Karl Becker, the last questioner at last night’s debate, reminded us (I hope) that what we are missing in today’s world, not only in our politics is empathy. If you did not see the debate, he is the one who asked Clinton and Trump to state just one thing they liked about each other.
There was no empathy on that debate stage, maybe the occasional stab at sympathy, but no empathy.
The world we are living in is missing an empathetic understanding of each other and our environment – nature-, and unless we start to seriously recapture our ability to empathize, we will be lost. That is what I absolutely have come to understand.
This hit home when I was in Ireland, where I experienced more empathy and kindness for each other and our environment. There was almost no homeless, no graffiti or trash is thrown about. People were courteous and helpful to each other, including strangers. If you smiled at someone on the street, they smiled back and the drivers … OMG … amazingly courteous. We were biking on some roads that allowed for 100 km (62 miles per hour) and these folks gave us room to ride, even when there was no shoulder. We were not honked at, cussed at, yelled at or made to feel like we did not belong. Sharing the road was a given. I experienced, time and again, courtesy and Empathy.
When I came back from Ireland, I felt lost and ashamed. How could we treat each other like this? Treat our living environment like a trash heap? Like others, I have become a bit callous because it is so hard to live opened up emotionally when I see and experience our world where “me, me, me, mine, and I” is all we promote. A daily experience where we tell each other what to do (because our way is right and your way is wrong), and we do not respect each others autonomy or cultural differences, and where we have NO respect for our environment. I have such anxiety that I simply want to move out to the country where I do not have to be inflicted with the continuous lack of common kindness, courtesy, the lack of empathy we encourage in our world.
We must change. We must, must, must change and Becker’s final question asks those who would lead us to better embody empathy. We need examples of what this means for our children, and our children’s children. We cannot give them a clean and well-ordered world, but we can give them an understanding of how humans, through empathy and care for each other, can fix our world because this is the first step and the most important step.
I saw this lovely short article on LinkedIn today by Sarah Nadava about Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Navigating the world of single motherhood, Sandberg had some important realizations:
“But, to be fair- people are only generally good at understanding the world that they know and live in. They fight for the problems that they can see. And sometimes, people need to go through a struggle in order to really get it” (Sandberg as cited by Nadava).
As Nadav points out, for Sandberg, she could not empathize with the plight of single mothers and single motherhood and tell she was in the thick of it.
But for me, the takeaway is not necessarily about single motherhood, which is important, but about empathy. Our society is lacking a propensity toward empathy, and the fact that we can only recognize an issue when we are in the middle of it symbolizes a larger problem.
I see this missing empathy gene a great deal not only when I teach ethics (oh why can’t we teach ethics and philosophy in “K – 12” grades ??), but also when I am working with digital media marketing. The key for many of us in the business is to find a way to get our audiences to empathize with our point of view. We are seeking identification, as Kenneth Burke so brilliantly argued. As digital marketers, social media strategists, and content creators, we are not only looking to persuade people to buy this, or to join this gym but empathize with our point of view, to identify with what we have to offer. This identification requires the nurturing of empathy.
So this question is this: how can we better encourage and reintroduce empathy into the populace?
The last two weeks have been filled with emotional highs and lows for me, and last night I crashed from all this … our souls can carry much more than our bodies.But I relearned a few important core facts about life.We relearn these things throughout our lives if we take the time to live life fully and with great attention. These lessons I relearned are important lessons, important enough to share here. I am not going to share what happened these last few weeks, as the details are not universal as much as personal, and would likely be of little interest to you.But I do what to share with you the outcomes – what I have relearned. I hope they help you as they have helped me.
First, I relearned that life is bloody short.I do not care if you live to be 16 or 101, life is short and it goes by so damn fast.So very fast.Too fast, in fact. We get caught up in the details, you know, and that somehow speeds things up: getting stuff done, earning a living, taking the kids to various activities, making dinner, getting gas, and fulfilling various obligations that keep us too busy to breath sometimes. The small things piss us off and blur the magic and mystery of life.
