An elder is a leader or a senior figure in a tribe or other group.
Every society everywhere at any point in the past squillion years has had elders; respectable and respected older folk who keep their people on the well-beaten track. Societies with unheeded elders either end up killing themselves off or getting taken over.
Elders have been a normal part of the world until very recently. For the most part, these days us Westerners put them in homes or - worse still - we don't even know who they are.
The twentieth century saw more humans killed by humans than all the previous centuries combined. So it's probably not that surprising that, about half-way through that century, we began killing off our elders in an attempt to fix things. The Beatles knocked off one variety of elder when they became more popular than Christ (and therefore more relevant than his earthly representatives) in 1966 and in 1968, a 28 year-old John Lennon helped antiquate the notion of elders when he declared that we ought not trust anybody over 30.
Pretty soon young people were each disappearing into their hyper-individualist minds. We're pretty much still there as a society. It's all about me being and staying young and sexy and happy. Forever young.
While we were chasing the white rabbit, grown-ups reemerged from behind their charred forts and went into advertising. They learned how to make us fear becoming old (old people created the holocaust, Sunday School and grey trousers) and how to get us to switch our ears off to people who actually know how life works, based on experience and reflection.
I think we're afraid of dying and old people make us think of death. Simple. We forget that an elder is "a leader or a senior figure". You don't have to be old to be an elder, but you do have to be a leader.
So, for the next few posts, I'm a-gonna write about my favourite elders. Leaders, the lot of 'em.