Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 6, 1999
A hopeful perspective on aging
A Time To Live: Seven Steps of Creative Aging., by Robert Raines, Toronto, Plume/Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1998, 205 pages, softcover.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
With the increase in quality of life and creative aging resources available to mature people it is important that they be discriminating in their choices.
A Time to Live by Robert Raines, a seasoned pastor, writer and retreat-leader will reward those for whom a richer spiritual experience in the senior years is a priority.
Raines is the author of 12 books, many mirroring his lifelong investment in personal growth and social change. Since 1990 he has led "elder passage" workshops at Kirkridge Retreat and Study Centre in Pennsylvania where he served as director for 20 years.
Now, in semi-retirement and living in New England, he continues to lecture widely and lead groups on current subjects linking matters of faith and life.
This book is a labour of processed knowledge and vision, offering insights from people like Betty Friedan, Robert Bly, William Styron, Harold Bloom, Thomas Moore and Matthew Fox. All of it is sifted and uplifted through the author's fertile, septuagenarian mind.
When Raines asks seminar participants what they have an appetite for; what they want to taste again and again, or for the first time he receives such responses as "I want to visit sacred places, . . . live for a year in a Third World country, . . . know more about my unconscious. . . . I have a continuing sense of outrage about the injustices in our country. . . . I seek intimacy with nature and people. . . . . I feel my sexuality coming alive again. . . . I'd love to partner another, . . . .have lots of laughter in my life. . . . . I would like the relationship with my daughter to heal."
These are not the words of resigned antiquarians. Instead they reflect the views of vital persons wanting "to hold the vision of their lives open" and "to live in exciting new ways."
Raines leads readers through what he describes as seven stages of creative aging. These include: wake up to your own mortality; embrace sorrow; savor blessedness; re-imagine work; nurture intimacy; seek forgiveness and take on the mystery.
Raines does not view aging as a time of resignation or escape. Facing reality involves the acceptance of the bad with the good; the baggage along with change of responsibility; honesty, not euphemism.
There should be "no sanitized versions, please (because we) are no longer to be embarrassed by our lives."
Recognizing that in some societies the task of elders was and continues to be to tell the foundational stories of their people the author proposes that elders continue to have significant responsibilities.
Modern, youth-oriented cultures will benefit from the developed perspectives, refined visions and hopes of those who have been around longest.
Through the book there is a resonant underlying message. Refuse to be put out to pasture. There is wisdom to be had and to offer. There is much to be done, for "we are the singers of life."
Because of this book's autobiographical nature, the reader is frequently drawn into the author's own experiences and will no doubt share some of them.
Raines also recognized that as a white Protestant male who began his career with a good family reputation and quality education his ideas are shaped by an optimism and a certain privilege not shared by all Americans and Canadians today. That in itself should give many readers pause as they reflect on their autumnal blessings.
Longevity and asset statistics tell of growing populations in both Canada and the United States who could benefit from A Time To Live. The book offers inspiration, challenge and alternate vision.
(Dr. Wayne Holst is a lecturer at the University of Calgary.)