What is worse, is the fact that we allow these things to take us away from LIVING.We forget to stop and say “I love you,” or “you have helped make me what I am, and I thank you,” or “I am glad to have the chance to hold your hand.”Honestly, when was the last time you told everyone you love that you loved them?When was the last time you held the hand of your friends and lovers and sat feeling their skin next to yours and realized … there is always magic in THIS!This is what life is about.
This leads to the second thing I relearned these last few weeks: I fall in love easily.I do and you know what, that is just fine.There is nothing wrong in this, even if the rest of the world tells me otherwise.I fall in love with men, with women, with moments, with creation, with music, with life.And I fall hard.I do.I also tell people I love them often and I was told this might be inappropriate – that my hugs, my confessions, my moments of intimacy of thought and soul and truth are somehow inappropriate – not good table manners. I felt stunted for a moment.
Oh my, no one wants to be inappropriate – well, not really.I do not want to offend or cause harm, confuse or whatever. But then I relearned this: bullshit!I call bullshit on this attitude.What a crock of shit this is.If it is truly not appropriate to reach out to those you love, then life is shit, and we have nothing. Honestly.
Now I admit that I might be strange in my culture. I do love deeply and I do love fast. Why not? Honestly, I love people for their amazing uniqueness, the good and the bad.I click more with some people than others, but if you “click” and the person impacts your life, well you better stand up, say think you, confuses your love and stand by them.So many people will fall away, by circumstance and death.We have a responsibility to those we love.
So when I say I love you, and I do say it freely and often, I really mean it.I do.Those who know me well, know this about me.I love without bounds in that sense.I love deeply because I know no other way to love and appreciate others.This is NOT a bad thing and I will not (at least for the moment) feel bad that I am this way. I get hurt a lot because of it, but would not change that either.It is a price for great living and living truthfully and deeply.The joy and the hurt, that is okay.
I also love on “my time,” which means I might fall in love after a moment, or after weeks, years, whatever.Love is a strange beast, but it does not diminish the love felt or realized. People always want to put a timeline on love.You should wait before you say you love. You should question wither the love you think you feel is real. But why?How artificial is that? And I am talking about all types of love as lovers take all forms: friends, sexual, mentors … all forms, all life.
I also love freely.My heart is not bound by strange customs and other laws, traditions and artificial rules we place on affection and love. You might call me a free spirit, and so I am.
So those are my two truths realized and relearned.If you say I love you, if I hug you, if I spend time with you or share secrets of the universe and intimacy and laughter, and sadness – I will do so fully and without an apology.Life is really very, very short and we have such little time to live out loud and with feeling.
Find that folks, because that is really where the “capital” lies.
Sustainability means reinvention to some degree.It means an ability to improvise in your life, adjust to changes, and allowing yourself and ability to be relevant in relation to times, markets, current events, and so on.
Life moves on, and so should we … Stagnation kills.
When looking at sustainability and reinvention, some questions you might consider are:
What are the different ways we can apply our skills to maximize our success in this changing world?
What are the different formal educational and re-educational efforts we need to make to promote sustainability in an ever-changing world?
How can we acquire informal education in order to stay relevant and sustain our life and living?
Work-life balances (not an easy thing to achieve in our world and culture).
I’ve been looking at each of these different questions in regard to reinvention, sustainability, and happy living.Indeed, many friends in my age group and in the generation ahead of me, has had to re-examine these things rather specifically. With the loss of savings and retirement because the 2007 crash of the market, many of us has found our 401(k)s going south for the winner and staying there (you would think the “south” was doing much better than it is – aka Joke).
There is also the problem of job markets for an older generation. Yes, you might find a position at McDonald’s, but is that going to help sustain you? As older workers are displaced by a younger generation, we have to find our way in the world where retirement is now a part of our mythology.
This is conversely true for younger and mid career workers who are waiting for older workers to retire. What do you do when the old Guard can’t retire, and you are left working numerous jobs in order to survive?
