[This book] explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness.
Yes, I begin this post with a quote for a reason: I didn’t initially know what to make of it.
I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s step back. As you might recall from other recent posts, I was recently introduced to Father Richard Rohr via a handful of podcasts. I really loved what he had to say in those interviews, so I thought, “Hey, let’s check out his written works.” So just like any scholarly individual would do, I went to Amazon and searched “Richard Rohr” to select his work with the highest, most top rated reviews. And out popped Falling Upward.
In reading the description of the book, though, I was a little dismayed by that quote above. I took it quite literally to mean this book is intended for older folks, probably in how to spiritual live out the end of their days in honor of God. And being in the first half of my life (well… so I hope), this didn’t seem to fit the bill for me.
Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not feeling like I can do this book justice by writing a typical review about it, I want to highlight three reflections I am currently ruminating on along with a number of questions I’ll be exploring more thoroughly, probably for the rest of my life.
So as far as any sort of formal review goes, here it is: check out this book, ASAP. There is so much in here that I certainly will read it again and again to reflect on thoughts I didn’t get to here.
Let’s get into my reflections.
“Discharging Your Loyal Soldier”
At one point in the book, Rohr tells an anecdote of Japanese soldiers after a Great War. Apparently, the Japanese government had a lot of big issues with soldiers still living in war-like mindsets, not being able to accept the reality of the war being over due to their intense sense of loyalty.
Much in the same way, we who grew up in the church have a very, very hard time letting go of certain ideas or doctrine because letting go of them honestly seems heretical. To this end, Rohr encourages a “discharging of your loyal soldier” so that you can enter a new, “second half of life” kind of thinking. (If you want to know more about the second half of life, you really need to read the book. I can’t do it justice in a few sentences here.)
I don’t know about you, but this is harder than I thought it would be. Yes, even the guy who seemingly questions everything has his main stays. But I also think it’s important to balance letting go of that old life and understanding what parts we should hold onto. In other words, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Fortunately, Rohr gives us a good framework for this thinking in “The Three Boxes” example, and I’ve written other posts about that if you want to learn more there.
Moving Away from Dualistic Thinking
Black and white. Good and evil. This or that.
That’s typically what we think about when we think of dualistic thinking. But it’s deeper than that. It’s really this thought of giving stronger weight to one idea and lesser weight to another.
Let me illustrate with a quick example. This book was written by Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar part of the Catholic Church.
Do you know how many people won’t read this book because of that sheer fact?
It’s staggeringly high, as if we Protestants have it figured out better than the Catholics. Or, more strongly, as if we Protestants have everything figured out better than Buddhists.
Rohr, at one point, highlights Luke 16:8, where the Master commends somebody not of his house for his shrewdness. This definitely seems to point toward this thought that we can learn even from those who don’t necessarily align themselves to our same faith. It’s a beautiful thought and one I’ll be dwelling on a lot.
Mirroring the Self to Others
As Rohr begins to wind down the book, you think you’re done getting wisdom, only to find one of the strongest thoughts looming in the final chapter. It’s this idea of how you relate to others. In Rohr’s own reflections, he notes that people have praised them throughout his whole life… but for a variety of reasons that is really telling of them. Many saw him as a teacher, many saw him as a friend, and many saw him as a father figure.
It’s a powerful thought for us because it can reveal the subconscious intentions of our own hearts. I think back now to the men and women I’ve looked up to over time and think, “How did I see them?” It’s a new paradigm of thinking that enables a whole world of introspection.
Questions and Final Thoughts
Ugh, I feel like I’m all over the place with my thoughts. There really is just too much to unpack in a short blog post like this. This is definitely a “must read”, and I sincerely hope you don’t let Rohr’s Catholic ties keep you from reading this book.
Let’s wrap things up with a number of questions I’ll be keeping in mind from here on out:
- Without diminishing suffering itself, how can I dwell in the suffering to see potentials for growth beyond the suffering?
- Am I unnecessarily diminishing something because it doesn’t subscribe to be same sorts of things I gravitate toward?
- How is my pride getting in the way of true growth?
- Are my thoughts more aligned toward first half of life thinking or second half of life thinking?
- How to my personal reflections about another person reveal the subconscious tendencies of my heart?
- How can I share my thoughts with others in a way that doesn’t sink into overbearing dualism?
I could really go on, but we’ll stop there. Such a great book. I pray you all get it, read it carefully, and meditate on its words.