The Magic of Meaning.
Fresh off a Modern Elder Academy workshop entitled “The Power of Purpose”, I find myself reflecting on my experience there. And, whereas the place and the program certainly exceeded expectations, the people were clearly the most memorable and remarkable ingredient.
Twenty-eight seekers from Boston and Austin, Minneapolis and Mexico City, San Francisco, Toronto, Houston, Spokane and London, this eclectic group was comprised of academics and entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers, restaurateurs and retirees. Strangers in a foreign land, we bonded through a series of exercises designed to open even the most hardened CEO’s heart, allowing us to receive shared wisdom while piquing a curiosity that is the hallmark of a Modern Elder.
One of the many rituals we engaged in was the naming of our cohort, a prerequisite for our team photo to join the 78 preceding groups on the Wall of Compadres. Throughout the week, we were encouraged to put forth names for consideration and at the last session we held a proper democratic process, complete with a runoff of the two top vote getters, selecting the moniker “28 degrees”. Undeterred by the fact that none of us had any idea what it meant, we affixed our new name to a framed photo, promised to stay in touch via our WhatsApp group, said our goodbyes and scattered to the wind.
But after a week spent seeking meaning in this magical place, it is only appropriate that we should seek to attach meaning to our new name. The first, and maybe most obvious, might be the fact that the average daytime high during our week at MEA was 28 degrees Celsius, while it was 28 degrees Fahrenheit in the hometowns of our compadres from Minnesota and Massachusetts.
Or perhaps it was the fact that this cohort of 28 was highly credentialed, earning BS, MS, PhD, JD, MD and a few advanced degrees from the school of hard knocks. This was a learned group, having achieved high academic honors, yet when presented with her MEA certificate at graduation, our hard-nosed trial lawyer exclaimed “this is the best degree I ever got!”.
Quite possibly the most meaning, however, is attached to this magical place. The 28th parallel, a latitude referred to as 28 degrees north, encircles our planet, touching The Canary Islands, Suez Canal, Mount Everest, Tíbet, Hawaii and Clearwater Beach, Florida. Unknown to us at the time of our naming was the fact that 28 degrees north also runs right through Baja California Sur, home to Modern Elder Academy.
In true MEA fashion, when Chip was asked what he thought our name meant, he said “it means whatever each of you thinks it means”. Ever the servant leader, his magic is in facilitating deep and meaningful conversations with our compadres, inviting each of us to find our own meaning, sending us out into the world with an attitude to match our latitude….as curious as we are wise.
Mark Toro is an Atlanta-based community builder and MEA alum, actively engaged in creating Third Places for the communities he serves. He is focused on how place impacts the human condition, facilitating gathering and the exchange of energy and ideas.
P.S. We are kicking off 2023 with “A Semester of MEA” online. I hope you will join us. We’ll start on January 27 with our updated "Navigating Midlife Transitions" course and continue on March 17 with our "Living and Working on Purpose" course. I guarantee it will be transformative and meaningful. Invest in yourself, and take advantage of our special Black Friday Deal – buy one course and get one 50% off.
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