Responsible people build –Robert K. Greenleaf

Greenleaf writes: … ‘all’ of my generation are not hopeless – just some.  Don’t write us off.  Rather make note that some crucial roles in remaking the world to bring it more in accord with virtue and justice, with our own hearts, can best be carried on by ‘old’ people.  If you really want to use your life well, if remaking the world concerns you ‘now,’ file a little mental ticket to the effect that ‘some’ of what you can do about it can best be done when ‘you’ are old, and some whose leadership you should now be following are old.  …in old age, they can do what striving people cannot do.  Had John XXIII been made Pope at fifty rather than at eighty, he might not have left his great mark upon the world.  He might have been too enmeshed in the bureaucracy, too concerned with his place in it.  He would have had to think of living with his mistakes for another thirty years.  At eighty he could rise above these concerns. 

But the sensitivity, the strength, the mature humanity needed to play his great role were not suddenly bestowed upon John at eighty.  These attributes were the fulfillment of a life style that was set in his youth, and he nourished them, kept them alive, through sixty years of bureaucratic participation.  He was a great human being all of his long life because he made some important choices when he was young. 

To what extent does our culture in the United States seek out those who are ‘eighty-wise’?   In what ways do we provide those between the ages of 14-60 (to pick an age range) access to those who are ‘eighty-wise’?   Sitting here this morning I can only think of one ‘eighty-wise’ person I know (and this person I do not know well).  I can image a number of folks who are in their 70s and whom I deem to be ‘wise.’  Some authors whose words continue to deeply influence my thinking wrote in their 80s (Tolstoy comes to mind); many others, however never lived long enough to celebrate an 80th birthday.

I do remember John XXIII.  I was deeply moved by his commitment to ‘open the doors’ and let fresh air in – along with the Holy Spirit.  The current Pope, Francis, although he is not eighty-wise is also committed to letting some more fresh air in – along with the Holy Spirit.  The Roman Church is a great example of an aged bureaucracy; one that needs to be challenged by those who possess ‘eighty-wise’   thinking.  For me, an irony is that many of the folks in the Roman Church bureaucracy who are in their 70s and 80s are rigid bureaucrats and will continue to resist, if not abhor, the fresh-air (perhaps even the Holy Spirit).

How might we seek out, invite, and learn from the voices of the ‘eighty-wise’?  How might we then connect those between ages 14-60 with the ‘eighty-wise’?

Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead is the watchword of the wise –Goethe

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