We learned a new vocabulary, learned a new perception about how to take responsibility for our own meaning and purpose. In an oral examination in a graduate program in education, I was asked to define the existential moment: that moment in which an individual becomes consciously aware of his/her own meaninglessness...and thereby must take responsibility for seeking and finding that meaning and purpose.
Responsibility for meaning included, at least in my case, responsibility for any degree of authenticity, integrity, a searching through reflection for whatever might be hidden behind the appearances in the fullness of the reality underneath... and that all was enabled and enhanced through the exercise of both reading and writing. Did the fact that I had a golden opportunity for such exploration each day of the week in an English classroom of adolescents between 16 and 19? Of course!
Did the fact that I also had an opportunity to conduct face-to-face interviews with local, provincial and national political leaders as a free-lance journalist provide additional insight into the motives and the various perceptions of those thought leaders? Of course.
Did the fact that after twenty-plus years of teaching and coaching, I was afforded the opportunity to enrol in a seminary to prepare for the role of a cleric offer additional interactions, reflections, readings, papers and internships provide additional insights into both my own inner reality and glimpses of the emotional lives of many others, in real time? Of course.
Did the opportunity to work in both urban and rural environments in both Canada and the United States, as an intern, a counselling student, and as a neophyte cleric provide additional glimpses into how the institutional church operates in both countries? Of course.
And did the time line that links these experiences also link a developing self-awareness plus a self-confidence that was almost totally missing when the journey began, and parallels a growing sense of outrage both at my early compliance and conformity with all the many dumb impositions of authority by supervisors, bosses, even the occasional professor and also at the many absurdities and incongruities that parade before our eyes, ears, noses and consciousness daily? Or course.
Writing, reading, interacting with others about things that neither of us might have considered previously...and riding...these are some of the ways I have found to occupy my time, in the hope that I might retain some connection with those activities to which I have grown familiar and comfortable, even though the experiences themselves need not be without challenge or some discomfort.
Each of us has our own road and our own story about entering the seventh decade of life on this planet....that is a minuscule part of mine...in the hope that others will take the many opportunities that do not cost an arm and a leg and continue to live a robust, vital and engaging life making those contributions where invited and offering those insights where opportunities emerge....
As others have said so often, "This getting old is not for the faint-of-heart!"
Baby boomers are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Why?
The highest rates were among white and Native American and Alaskan men. In recent years, deaths by suicide has surpassed deaths by motor vehicle crashes.
By Tara Bahrampour The Washington Post, in Toronto Star, June 4, 2013
To those growing up in the 1950s and '60s, America seemed to promise a limitless array of possibilities. The Great Depression and World War II were over; medical innovations such as the polio vaccine and antibiotics appeared to wipe out disease and disability; the birth-control pill sparked a sexual revolution. The economy was thriving, and as they came of age, boomers embraced new ways of living — as civil rights activists, as hippies, as feminists, as war protesters.
"There was a sense of rebelliousness, of 'I don't want to live the way my parents did or their parents did,' " said Patrick Arbore, director and founder of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention at San Francisco's Institute on Aging. "There was a lot of movement to different parts of the country. With that came a lot of freedom, but there also came a loss of connections. It was not uncommon to see people married three or four times."
How did a generation that started out with so much going for it end up so despondent in midlife? It could be that those very advantages made it harder to cope with setbacks, said Barry Jacobs, director of behavioral sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program in Pennsylvania.
"There was an illusion of choice — where people thought they'd be able to re-create themselves again and again," he said. "These people feel a greater sense of disappointment because their expectations of leading glorious lives didn't come to fruition."
Instead, compared with their parents' generation, boomers have higher rates of obesity, prescription and illicit drug abuse, alcoholism, divorce, depression and mental disorders. As they age, many add to that list chronic illness, disabilities and the strains of caring for their parents and for adult children who still depend on them financially.....
Baby boomers, on the other hand, have struggled more with existential questions of purpose and meaning. Growing up in a post-Freudian society, they were raised with a new vocabulary of emotional awareness and an emphasis on self-actualization. But that did not necessarily translate into an increased ability to cope with difficult emotions — especially among men.
Women tend to be better connected socially and share their feelings more freely — protective factors when looking at their risk for suicide. And African-Americans and Hispanics tend to have lower rates of suicide than whites, possibly because of stronger community connections, or because of different expectations.
Combine high expectations with a faltering economy, and the risk goes up.
"We know that what men want to do is work — that's a very strong ethic for them," Arbore said. "When their jobs are being threatened, they see themselves as still needing to be in that role; they feel ashamed when they're not able to find another job, or when their home is being foreclosed on. . . . The idea that so many of us in this country have been brought up with — that you work hard, you get your house, you get your American dream, everything is rosy — it hasn't worked out. A lot of these boomers aren't going to earn as much money as their parents did. They aren't going to be as secure as their parents were. And that's quite troubling for the boomers."