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Filling the Shaker of your Life

by Nanci Levy | Jul 13, 2018

Brian for BlogAnyone over the age of 50 years has likely read a self-help book in the interest of self-improvement.  Brian Litwak, one of our Handmaker residents, spent years studying these, but found that they were of little help to him. One year, while on vacation, he stumbled upon the author Joseph Campbell. He heard Campbell being interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS Television, and was struck by what Campbell was saying.   

He talked about how an unexamined life is of little value, and that if you have filled the shaker of your life full of experiences, you will have evidence to examine that will give you answers about your own personal life.

That caught Brian’s attention because ‘it was describing an action that we can take so that we can find meaning in our life”. 

He began to read every one of Joseph Campbell’s books, and learned about Campbell’s concept of the “Hero’s Journey”, which is a broad template for a variety of myths. In fact, the movie Star Wars was based on this myth pattern. This idea can also be applied to our own lives, because everyone is on a journey of self-discovery with different steps along the way. If we recognize the journey, we will live a fully realized life, and find our bliss.  These ideas changed Brian’s life.

Brian had lived most of his life in California, teaching exceptional fifth and sixth grade students. After a series of illnesses, he moved to Tucson, and into Handmaker. This was not the path that he was expecting. But, he has since realized that perhaps it was just part of his journey. He says that “when we recognize what our journey is, we feel more satisfied. Sometimes it feels like we are just stumbling along, until we realize that the stumbling is the journey. We always have to adapt to what is changing in our life. And at this point in my life, there is change every day.”

He also has read Joseph Campbell's writings about how tribes all over the world have special roles for their elders. The elders are the information keepers, and are called the “imperishables” in just about every tribe. If they share their knowledge with the next generation, then the tribe will survive.

That happens here at Handmaker. We strive to facilitate “L’dor V’dor”, passing on traditions and knowledge from generation to generation, through our intergenerational programs, providing opportunities for our elders to share their experiences with future generations.

Every two months, Brian speaks at the New Employee Orientation so that the newly hired staff at Handmaker can learn about working with the elderly. In this way, he is sharing his knowledge. There is a lot that we can learn from the elders of his generation, we only have to listen.