The Poetic Memory IV

By Stu Whitley

This is the fourth post in a four-part series.

It may be that memory is the Well of Wisdom: this idea is central to Celtic mythology. In Celtic lore, the well is situated at the centre of the Otherworld, the spiritual source, the land of the dead. Where it gushes up, pilgrims drink from it using a skull as a vessel, thereby creating a direct link with the dead. At the well of Llandeilo in Dyfed, Wales, this practice continued into the twentieth century. The skull was said to be that of St. Teilo, the ruins of whose church loomed over the well itself. The voices of the wells, usually feminine, were released in dreams. Keepers of the wells were considered to be oracles, dispensing analyses of past conduct, future guidance and even the whereabouts of lost objects. The image of a well as memory seems apt: if we had the capacity to let down our bucket sufficiently deeply, what universal truths might we find? I think it’s arguable whether we have enough rope on the well’s spool. The intuitive proof of this lies in the toss of the coin accompanied by a wish that, at one time or another, has gripped the imagination of all of us: the wisdom of sacred water. I sit silently beside a dark well so deepthe splash of tokens echoes faintlylike distant, mocking laughtereach arcing coin that tumbles undercarries a wish for, what? serenity?

I wrote of the ‘editorial memory’. By that, I mean the mind’s capacity
to organize thoughts into their essential message, to synopsise, cull,
re-frame or otherwise adjust what we have heard or experienced so that
we can cope with it, or at least participate in the filing of
particular things. This is not always helpful: after all, we may be
contumaciously dismissive of something that turns out to be quite


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Aging as a Conversation II

By Elizabeth Russell

View the first post in this two-part series.

The conversation about age begins when we are born and continues throughout life. It may be written or spoken. It may come from our mothers (who heard it from their mothers) or it may come from people who have studied other people in order to make profound pronouncements. Whatever the source, it is all conversation. And labels are one element of the conversation—labels we give to everything, labels that carry weight and are endowed, over the years, with meaning such as young, old, immature, stodgy, etc.

Those who engage in the conversation don’t make it
up. It is a given, running through all the channels—parents, peers,
school, television, advertising, public and private institutions. From
this conversation we learn there are things we can do at five that we
can’t do when we are seven, responsibilities we have at 15 that we
don’t have at 10, privileges we acquire at 21 we don’t have when we are


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For a long time, I have had the point of view that one of the biggest problems of aging in our contemporary culture is that it leads most people towards a ‘state of resignation’. Resignation is the mood we can get caught in when we ‘give up’, when we stop living into the future as possibility. It is the mood of succumbing to the belief that circumstances are bigger than we are. It is a mood of defeat that generates comments like: “Why bother since we can’t do anything about it anyway?”

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Something Higher at 60

By Shae Hadden

It’s my pleasure to begin this series of portraits with the story of a
man who has inspired me to persevere with my commitment to exercise
regularly since I met him two years ago. When I decided to begin this
column, I immediately thought of Richard Gauntlett as the epitome of a
person who is redefining the culture of aging through his actions.

don’t have to a specialist or a particularly great athlete to
accomplish your

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My father and I drove from Arizona to the Northwest last week and we are now enjoying a relaxed week together along with my daughter and her husband. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend whatever time I can with family. I think that, as we get older, our appreciation for our children and parents expands. At the same time, I can also see that I can become ‘stuck’ in a kind of ‘family-get-together-pattern’. Not that this is bad, but it is different than how I might normally spend a

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Poetic Memory III

By Stu Whitley

This is the third post in a four-part series. 

What may be demonstrated as a biological truth is intuitively understood as we grow older. We become less egocentric, more aware that the world has many centres of the universe besides our own, and that in some mysterious way, these centres are all linked. In the mature adult, we recognize as poets have before us, that we are round people on a round earth, cognizant of being interwoven in a circular web of connection with all human beings, which is among other things to understand interdependency, forgiveness and the nature of healing. Hugo wrote: “We are never done with conscience. Choose your course by it…it is bottomless, being God.” And what is conscience if not memory? Memory, that is, linked to consequences. No one can divine the future with any exactitude. Yet we are capable of discerning the truths that help guide us to it; I believe that those truths are at least in part found in our collective memory.

the other hand, I am dismayed by the thought that the lessons I think
I’ve already learned, and learned well, must incessantly be
reconsidered and learned yet again, as if unremembered. All my life so
far, particularly as one who is trained and experienced in the
machinery of the law, I have understood the need to hew to certainty
and precision. It has been expected of me, if for no other

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Body Beautiful

By Shae Hadden

Summer has finally arrived here in the Pacific Northwest, and with it the seasonal display of beachwear trends. No matter what the fashionistas may be sporting on the runways, the beaches are where the reality of the North American body is exposed for all to see. Most of us attempt to do what’s possible, given our lifestyles during the winter. We’re not there just for the sun and surf. We’re trying to look the best we possibly can with the bodies we have so we can attract attention, whether for purposes of relationship or just plain admiration.

had always hoped there’s more going on here at the beach than just the
mating, dating and gawking games. But watching where everyone focuses
their attention in the throng of volleyball-playing, swimming,
strolling and picnicking crowds seems to prove me wrong. The natural
attraction seems to be to the trim, fit, energized bodies being
displayed in all their glory. Few look at bodies exposing belly fat,
pale flesh and flab. As I grow

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Most of us are fans of the idea of ‘dialogue’. Dialogue is generally touted as the answer for resolving conflicts, building trust and crossing cultural divides of all kinds—be they national, organizational, ethnic, racial, gender-based or generational. I was having a conversation recently with a very bright young woman in the same business as me and we were swapping stories and ideas and experiences.

Although we are both professional communicators and teach others how to communicate more

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You Make Me Who I am

By Don Arnoudse

I read a very sad story about Richard W. Daly, a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in the Boston Globe last week. Under the headline “Legislator faded away, died alone” was the report that he had been found next to his bed by his landlord. He had been dead about a week. The Globe reported: “He
was a 32-year-old freshman legislator, impeccably dressed in a
pinstripe suit, crisp button-down shirt, and bow tie, when he strode
through the halls of the State House almost 40 years ago…. Those who
knew Daly then have been remembering that part of his life as they
prepare to bury a man who apparently left no money for his own funeral
and had no known relatives to claim his body…a virtual recluse (who had
been) living in a $130-a-week rooming house."

live in a country that deifies the hardy, self-sufficient
individual—the person who asks for nothing, owes nobody anything, and
“does it their own way” without compromising to others. We have
extended our legal definition of individual rights to an overall
definition of what it means to be human. Bad mistake.

My friend Mark introduced me to the traditional African concept of ubuntu, a very different philosophy that focuses on people’s

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