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Falling Upward

"We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie” – Carl Jung

 

“Falling Upward – a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” is Richard Rohr’s latest masterpiece and, with its synchronous perfection, the Universe has once again delivered a symbolic concept to me precisely at the time I was seeking it. Just over five years ago I was happily beavering away at life. I was working at an incredible company and surrounded by a beautiful family and great friends, and I was truly grateful for it. And then it was like I was suddenly possessed, or had my brain scrambled by some invisible force, and I turned my life upside down and smashed it into a million pieces. I completely lost myself in depression, addiction, and psychosis. Although the bottom was hard, it was quick, because it was accompanied by a complete surrender that opened me up to a Divine power that infused me with meaning, purpose and a sense of wholeness that is likened to a magical elixir, unleashing my creative potential and a deep desire to be in service to others. The monomyth of the Hero’s journey had been my map of the journey to date, but it could not help me understand much of the terrain. Rohrs' book fills the void.

 

Rohr describes life as having two halves. “The first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and to answer the first essential questions” ‘What makes me significant?’ ‘How can I support myself?’ and ‘Who will go with me?’ The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver”. The point he is making is that the container is not the end in itself but exists for the purpose of holding us to live the deeper and richer parts of our fullest life which are largely completely unknown to ourselves. The challenge is that our society and its institutions are by and large oriented to “first half” living. We are conditioned to believe life will end when we have achieved our goals or climbed as high as we can climb and then there is nowhere to go but down. This gives us the fear driven impulse that unless we keep climbing and keep achieving then life will be over.  We may ultimately spend our entire lives building a container and never look to see what is inside of it. 

 

Both halves are necessary; the material proceeds the spiritual. We need a container to hold the contents of what it is that we yearn to truly know and love. Almost every story in the bible, or any other spiritual text, in some ways, describes the transition from first half living to second half living. The characters are confronted by challenges, mistakes, losses, sin, and a thousand other forms of suffering that all turn out to be spiritual gifts that break them free from the matrix of first half living. Unfortunately, our religious institutions, like society as a whole, seem to also be entranced by first half living and are not up to the task of facilitating transformation. As Rohr says, “These are good people! But they keep doing their own kind of survival dance because no one has told them about their sacred dance. Of course, clergy cannot talk about a further journey if they have not gone on it themselves”. That last sentence applies to all of us. We can’t understand what we have not experienced and, more likely than not, we will reject what is outside of our experience as untrue. That is a first half living survival strategy. Oh the madness of it all!

 

I encourage you all to read Rhor’s book. A few of you will be resonating with it after the first paragraph but most of you will likely be struggling to relate to it. Keep reading and allow this book to create an openness to a second half journey that is full of unexpected treasures. And selfishly, I hope there are a few of my friends and family that read it so they can understand my journey better and know how much I love them.

 

The Way




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