Spiritual growth is possible
long after other forms of growth are past.
However it changes, spirituality
is a domain of humanity
in which the quest for wholeness and holiness

is a lifelong developmental task.
~ David Moberg

PROFILE

Huston Smith celebrated his 90th birthday in 2009 by publishing his autobiography —  Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine. Born of Christian missionary parents in China, this authority on the world’s religions has spent a lifetime practicing, savoring, and teaching them. He has been professor of religion and philosophy at Syracuse University and California-Berkeley.

Smith has written 15 books, most notable of which are his bestselling The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (two million copies sold, 60 reprintings) and prize-winning Why Religion Matters. He calls himself a Christian who has learned much from the other wisdom traditions. His driving conviction is that “the single destination of sanctity could admit of so many different avenues leading to it.”

Now, residing in assisted living, Smith continues to practice the morning discipline of reading scripture, doing yoga, expressing gratitude, praying for others and himself, and meditating. He affirms that: “We are born in mystery, we live in mystery, and we die in mystery.”

Huston Smith Quotations

In order to live, man must believe in that which he lives.

The most powerful moral influence is example.

Religion teaches us that our lives here on earth are to be used for transformation.

Institutions are not pretty. Show me a pretty government. Healing is wonderful, but the American Medical Association? Learning is wonderful, but universities? The same is true for religion… religion is institutionalized spirituality.

If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.

Understanding, then, can lead to love. But the reverse is also true. Love brings understanding; the two are reciprocal. So we must listen to understand, but we must also listen to put into play the compassion that the wisdom traditions all enjoin, for it is impossible to love another without hearing that other. If we are to be true to these religions, we must attend to others as deeply and as alertly as we hope that they will attend to us.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT – ROLES FOR OLDER WRITERS

Prologue

How can we language lovers contribute to our communities?  This is the first article of a regular column on this topic.

Let me begin by reflecting on my own activities.  Continuing my professional work in partial retirement, I give talks and write articles on communication and aging. Maintaining this website and writing the monthly blog enable me to reach a broader audience of writers and potential writers. Featuring older writers is central to my talks and writings, as well as to the Writing Down Our Years Series of publications.

Service Opportunity #1 – Visiting Library Services

As an avid reader, I take library materials to homebound seniors and residents in long-term care through Visiting Library Services.   Large print books are popular, but some readers need alternate formats.  I especially enjoy the patrons who listen to talking books. With vision loss, they are particularly grateful for the service and more likely to be engrossed in their ‘books’ any hour of the day. What surprised me most about this service is that some patrons are unable to hold books – they can read magazines or listen in audio format.  Through an initial checklist, the library selects materials for patrons. However, the volunteer often passes along preferences for specific titles, authors, and topics.  Patrons who wish may make their selections via the Internet.  Some of the interactions when delivering and collecting books are brief and businesslike – others become warm, mutually rewarding conversations between book lovers.

Invitation to Tell Your Story

I would appreciate hearing from you about community activities specifically related to love of language.

FOLLOWING OUR PASSIONS

Lifespan research demonstrates that engagement with life, or living on purpose, is central to longevity and aging with spirit.  Engaging in activities we enjoy and give meaning is key.  Very often, identifying such activities is a primary part of adjustment to retirement. Spiritual writers call us to choose both inner work and service to others. For life on purpose, they also urge us to find those activities which fit us specifically, rather than be drawn in to doing what others expect.

The psychological research of Robert Vallerand of the University of Quebec at Montreal adds another consideration. Older adults, like young adults, show higher subjective well-being for harmonious passionate activities but lower subjective well-being when engaging in obsessive passions.  Although some activities are more likely to become obsessions (e.g., gambling), other passions such as physical exercise, basketball, music, or genealogy can be either harmonious or obsessive for an individual at a particular time.

Passion for living, then, depends on regular self-reflection – a good reason for writing in a journal.

WEBSITES:  AGING ON PURPOSE

The Sage-ing™ Guild
Second Journey
The Center for Conscious Eldering

Life Planning Network

Eldering & Wisdom in Action

WRITING EXERCISE TO TRY

The exercise, known as Searching for Pittsburgh, involves two steps: first making a list of 4-8 places you might search for; second, writing for 10 minutes about searching for your chosen place.  Write quickly, keeping your pen moving. Whenever your thought ends, begin again with the same ‘searching for’ phrase.  Another time, you might write about one of the other places on your list.

Here is my poem – crafted from fast writing just before my trip to Japan and inspired by the famous haiku by Basho.

Searching for Kyoto

QUOTATIONS

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
~ William James

I think the act of writing can change lives and save souls.
I’ve seen it happen.
~ Elaine Farris Hughes

As I write I create myself again and again.
~ Joy Harjo

Until next time, I will say ‘Adieu’ with a sunrise photograph from our mid-winter interlude by the ocean,

Ellen