We seldom long for a future where our bodies are less but our spirits and insight are more. Yet, that future is there.


They just look like old men. And because of that, they are seen as elderly rather than wise. But there is a wisdom that comes with age. The old have walked the path we tread. They have seen the landscape through which we are traveling. They have felt our passions and known our dreams, though perhaps in different shape and in different measure. In their eyes we can see our future. In our eyes they can see their past. In some fundamental way, they know the place where we are going.

The look I saw in the eyes of both those older men in the past two days was a look of deep compassion and understanding. They understood something about me, just as I understand something about the hopeful, headphone-wearing twenty-year-olds in that gym. It is knowledge unspoken, but it is knowledge, nonetheless. They also know that few will seek them out. They have accepted the fact that few will ask them to share what it is that they have come to understand. Their time has come and passed; the younger generations want little more from them than reminiscences.

I was honored to speak to both these men. I hope I showed them proper respect in our conversations. I hope, too, that I was listening to them for what they can teach me about life, not merely for what they can reveal as witnesses to the past. For each touched me deeply. In their presence, I felt both judged and understood. It was as if their eyes, still bright, saw something I myself could not see. Their gazes gave me silent comfort, as if to say, “It’s all right to be where you are. It is exactly where you ought to be.” It was the kind of comfort that I hope to give my son as I see him moving through choppy waters — a look of understanding that says, “You are not alone.”

We live so strongly within the boundaries of our own experience. If we long for anything, it is usually for a time past, when we were younger, stronger, better looking, and not yet so bound by decisions we have made. We seldom long for a future where our bodies are less but our spirits and insight are more. Yet, that future is there. It is in the eyes of those who have lived longer, seen more, and come closer to a resolved understanding of their place and purpose on this planet. I feel better as a man, better as a person, and filled with a new sense of challenge and responsibility for having encountered those two old men. Their mortality, so close to the surface, has touched me in some deep and irreducible part of my own being. I feel observed and, in a strange way, renewed. They have given me the gift of their witness and the blessing of their understanding. May I take that gift, learn from it, and find a way to pass it on.

~ Kent Nerburn, Two Old Men in Ordinary Sacred

Photo Credit: va.gov


  1. Wonderfully true!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I need this book. Switching to half.com now,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Believe you me ….. I know the feeling!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “It’s all right to be where you are. It is exactly where you ought to be.” – yes. perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m experiencing this with my mom (who is 83)…and things are changing rapidly in my own way of thinking and feeling. I too will be looking for this book. Thank you David. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This will stay with me:
    “In our eyes they can see their past. In some fundamental way, they know the place where we are going.”


    Liked by 2 people

  7. How true it is that few want to share the wisdom acquired through the experience of aging.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. There’s such comfort and reassurance here. I feel his compassion. Some beautiful phrases too!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. These are beautiful sentiments. There is a wisdom, gentleness and compassion experienced while reading the words. They add meaning to the concept of growing, not just growing old. Life is certainly not linear, but aging should not be equated with “heading down hill.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very enriching post.
    We are never bound by our decisions, so long as we gain wisdom from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Christie says:

    Kent Nerburn was blessed by these two men’s wise perspective. Their sharing of friendship, understanding and wisdom. Their individual, subjective evaluation of life to this point, was, with considerate & considerable conversation with Kent Nerburn a lesson to all, on the value of a person & their contribution.. . through the gift of their Soul’s Energy…

    Japanese honor their elders, as living masters
    Native Americans honor & look to their elders for guidance.
    Some people in American society today don’t value senior citizens.or others who are not like them.
    Some people in American society thing of only themselves – this self centered-ness leaves in its wake, from their actions damage to others & sadly, self- centered people who don’t understand truly, what a life fulfilled is.

    I just think of how different our American society would be if the younger generation(s) accepted the guidance of those who have fought so hard to make American a better place?

    Unfortunately, so many older Americans do not see the Brightness, Wonder and Self Sacrifice for the betterment of us all in the Spirit and Actions of so many people they hoped would have a Life – Filled with Love, Hope, Freedom and Ease.

    and then on the other hand….

    Thankfully, many older Americans are optimist and see the good in others and know that with Effort, Understanding & Gratitude. There is Hope…

    So for me, I say…
    For the preservation of family & the community of humanity in.the present and the future rest in each one of us – do we have empathy, do we teach our children empathy, self -sacrifice, how to embrace joyful & gratitude, do we model love?

    All any of us want is to be validated.

    We are wise if we recognize that someday, sooner than we admit the future will greet us. We will be older and hopefully, Honored.

    I know that Kent Nerburn Illustrates to us through his words a Depth in his point of view that Extends, Wisdom, Care, Gentleness, Peacefulness & Respectfulness, a Soul’s Shinning gift to us….of the extension of Acceptance, Through Love in Action. ..He is a Treasure…

    Liked by 1 person

    • “All any of us want to be validated.” I lingered on this statement and others. And believe much of what is good and not so good rests here. Your statement prompted my recollection of this quote Christie:

      We want to be loved;
      failing that, admired;
      failing that, feared;
      failing that, hated and despised.
      At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others.
      Our soul abhors a vacuum.
      At all costs it longs for contact.

      — Hjalmar Soderberg, Doctor Glas

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Christie says:

    Thanks Dave. Another great thought provoking share. …I should have proof read, better 🙂 I see that I didn’t speak to Kent N. overall piece but to the view of people not being valued as they are over-looked..

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Not only uninvited to share their wisdom but totally overlooked.. how true, how gut-wrenchingly sad. and surely, how utterly lonely for them.. so glad to read this, now, in the small hours of ta beginning week..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reblogged this on Makere's Blog.


  15. We need to pay more attention to the “old” people. We can learn a lot from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Christie says:

    Kent Nerburn, speaks of eyes, looking, examining, exchanging discovery….
    There is so much to ponder in Kent Nerburn’s writing.

    I have re-read his passage and focused on an area different than my earlier response
    Now .my thoughts have gravitated toward the eyes as interactive filters.

    The eyes hold our glance, sometimes in intrigue, sometimes in desire, sometime in joy, for instance when experiencing the sight of a baby laughing, sometimes in acknowledgement, sometimes in longing to be accepted, sometimes in understanding, perhaps for some the glance is greeted or delivered in hatred. Sometimes no glance is extended….

    Sometimes a glance in real time, is focused on the beauty and wonder of our surrounding, for instance the setting of the sun. Sometimes the impact upon the eyes comes through an old image – a photo, a drawing, a painting..

    The face to face, glance maybe very quick (perhaps no even noticed), momentarily or even sometimes held a bit longer.

    We linger, some times wondering and hoping that the mystery behind the eyes that have witnessed, interpreted & sent further on ,,,each mili second, taken in, categorized & filed to a spot within a person brain & heart and then filtered further, will be shared.

    Some of those influential visions travel destined homeward bound, to the Divine Soul to be nurtured, developed into energy which then shines, revealing a passion and radiates a light which beams forth from those eyes, on that bright face, enriching those who courageously, dare to engage & explore another’s present essence, bonding over the exchange of souls–the eyes are a window to the soul and the wisdom it holds … such an intimate gift..

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    This is why I wrote “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador,” to share the wisdom of the elders. I have learned so much from the elders & it is almost my time to be an elder (or maybe in some eyes, I already am!). 😉 ❤
    A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador: tinyurl.com/klxbt4y


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