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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LIGHT WITHIN THE DARKNESS

© Imelda Maurer, cdp

Yesterday I posted the poem, “Light Within the Darkness”, suggesting that you ponder it before I offered my own thoughts on it. Here are those thoughts.

The writer counters the decline of the physical body with the ongoing development of the mind, spirit and soul. The consequence is “the radiance of the sage”, becoming the light within a dark world.

Recent advances in the study of the brain and adult development do indeed show that there is growth and development on multiple levels in the second half of life. The positive changes of life after fifty do provide for the blossoming of wisdom and generativity.  Indeed, the sages of the world can claim “radiance” in a dark world.

Why don’t we experience that that is so?  My first thought is to blame the pervasiveness of ageism.  Older adults are seen as ‘over the hill’, and ‘past their prime’. That does not make it so, of course. However this is what complicates the matter – self-perception in many cases.

Have you read Kennth Clark’s study done around 1940 with young Black children aged three to seven years? These youngsters were shown two dolls and asked to choose.  One doll was white with blond hair; the other doll was brown with black hair.  Overwhelmingly the young Black girls chose the Caucasian-featured dolls. Here is a quote about the study:

Some of the participants even employed aesthetic language in their unsolicited explanations for choosing the white doll. “Cause it’s white — it’s pretty,” said one child, or “cause he’s not colored like these — they the best looking cause they’re white.” The black dolls, on the other hand, were described as “ugly.”

The Black children in the study had internalized society’s racist views to their own detriment.  Because racism has at least been exposed, though not erased, it is probable that Kenneth Clark’s study would result in different conclusions today. 
I believe older adults are very prone to internalizing society’s prejudices of ageism.  Older adults who internalize this prejudice have their own self-esteem diminished. It is not surprising in a way. Every encounter offers the chance that we are seen, not as a person, an individual with a unique life story and accomplishments, but as an “old person” with all that our society believes about old people
Rise up, my good people! Our task is to confront this ageism from within and from without! Know and honor who you are and who you are becoming! Recognize the signs of ageism within yourself and confront them. Confront ageism wherever you see it.  The darkness of the world needs the brilliance of the sage!


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