Posts Tagged ‘elders’

How we got here.

2009/11/20

Amazingly, we tend to ignore the bulk of human history when considering what is ‘natural.’  How humans lived for tens of thousands of years has imprinted itself in our genes, yet we ignore that programming, instead trying to live by what our culture says is ‘right.’  There are reasons for why we act the way that we do, feel the way that we feel, and they are not the result of the rise of patriarchal religions, or the Industrial Revolutions.  The conflicts that we experience are all too often the result of our genetic programming being at odds with our expectations.

Because humans did not have writing until very recently, little is known for sure about what life was like 20,000 years ago.  Anthropology is making great strides in uncovering the past, but its findings are still colored by modern cultural bias.  Case in point:  Hunter-gatherer societies.  When the European world discovered that there were societies in undeveloped parts of the world which survived by gathering and hunting, the male dominated society of the modern world automatically assumed that the males in those societies were the primary food providers, thus the label ‘hunter-gatherer.’  By studying the garbage of prehistoric peoples, we have discovered that they should have been called ‘gatherer-hunter societies.’  Hunting was not the primary means of getting food, but instead gathering was.

This has tremendous implications on our perceptions of ancient lifestyles.  Women were the ones who primarily did the gathering, from what we have been able to discern.  If women were the primary food providers, they would have been very important in the everyday life of a group.  It was not until the advent of agriculture that men became the primary food providers, which also was the time when male-dominated religions appeared, and the status of women diminished to that of domestic animals.

If a group of people depended on the able-bodied individuals to perform the necessary tasks of survival, that means that people of child-bearing years could not have been the primary caregivers of their children.  Spending time with your children was not a survival trait, because that would have kept you from carrying water, collecting fuel, gathering food, preparing it, and all the other things needed to keep the group going.  Perhaps this explains the affinity of very young children for the very elderly, because we are genetically wired to respond to those who would have been our primary caregivers for thousands and thousands of years.

Certainly, there are many other ways of explaining why parents and their children have so many difficulties, while those same children seem to respond to their grandparents and great-grandparents so much better.  We can attribute the desire of very young children to please the elderly to many things, but isn’t it easier to look at how humans lived for most of our existence?  Of course, this throws the concept of the ‘nuclear family’ as being the natural family unit out the window, which is not going to sit well today.  But the nuclear family is already endangered, as more and more people are raising children by themselves, or with their parents.

Looking at our behaviors in the context of what were survival traits for most of human evolution is, to me, the most logical way of determining what is ‘natural’ and ‘right’, not by using our cultures definitions.  The idea of ‘three square meals a day’ is no more natural than beating oneself with a stick every day.  It arose during the first industrial revolution, when people were only given one meal break during the work period.  Our bodies have evolved to eat small amounts of food all day long, not to process huge amounts all at once.  That is a biological fact, which cannot be changed no matter how much we want to believe otherwise.  I think that there are many more of them, which we have not discovered yet.

Candy, costumes, ghosts, and goblins

2009/10/09

The stores are bulging with candy to hand out on the upcoming pagan celebration at the end of the month.  This is probably the weirdest, most convoluted, mixed-up celebration in America, a day when we send our children out to do the exact opposite of what we normally tell them, a day when we want to be haunted, a day that everyone seems inclined to recognize.  What is this ‘all hallowed saints day eve’ celebration, any way?

Halloween, or All Hallowed Saints Day Eve, is the residue of one of the most spiritual of the ancient celebrations, or sabbats, on the witchcraft calendar.  As with other pagan holidays, what we know today is the Christian church’s attempt to bring the ancient celebration into the religious framework of the  church.  Christmas is another one, and some calendars still mark Candlemas on February 2nd.  These are celebrations which pre-date Christianity by thousands of years, and which are deeply ingrained in the psyche of people of Western European descent.