I personally am facing many of these issues, and I have many friends who are facing these issues as well. Many of us are actively seeking to reinvent ourselves, achieving hoped for relevancy in a trying market. There are several options to our reinventions: we can going to business for ourselves, we can gain new skills so that we can be hired full-time, and we can change our living conditions, making it more sustainable to fully live on a smaller income.
Regarding this conundrum and the questions I outlined above, here are a few thoughts I have on each question, and maybe some of this will be relevant to you as well.
What are the different ways we can apply our skills to maximize our success in our world?
If you lived life, you have many skills! It is time to look at your skills and determine how they might help sustain you and help you make a living. Your skills do not only come from jobs your have worked, but everyday life. Maybe you excel at organization, managing other, fundraising, cooking, cleaning, growing things, and so many other skills. These everyday life skills can transfer to a job of some type!
This is our world’s “cup of Kool-Aid” presently, at least here in the US. In the 1980s in the 1990s it was all about multitasking; today it’s about PR, and promoting yourself as a product … a thing to be bought and sold, negotiated over and transformed.
Maybe I have read too much Marxism in my life, but this smells a great deal of commodification and fetishization of self. I am not a product to be objectified. I am a human being with human being needs. To be objectified is a problem. We objectify so much in our culture, the last thing we need to do is objectify ourselves by selling our self as a product for a few measly bucks.
You are not a brand. You are a human being with skills that can be marketed. You’re marketing your skills, not yourself as an object to be bought, sold, and manipulated. Yes, networking is important, whom you know is important, and the relationships you create are important, and how you promote your skills … important, but you are not a thing. A great deal of our unhappiness in this world can be traced back to commodification and Fetishization of self. Just say no!
What are the different educational and re-educational efforts we need to make to promote sustainability in an ever-changing world?
First, we have the category of formal education outlets: Find a technical college, a program at a community college, or get a new degree at a four-year institution.
Drawbacks to Gaining a Formal Education:
The biggest drawback to getting an education from a higher learning institution is expense. The cost for a higher learning education has grown exponentially over the last few years. According to College Data, the price for one year of college education, for a moderate college in an in-state public setting, 2013 to 2014, averaged approximately $23,000. If you were looking at a private college, that price tag is more like $44,750.
If you already have a college degree, and you’re looking at reeducation, you may not be interested in paying close to $150,000 for a new degree. And of course, these figures reflect undergraduate and not graduate education. Graduate education is often one third more in intuition, and these numbers do not reflect the amount of money you will be paying out for books.
Cost of NOT having a formal higher education today:
If you do not already have a formal higher education, you just might want to get one! According to Pew Research, workers who do not have a college degree will earn up to $17,500 a year less than they’re educated counterparts working the same job.
Further, without a college degree, you may find jobs are not available to you. More and more often, even the most common labor jobs (including McDonalds cashiers) are requiring a college degree, limiting the market to those who are educated and have “drunk from the Kool-Aid.”
How can we informally acquire reeducation to stay relevant and sustain our life and living?
If you are self-motivated, you can get your own education without paying a dime. The problem is that this education will not necessarily be “formalized,” or have that “official stamp of approval.” It’s amazing how this world respects the buying and purchasing of education, but not the acquiring of solid knowledge through personal effort and practice. So, for those of you who just simply love to acquire knowledge, beware. You might be better off buying yourself a degree.
NOTE: I am NOT sanctioning this method. I am a college teacher and would never tell you to buy a degree, it is meant tongue-in-cheek, as sarcasm for a screwed up prioritized system.
Exploring continuing education courses in your backyard – where you work:
Many employers offer the ability to acquire continuing education. Many companies will actually pay part of the cost for going back to school and gaining new skills. There are workshops offered, conferences, and other such resources. Find out what resources are available to you, and use them. You would be amazed how often these resources are left to the wayside, unused and unexplored, along with our vacation hours! These resources are part of your “benefits” package. Don’t let them go to waste.
Seeking a mentor, acquiring a “folk” education, or taking on an apprenticeship:
Many people are taking their expertise and bringing it to the World Wide Web. There are many classes out there that will help you achieve your goals, and in this way you can find a mentor, a folk education, or an apprenticeship.
