Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Need for Vertical Relationships: Rebuilding Present World

Our world is dealing with a big problem of verticality. We are the only mammals that live fully upright, and yet we look forward. We see the horizon, our view is horizontal, and yet we come up out of the earth as vertical beings. Our spirit extends skyward towards the sun, the heavens, and the sky Gods. Our feet touch the earth wherein dwells the Earth Goddess, the Great Mother. We are spirit of sky and soul of earth. Our physical body crosses from earth below to sky above. Our very composite self is dwelling in the under and upper worlds at once and yet we seem to walk through time horizontally, from past through present and into future. We are caught in a dilemma of the crossing of vertical and horizontal. We talk of a third eye that perhaps sees above, but the physical eyes are looking forward. In time, we all die into the dust of the ground, all our molecules decaying and scattering about the soils of the earth. And then also something in is said to simultaneously extend upward towards a reunion with sky and a communion with Spirit. Our death will mean a movement down and a movement up. Again we are destined to verticality of movement, but today we walk across the earth, horizontally, parallel to the ground.

Ancient peoples had a perception of the times past as being home to ancestors who once dwelt among us on earth, and they view times ahead as the domain of grandchildren, the important generations who will come after us. We living ones are seen as standing within time, yet connected in a most conspicuous way with our past and our future through ancestors before and descendents ahead. In real-time living then, there is a clear verticality in the honoring of elders by the young, and the undeniable responsibility to youth among the aged. There is a strong consideration of generations as being bridged vertically through meaningful relationships based in trust and respect. Young people feel the guidance of the aged ones, looking upward across generations with inquisitive and trustful eyes. The elders dutifully glance downward through generations with knowingness, giving wisdom and embracing the vitality of youth just as they temper and harness it with fearless commitment. The tribe is kept alive when vertical relationships are continuously nurtured and sustained.

Today, in Present World, most social relationships are so definitively horizontal. There is an extreme segregation within our schools, those public institutions that consistently group everyone by chronological age. Same-age peers pass the hours together at every step of the way. At the delicate age of transitions –adolescence- peers guide peers, while distrusting the many adults who purvey a most desolate example of maturity and eldership. And grown-ups avoid such young people, fear them even, fear their intensity and their anger, default postures largely cultivated by a society that abandons them when they most need guidance.

The cultural glorification of youth, evidenced in our advertising and media, suggests this is the only meaningful period of life. When billboards show elders, they are pitching arthritis medications, cruise ship tours, or retirement homes. The old ones have no real purpose anymore. Yet they hold the key to a restoration of cultural sanity. They are the wise ones. They have lived and seen hardship, overcome obstacles, and they possess the stories. Our elders must seek out young people, whether at the family reunion, the block party, the schools, wherever they can. Our mature and aged carriers of deep wisdom must cultivate the vertical relationships that have been stolen so recently in our human past.

Once we reconnect vertically across the generations, we will begin to understand the blessing of ancestors, the meaning of the life-stories of heroes, the importance of those who will come after us, look up to us, and learn from us. Our disconnect from the past and future can be healed by connecting with the living past and the living future, which is what happens when elders mentor youth in Present World.