On the Wheel of the Year, early November is a time when Death is recognized and celebrated.  This sounds strange to us today, because Death has been ignored, hidden, and denied for most of modern history, but to ancient peoples, Death was as immediate, everyday, and essential as Life.  Without Death, Life cannot continue, for Life feeds on Death, and Death makes room for new Life.  Death was viewed as a doorway into another realm, not as an ending.  Death was not associated with any kind of judgment, nor with reward or punishment.  When people died, they became part of a spiritual realm, still able to influence the realm of the living, but removed from it.

Because the dead were considered to be still aware of the living, and able to influence events in the realm of the living, the living recognized the dead, venerated them, worshiped them.  The dead were remembered by the living, through rituals, story telling, the passing on of family heirlooms and treasures.  Because Death is all around us during the late Autumn, that was the time to remember and to cherish the dead.  It was commonly believed that the veil, or curtain, between the realm of the dead and the realm of the living was partially pulled back during that time, as the Life Force ebbed from the land.

Even today, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, a deeply ritualistic, formalized remembering of the ancestors.  In spite of the Christian church insisting that there was NO spirit realm, that the dead were unaware of the passage of time between their death and the Day of Judgment, many peoples in Western and Northern Europe clung to their ancient customs, afraid of offending their forebears by ignoring them.  This was the most spiritual time of the year, when many people experienced communion with dead persons, or at least, felt the presence of loved ones who had passed on.

In order for the Christian church to bring a celebration into the church, it had to designate a reason for it, a justification for the celebration.  With the Yule Tide, it was the fiction that Christ had been born on the day of the celebration of the return of the Sun, just after the Winter Solstice.  With the celebration in witchcraft of those who had passed on, an aspect of Life that we call Death, a catchall was created.  The holy day of November first is the celebration of the lives of any person who was considered a saint, even if they had never been sanctified by the church.  This all-inclusive category allowed family members to venerate loved ones, under the pretense that the loved one was ‘as a saint.’

That is the reason for the holy day, or holiday.  That is why ghosts are a part of the celebration.  But the spin that the Christian church put on the whole affair had nothing to do with the original celebration, or sabbat, and does not reflect its intent.  It was probably one of the most peaceful, loving, contemplative sabbats, of the eight on the Wheel.  People were already conserving their resources, knowing that there were many months to go before food would be easily found, and the weather often was cold and bleak.  Harvest celebrations, themselves a recognition of the importance of Death in life, had been held just a few weeks before, so people were not anxious to see each other, as they would be by the time of the Yule.  There was no evil associated with this time, no fear of the unknown.  We have created those things in modern times, perhaps out of our frustration at not being able to observe what was probably one of the oldest annual celebrations on the Wheel of the Year.

Health care, or wealth care? (Part two)

2009/08/14

Let us say that the unthinkable happens, and the United States adopts nationalized health insurance.  What will this mean?  For one thing, everyone will have to see a doctor at least once a year, and probably more often.  Regular check ups are the single best way of reducing health care costs, by catching problems early.  If a person is injured in an accident, at work, at home, commuting, or out partying, all of their expenses will be covered, including physical therapy.  Bankruptcies as a result of medical costs will cease, and case loads in Emergency Rooms will likely decline significantly.

Who needs the most health care?  The elderly.  As the emphasis in medicine shifts to preventative care from catastrophe care, the elderly will receive more care in terms of check-ups, tests, and evaluations.  Exercise and diet, along with social activities, will become medically directed, instead of individually initiated.  Health care will be about health instead of care.  The elderly are likely to gain in importance to the rest of us, because so many activities will be oriented around the them, because it is much easier to keep an elderly person healthy than it is to get them to recover after being seriously ill.

Extreme procedures, which can prolong life for a short time in an elderly person, or for many years in a younger person, will become rare, because few young people need extreme procedures, and we simply cannot afford to provide them to large numbers of people.  Quality of life will become more important than simply keeping a person alive a little longer, when they are unlikely to ever leave the hospital.  The elderly will be less likely to suffer from cross drug reactions, when a doctor monitors all of their care, instead of people being seen only be specialists.  Tests will become less common, as doctors opinions are not contradicted because of costs to an insurance company which threaten its profits.

