The Advice Richard Rohr Recently Gave Me.
I recently made the pilgrimage to southern Albuquerque and, more specifically, to Christian mystic Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. Richard has become a modern elder to me as he’s grown his movement for the past fifty years.
We talked about the growth of the modern elder movement, and he offered some cautionary insight about what’s happened over the course of church, denominational, and organizational life cycles. He calls it the 5 M’s (although you’ll find 4 M versions as well. He believes this model below is more accurate).
It often starts with a Man (although he says this is meant to be gender-neutral) with an idea, a pioneer doing things a new way. This “man” could be Jesus, Martin Luther, Gloria Steinem, or Steve Jobs. But it could also be a community activist in your town with an idea that’s worth spreading.
A Movement emerges that becomes a cause as people feel they are part of something dynamic, creative, and purposeful, and they’re willing to donate their time because of the mission.
Because we’ve historically loved tangible things we can touch, the Movement starts building Monuments to show to society that "there’s a there there." Think cathedrals and star-architect headquarter buildings.
Then, often to pay for the Monument, a Machine gets ratcheted-up to mechanize and routinize the systems that support the large expenditure of this growing enterprise. Unfortunately, this is when many of the Movement activists feel disenfranchised as what was once dynamic and free starts to feel stale.
Finally, the Machine squeezes out the joy and flow of the Movement and thus becomes a museum, or more likely a Mausoleum, now focused on the past instead of the future. And then, there’s often a new man or woman who is agitated enough about this tragic life cycle that they start a new Movement.
The value of Modern Elders is that they can see the future based upon their relationship with the past. Richard Rohr’s advice will help us to steer the course on the Modern Elder Academy as we start to inch from Movement to Monument. Thanks for being part of this journey and helping us stay true to our roots and this collectively powerful and life-changing movement that we hope will always be at the core of who we are.
P.S. If you or someone you know is interested in helping us build our "monument" by joining our team as the Head of Human Resources & Culture, please use THIS LINK to get in touch.