Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Breaking Free From the Ladder of Success

Monroe County
I've been reading Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. So far this is a good read for me, especially since I estimate that I am now in the second half of my life. Here's how I figure this. Last Wednesday I turned 63. If I live to 125 then I am now officially in the second half of my life.

I want to make this second half of life count more than the first half. To do that I need to be free from the cultural values of the "American Dream." Rohr puts it this way.

"Our institutions and our expectations, including our churches, are almost entirely configured to encourage, support, reward, and validate the tasks of the first half of life. Shocking and disappointing, but I think it is true. We are more struggling to survive than to thrive, more just “getting through” or trying to get to the top than finding out what is really at the top or was already at the bottom." (K270)

I've met a lot of "second half" people who have not matured beyond the "first half." Some try to cling to the first half by spending their resources on their fading physical appearance. Years ago I met such a man. Linda, I, and our boys had gone for a weekend getaway at a motel in the north suburbs of Detroit. Dan and I went into the sauna. This older man began talking with us. He started to share his life story. He was a rich man who had spent his life accumulating wealth but in the process lost his wife and children in a bitter divorce. I remember his words that day. "I gave her a million dollars in the settlement"....  "My plan was to eventually retire and spend the rest of my life with her"... "I miss my children" (he said this to Dan)... and when he left us he spoke words of wisdom which he had failed to follow. Looking at me he said, "Enjoy your family." Which was exactly what I was doing.

Thomas Merton once wrote that "we may spend our whole life climbing the ladder of success, only to find when we get to the top that our ladder is leaning against the wrong wall." (Ib.)

In this half of my life I will pray more, take more time alone with God, read Scripture more, invest more in people, and be free from the ladder of success.