I’ve dwelt on only a few pages of this book: it is very rich.
If you are going to grow and change and face up to this ‘second half’ of life, you need guides and a community- most change is hard, almost difficult, without this.
‘There are few in our religious culture who understand the necessity of mature internalized conscience, so wise guides are hard to find. You will have many more Aarons building you golden calves than Moseses leading you on any exodus.’ (48)
‘mature internalized conscience’ sounds so deadening- he means something like an internal world that knows it is not validated by external fluff and status (why do so many ministers who feel they have a ‘preaching ministry’ (?) feel they have to have a profile of themselves up front preaching…why is that status so important to you?). I like the Moses/Aaron bit – many will suggest another golden calf for you to build when you realise things are changing….security, status and ‘look at me’ is so important….the challenge of journey into possible exodus is hard; but from experience is much more satisafying.
I have tired- many years ago- of Christian books/trends promising that if we just do one more think we will have ‘breakthrough’. They tend to induce a feverish sense of heightened anxiety, followed by crashing despair: ‘I am just not holy/righteous/prayerful enough’. They are also like Chinese meals: you eat them and remain ultimately satisfied, yet crave more of them.
That’s why I like this book: it is slower, more meditative and truer to life. It has helped me gear up for this second half of life which-it seems to me- is more about acceptance and honesty than doing more.
Much as I loathe the word ‘must’, this quote spoke to me:-
‘There is a deeper voice of God, which you must learn to hear and obey in the second half of life. It will sound an awful lot like the voices of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul of ‘common sense’, of destiny, of love, of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self… The true faith journey only begins at this point. Up to now everything is mere preparation’
Where I have grown/changed in the last couple of years, it has been through that and through certain friends who have held out that vista and walked with me.
Over time I have become more disillusioned about battles that have been fought within the party I generally support (The Labour Party): the current fights are especially depressing- a vision of a fairer society has degenerated into squabbles.
And as for the church: ‘I believe in the Kingdom come; where all the colours will bleed into one’ (it has been ages since I quoted U2), which has a none too proud record of squabbles (and at the moment, I’m thinking about the fights/splits about sexuality and ‘truth’ that make me weep)…..
When I say ‘over time’, that makes me sound mature: I’m not-far from it.
Rohr talks of many things, but he refers to a ‘bogus conscience’ which is ‘a terrible substitute for authentic morality’ and
‘its substituting of small, low cost moral issues for the real ones that ask us to change, instead of trying to change other people’ (p48)
That, I think, is the real work of faith- Jesus called it ‘dying to your self’- and not the shrill and judgemental screaming at others for perceived faults in their behaviour or beliefs.
As I have got older, I think that mostly makes us feel good and just pisses off those who are different to us. We want them to see the light- they are less likely to do so because of us.
….is explaining it to others.
Something has moved you and it has been an intense journey, but each book is like a person: they have their own nuances and ways of being- taken out of context they are hard to explain.
And so it is with this book and the way it describes the changes that can occur- if you let them- in the second half of life. An example:-
‘The first battles solidify the ego and create a stalwart loyal soldier; the second battles defeat the ego because God always wins’ (p47)
This isn’t Christian triumphalism- I have had too many experiences of that and they leave you cold because life ain’t like that, so you pretend or leave. He is talking about that second half when it begins to dawn on you that you are not in control and you cannot run your life as ‘Me, me- notice me, please!’ Some people stay stuck in that zone- I’ve met people relatively old both within and without the church like that: their ego drains the life out of a room- they have never been able to be vulnerable and admit that they do not know.
‘No wonder so few want to let go of their loyal soldier; no wonder so few have the faith to grow up. The ego hates losing, even to God’.
I have returned to this book. I keep returning to this book.
This time it was driven through working with someone who is at a comparable life stage to me. I began to read it for them, but I gradually noticed I was reading it for me.
I have got to the stage where I am underlining almost every phrase, so redolent with meaning is it for this 50 something who is asking ‘what’s next?’ , ‘What am I now then?’ etc.
This book is about the ‘2nd stage’ in life- it can be at any age, although I began to read it as I felt, with 50 beckoning (and now gone), I had faced a few life changes: changing job/vocation, children moving to a different stage of education, losing and moving house, dying and death of a father in law and I wanted to think about where I was and what I was doing.
The writer talks about a ‘loyal soldier’ that helps us through the first half of life and helps us form our dignity, identity, direction, significance and boundaries: ‘it is far easier to begin life with a conservative worldview and respect for traditions’. I think you can see this on social media : many of our posts subtly or unsubtly boast of our significance/place or status.
Then he comes up with a killer quote that bought me up short- it refers to this ‘first place’ that saw us through the first half of life:-
‘Many just fall in love with their first place and position, as an extension of themselves, and spend their whole life building a picket fence around it’ (p46)
I wanted to say ‘Amen’, but also I wanted to say ‘ouch!’.