My bet is this post will be lost on most of the people who read it. On those who are not ready to think about their second half of life (SHL).
Recently, I read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Theologically, I have issues with Rohr. He appears to be a universalist, he trades the historical reliability of Scripture for Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis and he calls into question the character of God by poo-pooing God’s right to justly punish sin.
However, Rohr’s practical thoughts about the SHL could be profound for those who are in it, see it and work through it. In this book Rohr gives a big head nod to Carl Jung and his work on the Self in understanding how to contrast and navigate the two halves of life.*
The first half being the driven, striving, achieving half of those looking to climb the ladder of success and power in their hope of ascendency. Making their mark and leaving a leagacy is the goal of those in this hemisphere. Rules, polemics and categories are paramount. Left and Right, labels and boxes are needed for clear lines of distinction between “us” and “them.”
“Thus the first journey is always about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, correct rituals, Bible quotes and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for spiritually (Matthew 23:13-32).” pg. 13
The first half of life is the warrior’s journey to save the lost, retrieve that which was stolen and to right the wrongs of the world.
The second half resists labels. It is a break for the first, but sees the first half as an essential part of getting to the second half. We must establish the strategies, travel the paths and work the plans of the first half if we are ever going to get to the second half. The effort of the first half gives the second perspective and something to react against. The SHL is about desendency.
“If you have, in fact, deepened and grown ‘in wisdom, age and
grace’ (Luke 2:52) you are able to be patient, inclusive and
understanding of all pervious stages. This is what I mean by my
frequent use of the phrase “transcend and include.” pg. 9
Rohr makes it clear the transition between the two halves of life has more to do with maturity, life experiences and wisdom than it does with age. The SHL is the strong hold of convictions, but the humility to appreciate other options. It is the ability to sit in the tension of life without seeking a resolution. It can stomach ambiguity. It is the capacity to transcend the lesser, false and hollow expectations of the first half of life.
“We no longer need to change or adjust other people to be happy.
Ironically, we are more than ever in a position to change
people-butwe don’t NEED to- and that makes all the difference.
We have moved from doing to being to an utterly new kind of
doing that flows almost organically, quietly and by osmosis. Our
actions are less compulsive. We do what we are called to do
(and knowing what we are call to do is a SHL trail marker)
and then try to let go of the consequences. We actually can’t do that
very well when we are young.” (emphasis Rohr/italics mine) pg. 122-123
The SHL is the settled confident, experienced and well traveled king rather than the ambitious head strong warrior. Both at heroes, but the latter has no need to prove it anymore.
Unlike some people, I am in the turmoil of this transition. It has taken me more than half of my life to get here. And I full acknowledge, though maybe not accept, the fact I will not have equal time to live the second half as I did the first.
Being in the early transition of the first half to the second half of life transformation, I am having difficulty fully grasping what the SLH looks like. I still want to hold on to my dreams. To still push for significance and influence. I want to still conquer and take the proverbial bull by the horns and teach it who is master. I am having trouble accepting my lot in life. I struggle with letting go and moving on. I have spent my life striving, chasing and caring about what others think of me. I still compare myself to people who are not me. I wrestle with questions:
How do I give up without giving in?
How do I stop climbing the ladder without stopping entirely?
How do I descending before reaching the top without calling it failure?
How do I approach the SHL when the first half did not go as planned?
How do I think of myself less without thinking less of myself?
How do I succeed at redefining success?
Clearly, I am experiencing the labor pains of the SHL. Unfortunately, my spiritual clock does not tick at the regular intervals of a biological clock. Soon, I hope to give birth to a Holy Fool rather than an Old Fool, because that is who I truly long to be.
(*Unfortunately, I would not recommend this book to those who are unable to sift the wheat from the chaff.)