I’m blogging through Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality Through The Two Halves Of Life. Even if you haven’t read the book, please stick around and join the conversation here if you’re facing a mid-life transition. Father Rohr offers us all some meaty food for thought.
Click here to read the introduction to the series.
Click here to read about Chapter 1.
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With a great big nod to Joseph Campbell, Chapter 2 opens with a review of the arc of the hero’s journey:
The hero is living a comfortable, if not royal, existence.
The hero responds to the call to leave his/her present comfort zone on a quest, pilgrimage or adventure.
On this journey, the hero discovers their real problem. The hero may even be wounded in some way, and as the story comes to a climax, the hero discovers that the wound is the key to being able to successfully complete his/her mission.
The hero may initially believe that the things or issues that incited the journey are the purpose for the journey, when in fact they are just a launch pad to a deeper journey.
The hero, changed, returns to the place where it all began, but now functions as a gift and resource to that place.
“A ‘hero’ now is largely about being bold, muscular, rich, famous, talented, or ‘fantastic’ by himself, and often for himself, whereas the classic hero is one who ‘goes the distance,’ whatever that takes, and then has plenty left over for others. True heroism serves the common good, or it is not really heroism at all.”
Rohr notes that the hero’s odyssey is the story of our second adulthood. He says that the touchstone story (or “myth”, as he names it – a word I understand in this context but can’t embrace) among the world’s three monotheistic religions is found in God’s call to Abraham and Sarah to leave their country and family for a new land to which he will lead them. Jesus tells his followers the same thing in several places, including Luke 14:26. “What led so many saints to seek ‘the will of God’ first and above their own?…I would assume it was often a sense of a further journey, an invitation from their soul, or even a deep obedience to God…When he calls his first disciples, Jesus is talking about further journeys to people who are already happily settled and religiously settled!”
For those who get especially good at building their own ‘house’ in the first half of life – of creating a comfortable identity and making themselves at home in it – the idea of leaving it all behind sounds like pure lunacy. Yet if we’ve completed that task well (not necessarily because we’ve built the Vanderbilt Estate out of our first-half lives, but because we’ve answered those first-half questions of relationship, vocation and identity), we will be invited to leave the comforts of our ‘house’ at midlife for uncharted territory. Rohr writes, “To build your house well is, ironically, to be nudged beyond its doors.”
Few want to leave. After all, that ‘house’, that first half life, is our masterwork. Or at least, that’s what we want to believe about it. Go we must, if we are to continue to grow in the kind of childlike maturity to which God calls us.
J.R.R. Tolkien, who knew a thing or two about the hero’s journey, once famously said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” At this point in my life, those words resonate with me. I am wandering, and a little disoriented, but I am confident that I am not lost.
Nor am I at home anymore. (If ever I was.)
What about you? Have you found yourself launched in some way from the container you worked so hard to create of the first half of your life? What is most disorienting to you about leaving your ‘house’?