John Sullivan is subject of News & Observer article on aging
John Sullivan, Elon's Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Philosophy emeritus, was featured in a Nov. 2 front page article in the Raleigh News & Observer on the role that aging adults can play in nurturing spirit and community. Reporter Thomas Goldsmith wrote about an upcoming conference on the issue sponsored by Second Journey. Sullivan will be one of the main speakers at the event on Nov. 7 at North Carolina State University.
Sullivan studies and teaches about philosophy, psychology and spirituality. In his new book, “The Spiral of the Seasons: Welcoming the Gifts of Later Life,” Sullivan likens a human lifetime to the four seasons. He overlays the four stages of life from ancient India: In the spring, we are students, in the summer, we are householders, in autumn, we are forest dwellers, and in winter we are invited to become sages.
“Our culture is very much at home in the first half of life. We are at home in doing, in striving, in achieving. The quest is toward fame and fortune,” Sullivan says. He maintains that the transition to the second half of life involves simplifying and returning to a fuller relationship with the natural world.
Sullivan says the tasks of an elder include “(1) keeping the little things little and the big things big, (2) encouraging creativity and (3) blessing the young.”
In meditations and thought-provoking prose, Sullivan writes about the “release from striving,” and “release from identifying with power and prestige and possessions.” As a retired person, Sullivan notes that he has “written the essays from the vantage point of a person interested in becoming an elder, the perspective of one wanting to enter the arc of descent in conscious, peaceful, and joyful ways.”
“I am exploring the opportunities of this phase myself,” Sullivan says. “I am delighted to have the companionship of fellow explorers.”