Human beings are living longer.
We are walking further along the highway of life's experiences than any prior generation - and yet, we don't seem to have learned from our mistakes for our kids to listen to and learn from.
The onset of elderhood or, in the Māori world, toward the status of kaumātua, is something that becomes very real as you knock on the door of becoming old - as I am doing right now with the Winston Gold Card waving in front of me like a just arrived stamp in my passport to the other side of life.
There is a perceived perception - or in many cases a misconception - that when we reach the magic age of retirement we bring with us a wealth of wisdom and we get to share it with the next generation. This is very much the case in the Māori world when it comes to carrying the tile of kaumātua.
In both Māori and non-Māori worlds, everyone prior to the kaumātua or elder age is in training to become one and the currency of success they carry with them into old age is wisdom.
The kicker to this currency is where have we gained our wisdom from and how relevant it is to today's generation, who will inherit it and use it to try to make the world a better place.
A wise man once said: "Wisdom is gained from life's experiences and as we grow closer to the end of our experiences - and the chaff has been blown away, what we have left is a legacy of learning to pass on to those who will inherit our knowledge"
I guess that is what old age is all about, tallying up our tikanga – our values in life lived - and asking ourselves: "Is it worthy of handing it on?"
The rest we leave behind.
Back in the day, a kaumātua carried with them a perceived korowai of wisdom and the tribal lifestyle we lived totally depended on the decisions our kaumātua made. They were almost never questioned and what their tikanga, or protocols, were was what the rest of the tribe lived by.
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Today, with the advent of knowledge being shared in more than a tribal context, our tikanga has evolved from a collective to more of an individual one, notwithstanding there are core values of every culture that we as citizens of the planet live by, love being the backbone of all of them
For me, my tikanga is my tikanga, hunted and collected over a life lived thus far. I have certain values that may differ from those who I stand beside on the marae, a good example is the values some of us hold toward the whenua and the belief that we are all kaitiaki (caretakers) and owners of the land our tupuna fought and died for
There seems to be a connection between the longevity of life and the onset of the diminishment of the function of elderhood as we enter into it. More and more I find myself living in the moment and waking up grateful to have made it through one more moe (sleep).
Comes a time, like now for me, we learn to live within the limits of our life, and the born to be wild attitude - lived in the fast lane, wilts away like a Woodstock sunset. The good news, and there is always a silver lining in the long white cloud of life, simply being alive for me carries a newfound capacity to be a whole human being, able to focus on leaving the world in a better place by simply doing your best in your own back yard.
So when do the crossroads of kaumātua/elderhood and wisdom meet?
We are getting older but not always wiser if the life we have lived thus far has not been paved with a vast array of experiences.
More and more our tamariki are looking to our wise elders for answers to why the world we live in does not carry the guaranteed future that it did when we were kids. Our kids know and understand about global warming, they know about sustainable environmental and they believe the 300 scientists who have collectively told them we have a 20-year horizon to get it right or it's out the gate and shut it behind you when this world ends.
What I find incredibly sad is they know about the disarray left by today's generation and the respect for us elders is diminishing, because of what we are leaving them with as a legacy - a planet tinkering on the precipice of not being able to survive.
When I listen to my daughter's first draft of her manu korero speech as I did last night it tells me how wise we really are when she asks her elders why they have left the land like it is.
Her generation doesn't care about a currency of success measured by money.
All that matters to them is having a healthy piece of whenua to call home and a future with a healthy whānau sewn into its horizon.
I guess it is what we all want, young and old.