You’re never too young or old for a mentor. Mentors are people who happen to know the skills needed to succeed in a certain area in life, skills that you may wish to acquire. He or she can help you achieve your goals and dreams, and you can find a deep and satisfying life long friendship with your mentor. Sometimes mentors come into our lives and exit as quickly as they seem to have come on the scene. Other mentors stay with you for a very long time. Sometimes you switch roles with your mentors, and you become the leader for a short period of time. These are fulfilling partnerships. Seek them!
Indeed, today I sought out two friends, who have skills that I greatly admire, and ask them to be my mentors. The best way to learn is to reach out to those who know the skills that you wish to acquire.
Get a Folk Education:
I define a folk education as a type of mentorship that offers formal instruction, and you’re paying for the knowledge, but you’re not going to get a certificate that’s accepted widely. There are benefits and drawbacks to this approach. The benefit is that often this type of education is a little less expensive. The person offering the education is normally well known in his or her field, and s/he can give you the real life tools you need to succeed. The drawback is that many in your community will not likely formally recognize the certificate and/or the value of the instruction. Credentials being what they are in our world.
I am taking this route myself right now as I learn herbalism. I am going to Sage school, and I’m getting a wonderful education in herbalism and holistic health. But because I will not have any kind of “official” certificate or degree at the end of the program, my skills and how I can market those skills will be limited – simply because of the world we live in and how we value the acquisition of knowledge. But still, for myself, it has been a rewarding experience.
If you take this direction in your education, research your instructors! Anybody can be an “expert” on the Internet. You never know if you’ve come up with somebody who’s just very clever with how they sell themselves, or if you’re dealing with someone who really has the knowledge that is claimed. This approach means that you have to be proactive, do the research to find out if you’re putting your money in a good place.
Before the world of formal education, we had apprenticeships! Depending upon the culture you were born into, you may have been fostered out to a family, and taught a skill that would support you for life. In more modern times, people might’ve been apprenticed out to different businesses in order to acquire a life long working skill. Not too long ago, in the grand scheme of things, my father went through an apprenticeship to become an electrician. Indeed, the electrician union still provides apprenticeship opportunities.
Find yourself an apprenticeship. Of course, apprenticeships don’t normally pay, as you work for the person or the business, while you learn a trade. It is a trade-off, but a fair one in the end. If you can afford this trade off, I highly suggest it. Learning from an expert, and gaining hands-on, real life training is very important for many trades.
The final thing I want to talk about is work – life balance. We live in a world where we forgo our vacations, forgo raises, and work multiple jobs just to make a living or keep a job. What are we trying to sustain? Well, often we’re trying to sustain a way of life that is not sustainable: a large house, several cars, a social life that means going out all the time, expensive gadgets, brand-new clothes, and so on and so forth. Indeed, we are even told that we need these things in order to be happy. But is this t?
I have had both in life, the expensive dwelling, cable, Internet, expensive gadgets, brand-new clothes, and an active nightlife. I have also had the opposite, a small dwelling, entertainment out in nature that cost little to engage in, card games with friends, and reading a great book in the corner of my trailer. Although the trailer at the time gave me nothing but great pain, as it was a piece of crap, the lifestyle brought me great joy.
Ask yourself these important questions:
One, are you living a sustainable lifestyle?
Two, are you living the lifestyle you wish to live?
Three, do you find that you’re working every day, all the time, just to sustain what you have? Or rather, four, does it take little to sustain what you have and need to live on, and in the end, affords you the good life: Time to enjoy life and those around you, and pursue other interests outside of work?
Take a moment and really determine what it is you want out of life, and then determine what you need to do to get that dream. If you want the large house, multiple cars, and the occasional vacation to France, you may have to work a job that will afford you these pleasures, which means giving up everyday freedom. If on the other hand, you are satisfied with small spaces, and more experiences over things, it may be time to consider sizing down and moving forward.
Right now I am taking a great class on how to achieve Mortgage Freedom from folks who have been there and changed that! Create Pathway to Mortgage Freedom. You might wish to find similar mentors for the life vision you are seeking.
