When looking at the definition of the word “wisdom” -‘having or showing experience, knowledge and good judgment’ – I have to honestly say it seems not much of that applies to me at age 65. Perhaps real wisdom will come in the decades after 65 if I am lucky enough to experience them. I am though relatively content with where I am with how I move in the world and my overall view of it despite the fact that I don’t appear to be offering up much to the eventual survival of the species.
I do think though I have a bit of wisdom incorporated into my nursing work and I do believe that a level of true compassion, as opposed to the often politically correct ‘idiot compassion’, has over four decades been slowly ripened and gets expressed in perhaps actually helping the folks seeking health care I run into these days. This involves an approach I really started to only hone in the early 1990’s in the AIDS Clinic at Denver Health and supported by the philosophical writings of my favorite nursing theorist Margaret Newman. I have I think shared this quote from Newman’s work in the past but here it is again: “The responsibility of the nurse is not to make people well, or to prevent their getting sick, but to assist people to recognize the power that is within them to move to higher levels of consciousness”.
A recent example of this in practice is offering to take certain select friends to see the documentary Fed Up currently playing at the Mayan Theatre. Rather than continued harping at them about how their diet is fueling their metabolic syndromes and in certain case frank diabetes, I am simply facilitating their exposure to this wonderful film and maybe some of it will hit home and get incorporated into changes in their diets. Though an after movie stop at Gigi’s Cupcakes at 6th and Grant makes me wonder if I didn’t just piss away a ten dollar movie ticket and in the interest of full disclosure that would be my ten dollar ticket I am talking about. Hey, when it comes to taking direction from almost any nurse it is best not to do what we do but rather do what we say. Or perhaps more in the spirit of Margaret Newman look at where we are pointing to and see what might be over there for you.
I’d like to change gears a bit here and turn my focus from cupcakes to acronyms and an application to today’s topic of wisdom. Our Story telling Group is part of the S-A-G-E activities offered by the Center. SAGE is an acronym that stands for “Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders”. That is pretty much a big snooze as far as I am concerned. I would much rather have us referred to as “sages” all small letters and no acronym even alluded to. The acronym, SAGE, also seems to heavily imply that we are a group in need of advocacy and services. There is certainly no denying that some of us queer elders are in need of both service and advocacy at least at certain times during our golden years. However, it is much more appealing to me to be recognized as a sage with much to offer the larger queer world than a member of a group called SAGE focused on providing advocacy and service.
One definition I ‘Googled’ on for a sage is someone “having, showing or indicating great wisdom”. Well I think its time we all accepted that definition and put on the mantle of sage. Again to cop a bit to Margaret Newman I think many of us around this table are very capable of helping our LGBT brothers and sisters to recognize the power that is within them to move to higher levels of consciousness.
One form this might take is embedded in idea that Phil and I have been lightly kicking around for sometime and that might be an e-book perhaps, an anthology of stories from this group from those of you who have come to openly queer consciousness in your SAGE years.
There has been so much wisdom expressed in many stories I have heard here but I am often most moved and impressed with those coming out stories being shared by folks who have come out in the last 10-15 years and much more recently for a few. These stories would I think be a great benefit and succor to those other elders contemplating this same leap. There is an old Zen saying: ‘leap and a net shall appear”. What a great gift of a net these stories could be for someone deciding at 50 or 60 or 70 to come out as queer.
I have shared many of my own coming out experiences primarily from the late sixties but really how much would a 60 year old today relate to my crazy ass stories of fucking with my high school mentor in the biology lab of a Catholic prep school on a Good Friday afternoon no less. Rather people relating stories of coming to queerness out of long and often very happy heterosexual unions often resulting in offspring during the swirling years of gay liberation, AIDS, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and marriage equality would most likely resonate much more than tales of hallucinogenic trips at the bathhouses of the 1970’s.
So in closing I would like to anoint us all as the true sages we are and push us a bit to start sharing our deep wisdom about the many areas of life we have occupied, particularly the queer corners.