March 30, 2011

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr - A Review

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Fr. Richard Rohr is a much needed and deeply spiritual look into the two halves of our lives. Although Rohr has much to say to those who are engaged in the first half of their spiritual lives, this book is especially valuable to those of us over 40 (I'm on the far side of 50).

In order to fully appreciate and engage the second half of our spiritual lives, it is imperative that we realize we are no longer in that "container" which housed our earlier paradigm and outlook. We continue to grow up, to change, to mature, to become "elders." Without the wisdom of elders, we can find ourselves in a cauldron of error and disfunctionality as individuals, families, communities, and as a society. "Without elders, much of our history has been formed by juniors reacting, overreacting, and protecting their own temporary privilege, with no deep-time vision like the Iroquois Nation, which considered, 'What would be good for the next seven generations.'" (p 32). This is so evident in our American society right now, which is driven by contemporary greed, political pragmatism, and hateful cynicism. We need the wisdom of elders. And not everyone who is elderly is an elder. Many have never matured and grown out of the container of youthful immaturity. Rohr addresses this very carefully in this book. "Many of us cannot move ahead because we have not done the first task, learned from the last task, or had any of our present accomplishments acknowledged by others." (p 23).

Part of the wisdom of maturity is for helping the younger generations to learn from their own lives. "We are parts of social and family ecosystems that are rightly structured to keep us from falling but also, more importantly, to show us *how* to fall and also *how to learn* from that very falling. ... We are not helping our children by always preventing them from what might be necessary falling, because *you learn how to recover from falling by falling*." (p 28).

Fr. Rohr kicks over several sacred cows in this tightly-packed little book. But he also sheds a lot of light on who we are and who God intends us to be. "I am afraid that the closer you get to the Light, the more of your shadow you see. Thus truly holy people are *always* humble people." (p 132).

In the first half of life we settle for answers and organizations, according to Rohr. In the second half, we discover wisdom, gentleness, inclusion. "Basically, the first half of life is writing the text, and the second half is writing the commentary on that text." (p 143).

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