Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 23, 2003
We need elders, not Peter Pan, Tinkerbell
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Taking responsibility and trying to help carry things is one of the primary tasks of adulthood
The effects of this are everywhere. We see it in the cult we've developed around the body - the pressure to look young, to not show the effects of aging, to value physical looks above all else.
Partly this is good. It's made us more sensitive both to our health and our looks - a good thing in itself, aesthetically and morally. There's something healthy about wanting to look good for, as we know, the first sign of clinical depression is when we no longer care about our appearance. But this also has a debilitating underside. What all this pressure to remain young and attractive does is make it difficult for us to accept mortality and all that comes with it.
And part of what comes with it is the pressure to never grow up, to remain forever the child, the adolescent, someone who looks over his or her shoulder for some adult to summon or blame. Too often our attitude mimics that of children and adolescents. When they're caught in a situation where something's gone wrong, invariably their response is: "It's not my fault!" "This has nothing to do with me!"
Notice how little different this sounds from: "Our leaders are evil!" "The culture's a mess!" "The Church needs to straighten itself out!" "The bishops have a real problem on their hands with this sexual abuse thing!" Bottom-line, these are the phrases of children and adolescents: "Something's broken, but it's not my fault. I'm not responsible!"
Taking responsibility and trying to help carry things is one of the primary tasks of adulthood and stepping forth to do this is one of the litmus tests of maturity. But to do so will scar us in a way that will set us apart from the young. We'll have stretch marks, bent bodies, anxious hearts, the stoop that comes with carrying burdens, grey hair, wrinkles educed by worry, and probably some middle-aged fat as well. Moreover we won't always be best buddies to our children or the coolest mum or dad on the planet. But we will be the elders, the mentors, the teachers, the adults, the parents, the mums, and the dads that our society so sorely misses.
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