Because the emphasis will be on preventing catastrophic illness, specialists will be in less demand.  Instead of expending huge amounts of resources to repair damage caused by lifestyle, huge amounts of resources will be spent changing lifestyles.  Most people have accepted that it is cheaper to wear a bicycle helmet than it is to hire a brain surgeon to repair the effects of a head injury.  Regular exercise is much cheaper than open heart surgery.  Preventing diabetes is much cheaper than treating it.

That isn’t the way things are right now because it is more profitable to deal with catastrophe than it is to prevent one.  Great strides are being made in the treatment of various disorders, but little progress has been made in learning how to get people to change their behavior to prevent the disorders in the first place.  If diabetes is becoming a national epidemic, shouldn’t we be focused on changing behaviors rather than accepting  higher disease rates?

bringing young and old together

2009/06/14

As the realization of how broke we all are sets in, perhaps we can contemplate some changes to save money.  We need new ways of doing things, ways which do not depend on the flagrant spending of money that we don’t have.  We need to look to the past, to see how thing were done before people could use energy so freely and easily.  We need to remember ways of living together which made us stronger, more unified, comfortable.  We need to be open to new ideas, willing to embrace change in the hope that we can learn from the results.  One such new idea is to hold day care classes at assisted living centers and nursing homes.

Currently, we are paying one group of people to take care of our kids, and another group of people to take care of our parents.  There was a time, not all that long ago, when our parents would have raised our children, while we were busy supporting both our children and our parents.  There were no such things as nursing homes, or day care, because those functions were performed within the family.  This is how culture was passed on, not through school.

A great many of the people who have been sentenced to a nursing home are still physically capable of looking after children, they just have some problem which their family did not want to deal with.  Having these people be involved in taking care of children, any children, would be beneficial for both the children and the elders.  And the children don’t have to be related to the elders, because children will accept almost any elder, and elders will accept almost any child.

Elders who actively participate in the care of the children could be compensated in some way, perhaps reducing the cost of their care that their family must cover, or receiving credit towards purchases.  Elders who merely interact with the children would not be considered employees of the day care, and would only receive the attention of young children.

Too many children today don’t know their grandparents, and there are children who have no idea what an elderly person looks like.  Far too many day cares merely take the children for a certain time, without much interaction between the workers and the children.  The children do not get an opportunity to discover what their heritage is, what it is that makes them who they are.

We can save money by having our elders do what they have traditionally done for most of human history, taking care of the children.  Doing so would also provide the benefits of young people learning about their culture, as well as seeing the world through the eyes of someone who has watched the world for a long time.

Saving a little money

2008/11/23

Now that folks are starting to realize that it is not just them, we are all broke, maybe we can start changing some wasteful practices.  Such as paying one set of people to take care of our elders, and another set of people to take care of our children.  Both functions were part of the family experience up until about 60 years ago, the elders taking care of the children, teaching them culture, history, manners, and social skills, until the children were old enough to start taking care of the elders, when they became infirm.  Today, we seperate these two groups, so that many young children never get to know really old people, and our elders pining their days away wishing that they could spend time with children,  Any children.

Many of the people who have been placed in assisted living or nursing facilities are alert, active, and interested in what is going on around them, they simply are in need of care which family members can’t, or won’t, provide.  They are capable of spending an hour or two a few days a week helping to watch over a group of children.  Not by themselves, of course, but with the assistance of young, able bodied people.  And not in the common room of the facility catering to the elders, but in a special, home-like setting, perhaps not even on the same grounds.  Elders could be compensated for their time, and the proceeds used to help defray the cost of their care.

Somehow, a way should be found to utilize the free time, culutural knowledge, and historical background of our elders in socializing our youth.  Very young children love to please elderly people, and elderly people love to spend time with very young children.  When these two populations are allowed to interact, the results are often far more positive than when either interacts with any other age group.  It is a waste to keep them segregated.