We spend our lives hiding in fear, scared that the unthinkable might happen, that something might go wrong, a tragedy might befall us, our world might not remain in the safe little structure that we’ve carefully and painstakingly built around it. The irony is that no matter how scared you are or how strong you build your structure something will come and tear it down. It will strip everything away and leave you butt naked to face the fear you thought you could avoid your whole life, if you were just careful enough, if you were just clever enough, if you were just strong enough.
It’s a fact. I’m not making it up. If you want to test the theory go and talk to any old person, in fact anyone over 45 or 50. I guarantee you every single one of them will have been stripped back in some way. Life is meant to take you where you need to go, not necessarily where you want to go. If everything was peachy keen, hunky dory fine all of the time there would be no room for growth or expansion, just stagnate stillness with the same story the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.
When Pete was diagnosed with cancer a friend gave him a book by Richard Rohr called Falling Upwards. Rohr talks about the two halves of life. How the first half of life is all about building a container around us. It’s about body and how it looks and what clothes we wear, it’s about the car we drive, the house we live in, the job we have and how much money we’ve got stashed away or at least purport to. It’s about structure and rules and living life the right way. All of these things are important, he stresses, for creating a strong foundation of the human spirit, strong enough so that when the time comes to strip them all away the human spirit will thrive. According to Rohr it’s when you’re stripped back to your bare bones, left naked and blinking on the ground that life begins. The problem arises when people try to avoid this, when they dodge and weave and refuse to go to the depths of what they’re being offered and insist on scrambling back to exactly where they were before their own personal crisis befell them.
This constant grappling, insisting on staying in the first half of life, attached to body and image and possessions, is akin to living in a suspended youth that is no longer youthful but only mimickory of an era that has had its time. If we refuse to acknowledge and surrender to the opportunity crisis has come to offer us, if we refuse to travel to its depths and find the gifts that lie below it, two things will happen. Firstly the crisis, not being able to burn itself out completely because of lack of recognition will remain present for a lot longer than it needs to. Secondly, if we have an adult population who insists on remaining suspended in the first half of their lives there will be no wisdom and no mentors for the coming generation. There will be no respect. In fact the coming generation will simply laugh at ours as they become more and more successful in the first half of life, as is their right, squishing us out of the way.
As alluring and appealing as the gifts of the first half of life are, surely as we age, the gift of true self – knowing oneself completely and unveiling a heart driven purpose in life, shine brighter than the biggest bank account.
For more information on Richard Rohr visit https://cac.org/richard-rohr