“Falling Upward,” by Richard Rohr is about, as the subtitle says, “A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.” It is a thoughtful book by a well known Franciscan priest.
It is a good book for people who are in the second half of life and are wealthy enough to be able to partake in all that the second half offers. In fact, it is also an interesting book for those that are just old, but are still living in the first half.
Rohr points out that we are a “first-half-of-life culture,” largely concerned about surviving successfully. I would add, or just surviving. He says, “We all try to do what seems like the task that life first hands us: establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.” Yet, many, will not accomplish the first half of life in their entire lifetimes, clinging tenaciously to basic survival.
“You need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life.” If you don’t have that strong container it’s tough. He says, “In fact, far too many (especially women and disadvantaged people) have lived very warped and defeated lives because they tried to give up a self that was not there yet.”
“The Tragic Sense of Life,” is the title of one of the chapters in this book. I thought it made a lot of sense. He says that the Greek word for tragedy means “goat story.” I thought that was funny because I have been referred to as a “Billy goat,” due to my hiking. The idea however is that we can grow from tragedy. Rohr says, “It all depends on whether we are willing to see down as up; or as Jung put it, that “where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.” “Lady Julian put it even more poetically: “First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God.”
He says, “I am personally convinced that Jesus’ ability to find a higher order inside constant disorder is the very heart of his message – and why true Gospel, as rare as it might be, still heals and renews all that it touches.” That is a profound statement and it certainly rings true. Order and chaos are a part of life, in constant ebb and flow.
“In the second half of life, we do not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us and truly influence us.” What a great way to live! The older I get the less I think I know for sure about anything yet I have met many older men who have set their opinions in stone. Rohr says, “It always deeply saddens me when old folks are still full of themselves and their absolute opinions about everything.”
People who do the second half of life well have combined their occupation and their life so that their “delivery system” is one. He says, “Your concern is not so much to have what you love anymore but to love what you have – right now. This is a monumental change from the first half of life, so much so that it is almost the litmus test of whether you are in the second half of life at all.”
This book continues with a look at the shadow self. Shadow work is a topic in many books these days, but I think this one offers unique insight. So buy the book! You will be glad you did. After all, it is another bookish weapon.