she asked: what do you think of inviting elders ,who are not Filipinos, to guide us since we do not have elders in our community?
who are my/our elders? what is an elder?
i understand where this question is coming from. in an indigenous community that is still primarily oral, the elders/council of elders take on the mantle of guiding the younger ones. they lead, they tell stories, they live by example. they keep the life of the community coherent, stable, meaningful, purposeful. they hold up the cosmic story and the creation stories that give people their sense of belonging and identity. the shaman/medicine men and women work alongside the elders in keeping life in balance. in land-based communities and stable communities over time, knowledge and wisdom are passed on orally. knowing is embodied and lived. rituals and ceremonies are part of daily life.
but what about those of us in the diaspora? those of us who live in cities as modern subjects, as postcolonial subjects of empire? who are our elders?
when i think of my elders i start a list: my ancestors whose names i do not know. my theoretical ancestors whose works gave me the language that liberated me. some of them are not Filipinos. i think of my older friends who are my career mentors. i think of my parents and grandparents who -- by intentions and omissions -- guided my choices. i think of a lover who tutored me. i think of the IPs i met in Mindanao - many of whom i didn't get to talk to personally but i know of their lives and work and what i know teaches me and nurtures me. i think of authors i've read who confirm and validate my processes and my path and who often articulate what's still on the tip of my tongue, still searching for a language. i think of my husband whose steady hand, big heart, and clear mind provides a container for my ruminations. i think of my siblings. i think of my son and grandson -- they may be my descendants but the Indigenous Soul lives in them, too.
what then is an elder? who is an elder? in this context, in the absence of a community, i am grateful for the people, books, and experiences that became my teachers, guides...that shaped my life work, that led to this place of trust and knowing that my life is nurtured by the Indigenous Soul, that i belong to the earth, that i live in the embrace of the cosmos.
is this possible? to conjure the role of elder thru these weavings? i do not have a choice. but even if i don't have a choice, it is my responsibility to do this work of decolonization and indigenization. i am drawn to the community of like-minded seekers. but each of us have our own work to do since we each have different histories (familial, personal) that we need to unravel to shake off the dust off our larger colonial history that has shaped us.
i understand the yearning to be in the physical presence of elders who are wise and who are able to connect the past with the present and then envision a future aligned with a cosmic story that is beautiful and sacred. i long for elders who have the gift of vision.
in their physical absence, i have found this guidance elsewhere -- in conversations with others, in books, in dreams, in retreats, in meditation. could it be that the elders speak through these visitations in various forms? do we know how to hear when they are speaking? do we know how to discern their voice amidst the din of psychobabble that litter the road?
i am learning.