In the year I turned 40 my husband came into the house exclaiming there was a piglet in the chookpen… we were perplexed as to how this little one had found its way to our place – covered in the painful thorns from hudson pear, he was the size of a beer can and barely a few days old.
We tended his wounds, made a warm nest with an old electric blanket in a bird cage, got him milk and wondered what to do next.
Over the next weeks and months we fell in love with this little pig we named Rusty and spent many joyful hours in the garden with him as he grew (he did also, hilariously, join the family for a weekend gathering for my 40th celebration at Pilliga Pottery!!).
What intrigued me most then and still (he’s now a very large bore pig!) was his innate sense of pigness – the things he did from instinct or some curious inner knowing despite his complete lack of connection to other pigs… like pushing against my hand with his snout to strengthen the muscles and build its capacity to dig and dig. Or building nests, which he has done since he was small, creating elaborate high sided burrows out of the rags and straw and other random objects that made their way into his pen. These pig things were known to my husband and I – like the fact that pigs will cover themselves in mud to stay cool – but we never taught him or showed him how to do them and the only other animals he’d met were a stray cat and our dog Toby, so, despite his isolation from his native species, he just knew how to be a pig and what to do…
It’s got me thinking alot about the biological impulses that we as humans also follow without knowing why or how or even in awareness that we are following them… like having babies or creating shelter or… being an elder.
In the distracted challenge of our modern day culture it’s easy for us to think that we are doing things because we want to… and it’s also not hard to believe we are doing them because everyone else is – but what about the cellular memory or DNA that still drives us, leads us and guides us to be innately human and to survive – how much of what we do is that… and we name it as something else or we find it confusing and out of context behavior?
In conversation with a friend recently they shared how their grandson had been deliberately goading his father to rumble with him… a behavior that can quickly escalate into trouble. And I wondered then if this was a little boy’s biological impulse driving him to get his father to teach him how to fight, defend, protect – as would have been a culturally relevant thing to do in our early human form but now, is seen as ‘bad or mischievous’ behavior.
I wonder if the teenage impulse to rebel, break away from their parents and find their unique expression is also a biological driver that our forebears understood in a way that we have forgotten and is why there were rituals, initiations and ceremonies at these stages – not just to mark a coming of age, but to shepherd a biological being to transition with the support and resources of the community around them. All things we’ve largely lost in modern society – but the biological drive will always find ‘it’s way’… instead of being taken in by the elder aunties to be taught, young people now turn to the internet and their peer groups for knowledge and engage in risky behaviors to grow themselves up or experiment with substances in hidden places away from judging eyes.
And I see it very often in the work I do with enterprises and families in the succession and legacy phase of life where there is a drive from the older generation to lead, be heard, share their wisdom – but it so often falls on deaf ears from those closest to them but the biological impulse to do this is undeniable and so they look for other ways.
In the spirit of the modern era I asked CHAT GPT what it thought of this idea and it said
“The biological craving for eldership, also known as ‘gerotranscendence’ is a theory that suggests as individuals age, they begin to experience a shift in perspective and priorities towards greater spirituality, transcendence and connection with something greater than themselves.
Research has shown that here are a number of psychological and biological factors that can contribute to the development of gerotranscendence including brain chemistry and function as well as the influence of social and cultural factors.
It also says that proponents of gerotranscendence argue the shift in perspective allows older individuals to become less attached to materialistic values and more focused on existential and spiritual concerns. This can result in a greater sense of well-being, a stronger sense of community, and a greater appreciation for lifes’ meaning and purpose’
But what if this biologically driven craving isn’t supported within the dominant culture… can it do the opposite?
What are we losing in the distance that is happening between intergenerational families…driven by geographic, socio and technological impacts?
Will a memoir be enough? And what of the children who will grow up without access to the elders in their life – what do they miss? And if the biological craving for significance cannot be met as people enter their later years… and the current research indicates that those who experience gerotransendence have greater ease and peace in their life – are we facing another cultural crisis point for elder depression?
I honestly believe that the next evolution of humanity will be required to have the capacity to overcome their biological impulses or at least know them and make peace with them. You can listen to my thoughts on this in Episode 6 of Messages from THE Body
Of course I don’t have the answers, but I do love to explore these topics and others deeper with my clients in WHYld Women and in our BOWABIRDS community if you’d like to join, please do, come and say hello and share your thoughts on this!