kusnic then reviews the wisdom
stream of the baby boomer generation,
reminding her generation that — just by
having lived through these times — you carry
more wisdom than you know. You are already a
wisdom-keeper, and the time is now for the
boomers to finish their generational work.
Elder Rites of Passage?
All this talk of rites of passage and
initiation may spark readers' curiosity. How
does one go about creating such rituals?
Ron Pevny gives an excellent
overview of the main principles of a rite of
Tom Pinkson gives examples of
ceremonies he has conducted for elders.
Given these resources, perhaps you can begin
to imagine your own initiation ceremony.
of Rites of Passage
With this foundation in hand, then, four
articles — by
Harry R. Moody,
Richard Leider, and
John G. Sullivan
— explore various dimensions of rites of
passage into elderhood. See fuller
descriptions and links below.
Quest — Two Personal Accounts
The issue concludes with two first-person
accounts of initiated elders.
Helen Kolff, who have gone through a
particular form of an initiatory rite of
passage, the vision quest, share their
wisdom by telling their vision quest tale.