A long article this week, but I hope you find some of the advice offered helpful!
Sustainability is a serious theme in my life. When it comes to living the life of a modern druid, it is important, I think, to rediscover sustainability as we have lost that skill. Maybe not everyone, but most of us walking the modern streets of our cities and towns, and even the country. We purchase food from far out places, eat fruits that are not in season, we are rich with such gifts. But as lovely as it is to have grapes in the Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring it is not sustainable. Consider the costs of transporting foods across country or nations, storage of the food before it can be sold in stores, and what we need to do to keep the food fresh can compromise the nutrients in the food. Further, by eating foods grown on farms from other states and countries, we are not helping to sustain our local economies. I am not suggesting that we should not support interstate and international trade, but I am suggesting it is helpful for our local economies and our health that we start to find more sustainable ways to feed ourselves.
With this in mind, I have been learning how to look to my own backyard to feed myself, both metaphorically and literally. Since moving to Hawai’i, I have been exposed to many different foods and I have found that many grow in my literal backyard. We are renting an apartment on an old hog farm in Waimanalo, Hi. The owner of the property maintains several fruit trees, an aquapodic system, many flowers, and she keeps bees. She has been kind enough to let us share in her bounty, if we help keep the land. So, we are learning a thing or two about living off the land in Hawai’i.
One of my most recent discoveries is the Malabar Chestnut!
The Malabar Chestnut (botanical name is Pachira aquatic, the family of Bombaceae) is native to Northern Brazil, and southern Mexico. But this tree is very comfortable in other tropical areas such as Hawai’i and Southern Florida, two of my favorite places! With a dark green bark and leaves, the tree produces lovely nuts inside a wooden green pod (some pods are brown, as there are several different varieties of this tree) that splits into four parts when ripe. I thought it was because of the pods that this tree is also called a money tree. But apparently it was for more pragmatic reasons. According to Green Deane in the article “Tropical Chestnuts: Pachira aquatic,” the tree earned this name relatively late in life, around 1986, when
“a Taiwanese truck driver put five small seedlings into one pot and weaved them together as they grew. He inadvertently invented the next hot ornamental plant and business took off in Taiwan, Japan and most of eastern Asia. The braided tree is viewed as associated with profit and is a common plant found in businesses, often with red ribbons or other ornaments attached. By 2005, export of the braided tree was a $7 million business in Taiwan” (Deane, Green).
Talk about a money tree!
But I was interested in the nut 🙂 The chestnuts are edible raw or roasted and they taste a bit like a mild peanut raw, and toasted a bit like a peanut crossed with a filbert (hazelnut), in my humble opinion. According to “Nutrition and You,” the only place I could find nutritional information for this nut, the article was mostly targeted to chestnuts in general, they are low in calories, but are also rich in minerals, and vitamins. You can also make flour out of the nut, but this I did not try.
I enjoyed the nut raw, but toasted they are divine. First, you must shell the nut which is not an easy task. To aid in the process, I soaked the nuts in water over night and let the shell split, making them easer to shell. I tossed the nuts in some olive oil and a bit of salt, and roasted them on low, 350, until brown and crunchy.
I tell you what, they were so good that I could not keep up with the demand! They made a lovely snack throughout the day when you start to get hungry pangs, or when you simply walked by them.
Welcome to Cailleach’s Chair, the meeting place for the Cult of Cailleach.
Why have I gathered us all here?
This is a complicated question, but let me start by saying this: I do not wish to grow old … not in our Western culture as it is today. To grow old today is to be forgotten, discarded, and marginalized. How sad it is to be old today; a lifetime of knowledge forgotten. A lifetime of know-how ignored. This is true for all of us, men and women, but it is especially true for women.
So, I stand here today and I declare proudly, I will not go “gently into that good night,” or “grow old gracefully.” When I was younger, I used to announce such silliness out of my inexperience of life and lack of practical wisdom:
“I will grow old gracefully!” I proudly declared, drinking as I did from the cool-aid. “I’m not going to be one of those old ladies who try to be twenty-one their entire life,” said I with my perky boobs standing tall and my taunt skin glistering with a new summer tan. “I will accept what was given to me, wrinkles and all.”
