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Kiev: Update

Posted Jun 07 2009 11:55pm
By Jim Selman | Bio
I 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’.

In 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 point?”

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.
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