Kiev: Update

By Jim Selman | Bio

have enjoyed my short stay in Kiev immensely and am looking forward to
more exploring in this part of the world in future. I had the
opportunity to have fairly intensive conversations with only 60 or 70
people, representing a reasonable cross-section of the country (from
what I can tell). Aside from it being a very different culture (in
terms of language, alphabet, history and architecture), it was evident
to me that the people of the Ukraine share the same concerns, dreams
and issues that we have in our part of the world.

This may be
obvious to anyone who has lived and worked in different cultures around
the world. But for those of us who have not, we sometimes live with the
unchallenged assumption that our differences are larger than our shared
ways of being and our common concerns. For example, much of the success
of European/American enterprise has been based in the power of the
Cartesian Paradigm—the worldview that everything in the ‘objective’
world can be controlled and shaped to our ‘will’ (including people),
that the future can be predicted, and that scientific/rational
understanding is necessary for accomplishing any meaningful
undertaking. Largely because of the economic and material success of
the West, people throughout the world now share this worldview. We are
all Cartesian in our way of being. We are ‘Cartesian Beings’.

Kiev, I learned that the same notions of leadership and transformation
that I’ve been working with for the past 30 years or so are just as
applicable as they are in more familiar parts of the world. People in
the Ukraine are just as concerned about ‘getting out of the box’ and
just as committed to creating a future for themselves and their
children as we are. This does not mean our societies and histories are
the same: it only means we share a common vision of the future—whether we know it or not.
This common vision can form the basis for global solidarity and a world
that works for everyone when we, at the same time, appreciate and honor
our diversity and the uniqueness of our contributions.

I mentioned in my first Kiev post
the universal concern we have for the wellbeing of our parents and
grandparents as they age, as well as concerns for how we will grow
older and maintain active and empowering relationships with people of
all ages. When I shared some of the conversations we’ve been having
about Eldering with the Russian, Moldavian and Ukrainian participants
in the workshop I was leading, you could hear a pin drop. The questions
and sharing around this topic were intense and often profound. The
bottom line: “If most people (or even a majority of people) are
destined to live out 20% or 30% of their lives in some state of
decline, loss, fear, poverty, isolation and suffering, then what is the

The conversation is not just about social welfare,
public institutions and how to care for the old. The question is a
philosophical one, since ‘old’ is a state of mind and people can fall
into the deterministic and predictive mindset at any age and begin to
become resigned that they have no power, no choices and no
possibilities of creating a different reality for themselves and their
communities. This is in spite of the fact that many societies and other
cultures have very different attitudes and points of view about growing
older and what it means to be ‘old’. Dan Buettner’s recent research* on
areas of the world with high concentrations of centenarians reveals how
having a purpose, a committed lifestyle and active relationships with
people from every generation can result in communities in which growing
older is not only positive, but also an expansive time of life. As I
have said since the first posting on this blog three years ago, one of
the two primary goals of Eldering is to have the last day of life have
as much possibility as the first. The second goal is to have Elders and
‘Youngers’ be able to communicate and collaborate in creating a world
that works for everyone.

There is no doubt that this is a vision
shared by my new friends in Kiev and moves us another step toward
fulfilling this vision in our lifetime.

* For more information, check out his book called the Blue Zones or visit his website.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.