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Sonderbooks Book Review of

Falling Upward

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

by Richard Rohr


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Falling Upward

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

by Richard Rohr

Review posted May 10, 2013.
Jossey-Bass (Wiley), 2011. 198 pages.

This is a book about spirituality by a Franciscan teacher, and about how our focus changes in the second half of life.

I'd like to think that I'm young for this book, but I also think that my divorce was a huge crisis right at midlife, so in some aspects, I'm on the other side, and it's fitting for me to read about the "second journey."

Here's what Richard Rohr has to say in his "Invitation to a Further Journey":

A journey into the second half of our own lives awaits us all. Not everybody goes there, even though all of us get older, and some of us get older than others. A "further journey" is a well-kept secret, for some reason. Many people do not even know there is one. There are too few who are aware of it, tell us about it, or know that it is different from the journey of the first half of life. . . .

I find that many, if not most, people and institutions remain stymied in the preoccupations of the first half of life. By that I mean that most people's concerns remain those of establishing their personal (or superior) identity, creating various boundary markers for themselves, seeking security, and perhaps linking to what seem like significant people or projects. These tasks are good to some degree and even necessary. . . .

But, in my opinion, this first-half-of-life task is no more than finding the starting gate. It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey. It is the raft but not the shore. If you realize that there is a further journey, you might do the warm-up act quite differently, which would better prepare you for what follows. People at any age must know about the whole arc of their life and where it is tending and leading.

We know about this further journey from the clear and inviting voices of others who have been there, from the sacred and secular texts that invite us there, from our own observations of people who have entered this new territory, and also, sadly, from those who never seem to move on. The further journey usually appears like a seductive invitation and a kind of promise or hope. We are summoned to it, not commanded to go, perhaps because each of us has to go on this path freely, with all the messy and raw material of our own unique lives. But we don't have to do it, nor do we have to do it alone. There are guideposts, some common patterns, utterly new kinds of goals, a few warnings, and even personal guides on this further journey. I hope I can serve you in offering a bit of each of these in this book.

There's a lot of wisdom in this book. A lot of it doesn't exactly fit the doctrine I was taught growing up. I'd like to think that the fact that doesn't bother me, that I can see the wisdom, might be a sign I'm beginning the path of the further journey.

I did pull out many quotations from this book at Sonderquotes, which will give you an sampling of some of the writer's wisdom.

Here's how he finishes his "Invitation to a Further Journey":

So get ready for a great adventure, the one you were really born for. If we never get to our little bit of heaven, our life does not make much sense, and we have created our own "hell." So get ready for some new freedom, some dangerous permission, some hope from nowhere, some unexpected happiness, some stumbling stones, some radical grace, and some new and pressing responsibility for yourself and for our suffering world.