As a photographer and writer, I am incredibly curious about aging. What does it mean to get older in America? How do we view the process and those that are ahead of us? What are the blessings and what are the challenges? And why can’t we see aging for what it is without trying to pretend it isn’t happening to us? Getting older is a normal part of life which I believe is to be celebrated! So, in conjunction with the Wise Women Project I am excited to announce the launch of the Magnificent Men Project! These are the stories of men in our community over the age of 50. Want to participate? Learn more here.
How old are you? 58
What is your primary work today?
I am a Zen Buddhist Teacher and Tech Entrepreneur (www.zenatwork.org)
How has your professional life evolved as you became older?
As I got older I found myself wanting to work more closely with individuals who shared an aspiration to do purposeful work in the world while growing spiritually. My interests shifted from leading teams and building innovative companies/products to helping spiritually-inclined professionals discover their deepest work.
What about your personal life?
I followed a very untraditional life path: until age 50, my life was centered on my Zen practice and my work. I was in several fulfilling relationships, but never married and had no kids. Later in life I became more interested in putting my relationship at the center. Fortunately, I was blessed to meet my soul mate, Aria, who has brought five kids to our marriage. So I am now a late-blooming family man, as happy as I have ever been.
Has your age affected your work in any way?
Yes, I am faster, smarter, more insightful, and more tolerant. Also slower, dumber, more confused and more impatient.
What do you wish the younger generation understood about men over 50?
We’re not all alike. Some have had it easy, others hard. Some have fought battles and won, others have lost, while still others have resisted the constant call to battle. Some take too much credit for their successes; others take too little. Some of us have done a lot of inner work; some not much at all. Most of us (those I know) have deep respect for the mystery of life.
There’s that Dylan line: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.” I think that applies acutely to men over 50. Many men have a chance to radically re-write their script around that age. I think we have to. The rest of our life is going to depend on how well we do that, how well we re-imagine ourselves and bring forth whatever wisdom we have managed to internalize from all our experiences so far. Those who don’t may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes, the same dramas.
I would love for younger people to be as discerning and critical of us as they perceive us to be of them: celebrate the elders who can see life anew and stay away from (or help) the ones who have become cynical or jaded.
What worries you most about the future?
Climate catastrophe and structural inequities in our society.
What is the hardest thing about getting older, in your opinion?
Physical decline. Everything else is manageable.
What is the best thing about getting older, in your opinion?
The freedom to not take things too seriously, most of all myself. When I turned 40 I stopped worrying what others thought of me. That was incredibly liberating. When I turned 50 I stopped worrying what I thought of myself. Liberation from the inner critic was even better!
What negative perspective about being an elder do you wish to shed light on?
Not all “olders” are true elders. I would not say that I am a full elder, but that as I get older, I am “eldering.” (At least I hope so.) So maybe the negative perspective is that I don’t think this is very well understood by any of us in this culture, so there is a lot of confusion and not a lot of support for those of us attempting to elder consciously.
Why did you want to participate in this project?
I loved your photos and the spirit of the project!
(Note: Paul’s cat was very interested in having her picture taken as well, so this interview would not be complete without a picture of Lupe below!)