III.A Life of Deep Caring

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 This series of essays are about the different ways in which deep caring is manifest. They are about mentoring other people, honoring others and artifacts from a past era, about helping to better our own communities. Our work is about men and women who move beyond themselves–extending both time and space–seeking to outlive themselves by leaving something of value behind for which they deeply care.

In the next set of essays we offer a brief explanation of each generativity role. In subsequent essays we build on these descriptions by illustrating each role with many narratives about generativity that were derived from in-depth interviews that we conducted as part of two projects over the past two decades. We particularly focus on the lives of two senior women and two senior men who participated in one of the two projects. We call them Featured Players. They agreed to provide additional personal narratives about how each of the four generativity roles has interacted and played out in their lives.

Deep Caring: Historical Roots

Throughout these essays, we also explore the nature of deep caring and link it in many interrelated, though different ways to the four roles of generativity. It is important to note that we are not the first to connect the processes of generativity to the deep caring commitment. Some insights and assistance in this regard come from Jerome Wakefield (1998), who provides a link between deep caring and generativity and also some historical insights about both. Wakefield (1998, p 156) notes that Erik Erikson, the first person to extensively explore the topic, considers generativity to be engaged through “three main kinds of activities: procreation, productivity and creativity.” Following up on Erikson, Kotre (1984) identified four categories of generativity: “biological (the bearing and nursing of the infant), parental (the nurturing and socializing of the child), technical (the teaching of skills), and cultural (the creation and passing on of the culture’s symbols).” (Wakefield, 1998, p. 156)

While these two typologies of generativity seem to be very similar to those offered many centuries ago by Plato, Wakefield believes there is a major difference between Plato and Erikson/Kotre’s formulation. An important distinction is between two care-oriented motives: (1) instrumental and (2) instinctive. Wakefield proposes that Plato offered an instrumental version of caring. According to Plato, caring is “an instrumental action aimed at ensuring that generative products are as good, long lasting, and reflective of the self as possible” (Wakefield, 1998, p. 157). For Plato, generativity is birth: “the generative moment comes when the individual wants to externalize his or her creations; simply having ideas, for example, is not enough. The urgent is not just to live on through replacement but to do so specifically through the birthing of aspects of one’s inner self” (Wakefield, 1998, p. 173).

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