You’re never too old for Wikipedia

"Woman and Man" by Irene Lynch / oil stick on rubbed oil on prepared canvas" / approximately 8 feet x 6 feet / hangs unframed / c. 1983

Meet Irene.

Irene contributed $5,000 to Wikimania 2012, joining the likes of Google and WikiHow in sponsoring the international gathering of individuals who work in support of free global access to the sum of human knowledge. But unlike other Wikimania sponsors, Irene is not an internet company, non-profit organization, or philanthropic foundation. Irene is a 78-year-old private individual from New Jersey who describes herself as a “peace seeker, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.”

“My donation to Wikimedia Foundation was inspired by the very mission it espouses,” Irene says. “Without responsible freedom to learn and act, we cannot heal, we cannot grow in a truly healthful fashion.”

Irene is more than just a great grandmother who loves Wikipedia. She also describes herself as a storyteller and an artist.

Poem by Irene Lynch

“My life is my story,” she says. “There are times when I’ve speculated that I could have been born either in one of the Kansas City, MO public libraries, or the Nelson Art Gallery.  My mother spent so much time in them that I learned to read about four, and the arts became my passion.”

Irene cultivated her passion for culture and art through painting (see left), as well as through reading and writing poetry (she says her favorite poem is Ulysses by Tennyson). But it was her continuous pursuit of knowledge that she channeled into her love of the world’s largest encyclopedia.

“I so deeply appreciate what you’ve done for so many over the years!” Irene says of Wikipedia. “As a non-academic scholar and artist, you have sent in wonderful directions in my search for truth & justice, and human compassion.”

Irene will be attending Wikimania 2012 this July, joining an estimated 1000 domestic and international attendees. While on Wikipedia, she’s just one of over 450 million unique visitors, in Wikimania, she’s truly one in a million.

“It is an imperfect humanity we all share, and it is my hope to share conversations with like folks at this conference in DC,” she says. At 78, Irene is further proof that you’re truly never too old to keep learning and to fall in love with Wikipedia.

Everyone at Wikimedia DC thanks Irene for her gracious contribution and we all look forward to welcoming her to Washington, DC, this July.

Nicholas Michael Bashour, President, Wikimedia District of Columbia

Note: if you would like to leave a note for Irene, leave a comment, and Wikimedia DC will forward it to her.

7 Responses to “You’re never too old for Wikipedia”

  1. Michael Allen Says:

    Does it seem to anyone else that poetry has found a new life today?

  2. Gino Raimondo Says:

    A true testament to the undying spirit of the human condition. God bless.

  3. Rehman Says:

    Amazing personality…

  4. Irene Lynch Says:

    Michael Allen, I was looking through some older New Yorker magazines and ran across this one by Jorges Luis Borges, (it touched me very deeply):

    by Jorge Luis Borges
    JULY 6, 2009
    In a deserted place in Iran there is a not very tall stone tower that has neither door nor window. In the only room (with a dirt floor and shaped like a circle) there is a wooden table and a bench. In that circular cell, a man who looks like me is writing in letters I cannot understand a long poem about a man who in another circular cell is writing a poem about a man who in another circular cell . . . The process never ends and no one will be able to read what the prisoners write.

    (Translated, from the Spanish, by Suzanne Jill Levine.)

  5. Achal Prabhala Says:

    Dear Irene, what a generous and touching gift. You are wonderful. Much love.

  6. Irene Lynch Says:

    This introduction from The Orally Transmitted Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin has a great deal to instruct us in these trying times:

    Introduction and Preface to the Ongi Kuden: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo [Devotion to the Lotus Sutra]

    “Namu derives from Sanskrit, and here [in Japan] it is rendered as kimyo , meaning ‘to devote one’s life.’ This means to devote one’s life to the Person and the Law. Devotion to the Law means to devote one’s life to the Lotus Sutra. Devotion to the Person means to devote one’s life to Shakyamuni. Devotion of one’s life means both the physical law of life and the spiritual law of life. The ultimate principle embodies the oneness of these two. In addition, devotion, (ki) indicates dedicating our lives to the principle of the eternal and unchanging truth revealed in the theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra. ‘Life’ (myo) means to base ourselves upon wisdom that functions in accord with changing circumstances as revealed in the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Thus, to ‘devote one’s own life’ is the very meaning of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. T’ien-t’ai states ‘The eternal and unchanging truth and wisdom that functions in accord with changing circumstances are at each moment both contained within life, which embodies and permeates all phenomena.’”
    Additionally, ‘to devote’ expresses our physical aspect and ‘life’ our spiritual aspect. The supreme principle reveals that the physical and the spiritual are one and inseparable within the ultimate reality of life. T’ien-t’ai states that because we devote our lives to the ultimate reality, our devotion is called the Buddha vehicle. Also, while “ of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo derives from Sanskrit, Myoho Renge Kyo derives from the Chinese language. Therefore Nam Myoho Renge Kyo comprises both Chinese and Sanskrit. Moreover, in Sanskrit, one says Saddharma pundarika sutram which is rendered as Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Sad translates as Myo, dharma as Ho, pundarika as Renge and sutram to Kyo. These nine characters correspond to the nine honored ones and express the principle that the nine worlds inherently possess the Buddha nature. Myo represents the nature of enlightenment, while ho, indicates darkness or delusion. The oneness of delusion and enlightenment is called Myoho, the Mystic Law. Renge represents the principles of cause and effect, and also indicates the simultaneity of cause and effect. Kyo indicates the words and speech, sounds and voices of all sentient beings. Chang-an states, ‘The voice does the Buddha’s work.’, and is therefore called kyo. Kyo also signifies that life spans the three existences of past, present and future. All things are Myoho, all things are Renge, all things are Kyo. Renge means the Buddha’s body encompassed by the nine honored ones on the eight petalled lotus. You should ponder this carefully.” (Gosho Zenshu p.708)

