By ROBERT LACOSTA
“When I was 32,” Dr. Perry Sherman says, “I actually thought I wanted to be an elder. I had to wait a couple of decades!”
So great was the impact of Iron John and its author Robert Bly’s men’s week on the now 60-year-old Sherman that he craved the wisdom and sturdiness of older men that he had met at the retreat.
“A young man thinks he changes the world,” the Delmar psychologist said. “But even at that time, I had already encountered disappointments. For example, I thought my life would have made more of an impact by then, that I’d be married and that the church community would be using my gifts more.”
Sherman, a successful Stealth Bomber engineer at the time, also felt some betrayal from the business and faith communities because many older men were protecting their turf. The Bly retreat offered a sharp contrast because the concept of an “elder” was that of a man who was confident in himself and committed to raising up younger men through what the growing men’s movement termed “initiation.” That process included generous portions of validation and blessings.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t trust older men,” Perry reflects, “I saw sincere guys who taught on the value of betrayal and how it didn’t make them bitter. They grew through it and became older souls.”
It was shortly after this time that Sherman made the courageous decision to switch careers and immerse himself into psychology and into the delicate and ancient concepts of masculinity, initiation, femininity and aging.
Armed with a new understanding of healthy aging, Sherman no longer feared losing his youth to the cheapened ideal of a fat retirement. Instead, he leaned into his own challenges of being single and all of the humbling that came with starting at the bottom in a new career in a new state in a town called Delmar.
With a Ph. D. in hand, he would now discover over the next couple of decades that these difficulties would layer him in humanity, transform him into a tender-hearted counselor and slowly usher him into the coveted role of “Elder.”
Robert J. LaCosta’s daily devotional, “Portals to Heaven,” is free by writing to [email protected] . Suggestions for seniors for this column are welcome.