Philosophy in the Passage

I'm feeling in need of some light. Today, links to three wise elders, one alive, one who died last week, and one who has been gone for decades, but who continues to influence me.

Left to right: Mary Pipher, Erik Eriksen, Mary Oliver

First, Mary Pipher's New York Times op-ed piece was forwarded both to and from me, among friends. I even plowed though hundreds of comments, and saw how the experience of 'old age' (and even that of some much younger commenters) differs dramatically according to health, resources, and also (Pipher's premise) attitude and choice.

It is written from her life experience, and you might agree or not— but it is shot through with hope and optimism—and sister, I can use it: The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s.

Second, I return periodically to the of work Erik Eriksen to try to assess my own and others' development; we were not wholly and finally formed at eighteen, or thirty, or fifty. I enjoyed an article published in the aways interesting Aeon magazine,  by M M Owen: Erik Eriksen knew that self-invention takes a lifetime.

Finally, as you know, the world lost Mary Oliver, and so, her rapt dialog with the natural world. At one point in the '90s, I dreaded the inevitable moment when some woman just had to read "The Journey" at the umpteenth women's workshop—but that only speaks to Oliver's ability to nestle a depth charge within the simplest observation.

Today, the another poem seems a fitting way to commemorate her: "The Summer Day."

from "The Summer Day":

... "I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?"


Rita said…
Years ago, when I was going through a lot of changes in my life, I read Erik Erikson's "Identity, Youth and Crisis." I felt as though Erikson was speaking directly to me, as the book perfectly described the turmoil I was feeling.

Until, toward the end of the book he says that none of that applied to girls, because having a vagina and uterus supplied our identity needs. You can imagine the letdown I felt then. I've avoided anything of Erikson's since that time.
Madame Là-bas said…
I read the links in your blog and I thought that there is a lot of wisdom out there. Years ago, I read a book about a chance encounter
with Joan Erikson, the wife of Erik. As we get older, I think, we need to look for wiser role models. Positive aging is not about filling our lines or smoothing our bumps, it's about using the resilience that we have developed in our earlier years and accepting our lives .I was at my book club last night and I marvel a what a group of interesting and involved women I am spending time with. Not one is "a typical??? old lady. Your posts certainly have given me a lot to think about this month. not precisely philo, but relevant imho.
LauraH said…
Thanks for pointing me to Mary Pipher's article, I'll be passing it on to a few friends. My life at 65 (now officially a 'senior'...awful term) is pretty darn good and I have several older friends who serve as inspiring role models for what lies ahead. I agree that a great deal depends on attitude although it helps if you have enough money to cushion the blows. I've always believed that happiness lies in the little things in life, a beautiful blue sky as I'm walking down the street, hugs from a nephew, a call from a friend. Maybe those who are bolder look for other satisfactions.

Hope your January blues or blahs are on the mend. Recently working through a blue period of my own, I'm seeing how it has pushed me in some new positive directions. Hated the way I felt but maybe it was a necessary catalyst?
Duchesse said…
Rita: Dr. Erikson moderated that judgement before he died, at least at lectures I attended. Many philosophers and thought leaders of that time (he was born in 1902) held views that would be invalidated today, by further research and simply changing times. However, as late as 2014, Gail Sheehy, (who used some of his work in "Passages") spoke of her conviction that "women are different":

Mme Là-bas: The book is "A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom from an Unconventional Woman" by Joan Anderson. Anderson was on a "marriage sabbatical" and met Erikson on the beach; I enjoyed the book.

lagatta: Barbara Ehrenreich's "Natural Causes" is definitely on my list, and I have read so many reviews (including this one, and thanks for the link for those who have not), that I think I've received most of her points, but I'd like to read them in her own words.

LauraH: Thanks, feeling chipper on a sunny day! What term do you prefer to senior?
Lynn said…
I read Phiper's article when it came out and had several reactions. The first was similar to what I had when I was a teenager and people told me that I was in the best years of my life! I really hoped that was not true. The second was that I miss the "male gaze" and I liked being noticed. In the end though, I agree that if a person has at least reasonable resources, health and support old age isn't so bad!
LauraH said…
What term would I refer? I understand the convenience of the term to businesses and government, it's just not how I think of myself and others. You ask good questions!
Adele said…
I loved Mary Pipher's column! I mostly associated her with the work done for her book "Reviving Ophelia", which was particularly relevant to our household, having three daughters. I was delighted to read her column on the joys of being a woman in her 70's, and immediately put her most recent book, Women Rowing North on hold at the library.

Linda R said…
Dear Rita

Reading Carol Gilligan’s work “In A Different Voice” might give some context to your experiences with Erickson. I read her work in college some 30 years ago and was just blown away. I’ll relay my memory of her points which will I think be true to the gesture if not the details. Basically she says Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, the whole lot of them, did their whole research only on boys and men at men’s colleges, boys schools. And when women didn’t fit the model, they then basically said that women were defective. As I had recently been reading Margaret Mead, probably “Male and Female” among them, I was astounded. It was as if they had no knowledge of anthropology and cultural context. Gilligan further says that while women would seem to get stuck at an early stage in these models, no explanation would be offered when they magically skipped stages and finished at the final growth stages equal with men. Gillian posits that women have a different equally valid growth path. The simplified version is that fairness, equality, justice is the highest value for boys and compassion, not hurting another person, and connection are more important for girls. I think we are talking about 12 year olds. However everyone will have life experiences where only justice or only compassion is insufficient. The boys task is to integrate compassion and the girls task is to integrate justice. Arriving at similar development end points.

Gilligan gives an example of this from a psych test for young people. The question is: “Hans’ wife is dying and can’t afford the drug to save her life. Should Hans steal the drug?” . The boys reason that the life of Hans’ wife is more valuable than the rules/money so yes he should steal the drug and he passes the test easily. The girls think outside the box and ask “Why can’t Hans appeal to the druggist, community, or drug company?”, and do not necessarily pass the test and are seen as defective since they get stuck at this early stage. Gilligan’s work is to illustrate the girls’ development path by seeing how young women struggle with decisions where someone has to be hurt and they then are forced to wrestle with bringing fairness and reason into the balance of their decisions since sole compassion is now insufficient.

I don’t know why Gilligan’s name is not as much as household name as Erickson or Margaret Mead. Personally I thought her work mind blowing. But just as her work speaks to how girls’ and young women’s experiences have been dismissed and marginalized, the article of this thread speaks to how women suffer under these attitudes as they age and it just isn’t so.

Dear Rita , I hope you can find some context and understanding through Gilligan’s work. It helps me make sense of the male-culture-centric viewpoint of these psychologists so I can identify the male-centric nonsense when I see it and separate that from the useful ideas.

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