    — Irene Lynch

  7. Udit Says:

    I have border line peotsnaliry, another said it’s major depression. I have been on so many antidepressants anti psychotics anti anxiety God only knows none of which have helped. I realise that I’ve never really had a true passion for life and have had a fear of life’s problems. I could never handle (as I grew older) listening to people with problems because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle them. Suddenly I couldn’t do life anymore. I remember standing in a shop thinking God, for everything that I need and have to buy, I have to work for it, every time I wash the dishes they’ll have to be washed up again, I’ll have to carry on cooking for the rest of my life, I’ll have to be there for my son for the rest of my life, I don’t know who my son is, I have no sense of who I really am.’ Absolute fear of loneliness and old age and death (although since then I have ironically tried to take my life twice because I can’t handle this nothingness, this mental anguish, I can’t understand tortures, murders, abuse it tortures my being. I realise that although I have at times felt incredibly secure it’s because I was younger, always had someone there for me but there came a time after being without a relationship for ten years that I realised that I had to have a peotsnaliry, a loving caring giving peotsnaliry at that to fidn a partner. I had to know myself. Before my two six year relationships and university relationships had been based first on attraction (particularly with mu son’s husband) and then with my first six year relationship on attraction and enjoying his company (we had a lot in common) and Quim said he felt very loved by me but if I’m honest with myself I always seemed to need something else to move on to and always seemed to identify myself through the person I was with. I felt particularly a person in my own right because I thought now I’m a mother, that gives me an identity’, yet I was an anxious mother, an over sensitive mother, watching any sign of my son’s unhappiness and being distraught if I noticed any. Even in my state of nothingness I worry that something will go wrong, that he’ll suddenly come to a standstill in life and say I can’t do this anymore’. It’s as if when I had some escape route, something else to move on to without any major responsibility on my part ( I was a teacher and translator which I loved but suddenly reached LIFE STOP time. Nothing made sense to me. I look around me and see people doing the most amazing things with their lives, being able to give of themselves so much, with it all making sense to them and not needing to escape from life but liviing it to the full. What happened to me. My sister has overcome and is still overcoming the most major obstacles, all my brothers the same, my Mum the same, my Dad was an absolute absolute survivor. At the age of fifty eight he started studying to become a tennis umpire because nothing else was working out for him and he made a go of it. He managed his loneliness and found purpose in life. He didn’t try to take his life. The mantra I’m trying is pronounced om mahnee padmay hung’ but what I need and need your honest opinion as to whether they can help or not is a mantra that can give me incredible courage to get through a hurricane and to be there for my son for when he needs me (I’ve left him with his father in Barcelona and I am currently staying with my mother in South Africa which is an incredible strain and stress on her although to my amazement she gets through it all whereas would just have gone to pieces and sunk in weakness had this been my son. I also need a mantra (preferably buddhist) for an absolute joy, enthusiasm and curiosity about life and the wonderful curiosity to try new things, strong convictions to act and have an opinion without being confused by so many different opinions and wondering well, who’s right in the end’. I know certain things are absolutely wrong but people with strong convictions have often scared me off because I’ve felt so weak and over sensitive when they have seemed so strong and in control. When I look at my one brother in particular and my sister I think God, how do they do it?’ How do they know so strongly who they are, how do they get over those obstacles and not drown in the process?’ I WANT LIFE I WANT JOY I WANT TO BE ABLE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE (I HAVE THIS DREAM THAT IF I EVER WON THE LOTTERY I WOULD SET UP A FOUNDATION FOR THE HOMELESS OR IF I HAD THE NECESSARY COURAGE ENERGY AND KNOWLEDGE OF WHO I AM THAT I WOULD BE ABLE TO BUILD UP A CHARITY LIKE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE DONE WHY CAN’T I DO THAT WHEN OTHERS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO .PLEASE LIFE I NEED LIFE AND I WANT LIFE FOR MYSELF AND OTHERS AND TO BE ABLE TO TAKE ON A BEAUTIFUL ESSENCE TO ANOTHER LIFE). Can you help me with some buddhist mantras???? As I’m completely disconnected from life I just lie paralysed in bed. People say I must move, go swimming in the sea, work,, get distracted but none of that helps. Something is seriously wrong with me. I’ve tried prayer and it’s the Om mahnee .’ mantra that I told you about that gave me the umpf to send this email to you. Nothing makes sense to me and I lie torturing my mind remembering all the times I’ve lived to be the pleasing sweet nice person without perhaps having a real strong sense of self and a strong sense of what life is all about. I remember once thinking when I was nearing my close down stage God, what am I going to do with the rest of my life. I have no passions, no hobbies, I don’t know I am, I seem to wake up in the morning looking forward to going to sleep at night from exhaustion and probably to hide from life.’ Thank you so so much once again for being there. May life bless you and with time may life bless me with a knowledge of who I am, with courage, with faith in life, with love for myself and others and with the energy to give. All this I ask in life’s name. Strong Buddhist mantras please. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

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