This excerpt from New York Times bestselling author Ilchi Lee’s new book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation, was originally published on Wisdom Magazine‘s Monthly Webzine.
Click here to see the full article.
I believe that the world can change for the better if we live the second half of our lives well. Life in old age holds an important key for solving many problems in our society and for ushering in a new age. We can find this possibility in the rapid growth of the older population, which is increasing the importance of senior culture and lifestyles throughout society. To put it another way, the elderly are becoming the center of society. As their share of the population grows, seniors will not only become targets for various consumer and cultural industries, but their voices will receive more attention politically and socially.
The social impact of the older generation will inevitably grow with time, so the direction in which that influence is applied is important. Will it upgrade or downgrade society? One thing will determine the answer to this question: the consciousness of elderly people. Seniors can help develop our society in innovative ways, or they can simply increase the burden on the generations supporting them. That’s why I believe that a revolution in the consciousness of seniors and the emergence of enlightened elders are absolutely essential.
I am convinced that a revolution in consciousness centered on the elderly is possible. A new culture of aging could be the solution for overcoming many problems of modern society. This culture would be one in which seniors awaken to realize that their substance is life energy and that self and other, people and nature—all of us—are interconnected as one. They would make completion the goal of their lives and have lifestyles directed to that end. As the number of enlightened elders grows, the more human consciousness will develop synergy and the more likely it will be that we can change direction toward a spiritual civilization centered on completion.
Mentors for the Next Generation
In traditional societies, enlightened elders were repositories of knowledge—like an encyclopedia or a library. The wisdom and experience that older people accumulated throughout their lives was considered precious back when the pace of social change was slower than in modern societies. The elderly were respected as leaders in their villages. Elders were asked about many things: when it’s best to sow seed, for example; how to teach a willful son; what to give a mother suffering from a stomach ailment; how conflicts with neighboring villages should be resolved. They were educators and healers, arbitrators and communicators, transmitting culture and wisdom from one generation to the next. Such roles maintained the values of their communities, granted stability, and brought balance.
It is no exaggeration to say that ancient thought was formed by the wisdom of the elders. The name of Laotzu, author of Tao Te Ching, said to have been translated into more languages than any book except the Bible, literally means Old Master. The Buddha lived to be 80 and Confucius to be 73, teaching students and sharing their wisdom with the world. Plato continued to write until he passed away at the age of 81.
Unfortunately, we find few traces today of elders sharing their wisdom as honored mentors. Young people no longer ask questions of the elderly; they ask the Internet. Older people have to learn from young people how to use smartphones and operate new devices. Younger generations often think of seniors as stubborn people who have fallen behind the times and with whom communication is difficult. Seniors who have life experiences and wisdom to share have a hard time communicating with younger generations, who instead chase after speed and sensual stimulation.
The elders of old who acted as mentors to young people should be emulated once again. But first, the consciousness of seniors must awaken.