I was an idiot, and cool-aid is not nearly as tasty as mead.
Truthfully, parts of the above declaration is true: I do not want to be 21 again, goddess help me …. No. I do want to accept my place in the great cycle of life. But in truth, our society has a different spin on the phrases: “go gently into that good night,” and “grow old gracefully,” and I find the spin offensive. These phrases, in practice, no longer mean accepting and honoring the great cycle of life; rather, in practice older people, middle age onward, are asked to disappear quietly, allowing the younger generation to stand tall, while the older generation is shuffled away from their jobs (old faces don’t sell), and hidden away into retirement communities or, for those of us with little money, state-run institutions. I’ve seen it, more often than not; and unlike dear Hamlet, I have no interest in shuffling off “this mortal coil.” Besides, this model is not sustainable, nor is it helpful to our world, culture, species, or younger generations.
It is time to take back and to re-embrace a better way of doing things. What that better way is, I am not sure, which is one of the functions of this blog: to discover a more sustainable model. As I grow older, I have no desire to be the discarded “hag.” Nope. It is time to reclaim the magical, mystical, powerful crone/hag: the Cailleach.
Cailleach Bheare is the celtic image of the old mother, the hag, the magical crone, who is revered as a mythical being in Ireland (Caolainn or the Hag of Beare), Northern Ireland (Cailleach Bherri), Britain (Black Annis), Scotland (Cailleach Mor), and the Isle of Man (Cailleach my Groamagh). In essence, she is known as a mountain mother, but is also given the title of the queen of the Limerick fairies, and is understood as the mother to the gods (she has the name Boi when she was the wife of Lugh – Irish god of Light). And, as you might guess, she controls the weather in the winter months as she too is in her declining years. Interesting enough, she is not always old, but passes yearly through the cycle of age, from youth to old age, representing both renewal and death, the journey from ignorance and deep wisdom. She returns yearly on Samhain, October 31st to you and me, and will leave with the warming weather, placing her staff under a holly bush before turning to stone herself, hibernating and regenerating for the next round of life … the next year.
I will write more on this image as the blog progresses, but it is enough to point out her usefulness as an alternative image to age, especially female aging, compared to the one we have now: the quiet old woman complacently taking her place in a rocking chair, lap ready for brief visits from her grandchildren*. Not that there is anything wrong with having a grandchild on your lap, but surely the middle-aged and older generation has more to offer the world than a lap to rest in. Cailleach moved mountains because she had the knowledge, the wisdom to figure out how to do such a feat. Let’s tap that wisdom … please!
This blog is about sustainability and wisdom. It’s about what we have to offer in the way of wisdom regarding these topics from an older persons point of view, middle-aged to the crone. And the focus is on women writers, but this does not mean that posts from guest male writers will not appear on these pages. Although I would like to create a space for women to be able to share their understanding regarding sustainability, sustainability itself is not a one sided affair. Feminism, in all its facets, must inherently include the masculine element, or the movement is doomed before it begins. But the voices of older women are easily lost in our world, and so I would like to make this space the space of Cailleach – in somewhat the tradition of the Cult of Cailleach, which has a long tradition in different parts of the Celtic world. The cult consisted of older women who gathered together to under the cloak of nature, magic, and wisdom.
So, I welcome you to the 21st century Cult of Cailleach. Take a seat, feel free to drape my yellow robe about you if you are cold, and stay a while for the magic about to unfold.
*I say this, but also offer a nod of homage to the great Golden Girls, who were not complacent!
Research based on the following:
Coulter, Charles Russell, and Patricia Turner. 2000. Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. Pp. 112-114.
Matthews, Caitlin, John Matthews, and Caitlin Matthews. 2003. Walkers between the worlds: the Western mysteries from Shaman to Magus. Rochester, Vt: Inner Traditions International.
O’Brien, Lora. 2005. Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books.