Falling Upward – A Book Review

In this courageous book, Franciscan priest and Spiritual Director Richard Rohr offers a primer on the Jungian concept of the two halves of life. Often mistaken for chronological age, the second half of life doesn’t necessarily begin for everyone in their 40’s/50’s and, for some, it never takes place at all. Rohr speaks of our culture being a largely first half of life one and how the tools that worked in the first half of life won’t serve us in the second.

It reminds me of Carl Jung’s (my favorite dead guy), counsel that “we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning.”  But how do we get there? Little red corvette? Tawdry affair? Tasteful tattoo?

“We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right, “ says Rohr. He goes on to say that our working overtime to deny pain and avoid necessary falling and failing have kept many of us from plumbing our spiritual depths.  He admonishes us to both hear and obey a deeper voice of God in the second half of life, saying it often sounds like “the voices of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul, of ‘common sense,’ of destiny, of your deepest self…”

Rohr says that the first half of life is ego driven and that the second half of life is soul drawn. The second half of life is a place to embrace mystery and paradox and to bathe in the waters of both/and. A place to abandon dualistic thinking and hold the tension. He encourages us to look at the second half of life as the hero’s journey, which takes a willingness to leave home, grapple with our inner and outer Cyclops, discover our soul and then return home truly knowing it for the first time.

Rohr admits readily that he is like a man without a country in that he no longer fits in with mere liberals or mere conservatives. He says that quoting Jesus is the only way some will listen to him and trust him, and that quoting Jesus gives others reason to mistrust him. He boldly takes both risks and doesn’t apologize to either side.

Unapologetic. I really like that in a person.

Rohr says he prays for one good humiliation a day and then watches his reaction to it – all in the name of keeping his shadow side in check. Yikes, but I get it. A very accessible and self-deprecating author, it is easy to forget he goes by Father Rohr.

Questions to consider:

  • To what extent have you shored up your life and circumstances to avoid pain, suffering, falling or failing?
  • What does it mean to be soul drawn to an experience? Reflect on a time you were soul drawn, and whether or not you “answered the call.”
  • What small step can you take today to honor the voice of your soul?

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