Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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Valuing Elder Wisdom
Some people make fun of older people. Others dismiss them as incompetent and worthless. There are countless images in media of doddering older people.
As we age, we may lose some muscle mass, and some bone density. But for many of us past eighty years old, we are still pretty sharp in the brain department. Many elders over eighty have amassed an incredible amount of information.
I am a Caucasian male, with Jewish roots. Because I have lived this long, I have awealth of experiences and information. I have read well over 3,000 books in my lifetime. Some were assigned by teachers and professors, and others I have read on my own.
I have taken classes from famous and not-so-famous educators. Some of the famous ones included Abraham Maslow, Robert Bly, Carol Bly, Natalie Goldberg, Charles Nolte, Bruno Bettleheim, Philip Jackson, Phillip Slater, Jacob Getzels. You may not know about these professors, but they wrote books, taught many classes, and shared their wisdom with the world.
I have experienced being a professor in a small liberal arts college for 40 years, teaching education and sociology classes. I have written hundreds of letters of recommendation for other people.
I have been a Board member for a variety of organizations including the YMCA, Family Tree Health Center, Adler Graduate School, Clare's Well Spirituality Center.
I have lived on a farm. I have lived in cities. I have lived in the suburbs. I have been very poor economically, and have lived as a middle class person. I have had dozens of friends from a variety of classes, races, sexual orientations and ages.
I have presented more than three hundred workshops all over the US and Canada, written books, written hundreds of articles about personal growth and emotional well-being. I am part of three different websites, and have made several films, and You-Tube videos. I have won awards for my books and films.
I have had a counseling practice whereI have led men's support groups, women's groups, and couples' groups. I have been part of men's groups for almost 50 years.
I have been a son, brother, father, nephew, uncle, grandfather. I have been a full-time custodial single father.
I have experienced the loss of my parents, my grandparents, my sister, friends, family members, and pets. I taught a class called Death, Dying and Bereavement for twenty- three years. I have led grief groups.
I have explored a variety of religious belief systems including Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism.
I have had a variety of health challenges including irregulr heartbeat, other heart issues, two hip replacements, and some other surgeries. I lived in an incubator the first six weeks of my life.
Some of my causes are: civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, men's rights, elder rights, children's rights, care of the environment. I believe in empowering all people of all ages and backgrounds to have choices, live in dignity, and know their own lovablity and wisdom. I currently mentor more than forty people and help them making life choices and decisions.
I am against labeling and dividing people, stereotyping of all kinds, especially racial. As a child of the Universe, I celebrate my own complexity and resilience. I have overcome prejudice and bullying. I have lived through years of harassment and oppression.
So, don't try to categorize me. Don't assume I can't empathize or show compassion for those who suffer. Most of all, don't assume my work is done. And don't laugh at me because I may walk a little slower.
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