Song for Marion: this film has powerful lessons for older men

 Men's Interest  Comments Off on Song for Marion: this film has powerful lessons for older men
Jan 012017

This is an intense, moving, ultimately hopeful film, and it’s a superb example of the bogs of anger and self-isolation that many older men get stuck in.

The film’s focus is an elderly couple, played to perfection by Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp.  One of the delights of this movie for us oldies is to see two great stars still in their prime as they themselves get well into old age.

Like me, you may remember vividly Terence Stamp as Sergeant Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd.  Here, as Arthur, there’s a powerful mix of character, strength, and decay.  Arthur has clearly spent most of his adult life in anger, resentment, and deep fear of opening up to others – even his son, convincingly played by Christopher Ecclestone.

One of the shocks of the film is to see how much Terence Stamp has aged: now he’s white-haired and balding.  It’s useful for us oldies in the audience to turn this back on ourselves, and give ourselves loving, acceptance as we age.

Marion, played by Vanessa Redgrave, is Arthur’s wife: she loves him as he is, and makes his life work: for example, she’s the one who keeps the family talking to each other.  As her health declines, we see one of the classic shipwrecks for older men: Arthur has depended on her social skills, and without them, he digs himself deeper into isolation and depression.

One of the few times we see Arthur cheerful is on his weekly night out at the pub with a few male friends.  But he doesn’t know how to reach out to them, and vice versa.  Arthur’s recovery from the shipwreck arises from unexpected sources, which I won’t reveal.

Some reviewers have disliked this film as sentimental: I believe that’s overlooking the real depth of the main characters and their interaction.  Parts of the film are annoyingly flimsy, but they at least soften the gut-wrenching impact of the central drama.  I’d urge you to see it, and don’t be ashamed to take a fresh handkerchief.

Exploring elderhood at Findhorn Foundation

 Maturing Happily  Comments Off on Exploring elderhood at Findhorn Foundation
Jan 012017

Rich, expansive, poignant, nurturing and more…

In February 2013, I brought a vision to fruition: co-leading a week-long programme at Findhorn Foundation on elderhood.  My co-facilitator Ineke and I, had high hopes for the week, which were more than fulfilled: a tribute to the quality of our participants, to the magic of this spiritual community, and the great support we received from the community there.

We hoped to explore elderhood on the inner and outer, individual and collective levels, and amply fulfilled this hope.  We dug below the fear and denial so common about ageing and dying, and recognised the gifts and joys of elderhood, as well as the losses.  As one participant said, “When time and energy are limited, and health is variable, it’s an invitation to live wisely, focus on what really matters, enjoy every moment.”

We used a wide range of approaches, including sharings, meditations, solo time, storytelling, sacred dance, and some inspiring sessions with elders’ organisations around Findhorn.  The work of a few Findhorn elders in running the Community Care Circle is especially impressive: includes organising paid and voluntary care for those who need it, building care flats for those whose own home is unsuitable, and providing training and practical advice on many aspects of ageing, including how to receive care.

One of the most powerful experiences of the week was when our group joined the weekly Elders Meditation in the main Sanctuary.  There was such power and character in the silent presence of nearly thirty elders, with a combined age around 2000 years.  For me it highlighted a sense that the beauty of elderhood is about the emergence of full, authentic individuality, and its miraculous interweaving with others.

Findhorn is a good role model of a community which already includes and supports its elders pretty well.  Our schedule enabled our participants to enjoy this, for example Taize singing every morning, movement classes for oldies, shared meals in the community centre, sacred dance and other shared events in the evenings.

It was very satisfying to find that our week helped the whole Findhorn community to recognise and appreciate what it already does to support the elders, and also to recognise and start working on what more could be done.  For example, it would be great if the loving and personal quality of care already provided on a small scale could be expanded more widely, and if this became a role model for mainstream society.  This is one of various ideas which I and others are now exploring.  Perhaps a good summary of the whole week is this comment from one participant, “From this week I have the sense that ‘we have to do something’, and also that ‘all is well’.  I like both feelings.”