I have heard that there is a saying somewhere in Africa that “when an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” Contained in this brief saying is a fundamental valuing of the accumulation of life experience. Over the course of our current global trauma, we are experiencing the most extreme challenge to our sense of coherence, continuity, and capacity. It becomes clearer and clearer that we need the powerful value of the contributions of all people and of each person and the wisdom of different life stages.
We can watch in awe as our little children process and try to understand the changes in their world. We can appreciate the courage and energy of young people who jump into the middle of danger and confusion to deliver groceries or run a hospital ward. We can see the strong and centered presence of the middle agers who work at creating policy, directing larger group responses, analyzing problems, and making decisions for the benefit of the vulnerable and the sick. And we can see the elders, more vulnerable, but often more calm. They have seen many challenges, and they understand the necessity of persistence, effort, and hope.
We come to understand that challenges are a normal part of life, and our flexibility and willingness to engage with those challenges directly impact our own well-being, both physical and psychological. We are reaching for salutogenesis: that Sense of Coherence (SOC):
“The sense of coherence is a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that (a) the stimuli deriving from one’s internal and external environments in the course of living are structured, predictable and explicable; (b) the resources are available to her/him to meet the demands posed by these stimuli; and (c) these demands are challenges, worthy of investment and engagement.
“I have called these three components of the SOC, respectively, comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness.” —-Aaron Antonovsky
Our successful resolution of our present global trauma relies heavily on how well we engage and use the many, varied, and idiosyncratic gifts of each person and each generation. Suddenly, we all matter.