Book Review: Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Have entered my fifties several years ago I have kept my eyes open for books about the second half of life. I have read some books, written within a more defined evangelical view, that have been helpful. However as I am now experiencing the fifties I am now more on the lookout  for books that point me to a more generative, to use Erik Erikson’s term, life  in which my faith is a key part.

Father Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, is a helpful volume that brings into focus a perspective that the second half of life is not fully about death but about living a more generative life. Written in a conversational style, Rohr argues at the outset that we are a “first-half- of- life culture” largely concerned about surviving successfully.” (His emphasis) He then goes on to outline a perspective using both classical literature, some Freudian and Jungian Psychology, as well Biblical passages, in which he suggests that down can be a way up.

Thirteen chapters in length, Rohr begins by describing some of the characteristics of the first half of life and the downside of staying in a first half mentality. He cogently argues that poor work done in the first half affects the ability to live well in the second half. He speaks of, in chapter three, a key early chapter, of “discharging your loyal soldier” or one’s ego as he argues that “The first battles solidify the ego and create a stalwart loyal solider; the second battles defeat the ego because God always wins.” After addressing the issues with living a “first half life” he moves into a presentation of  “necessary suffering”  in life that includes “shadow work” or dealing with that part of our inner life that must be dealt with as part of life in the second half which Rohr calls “falling upward.”

Now one of the questions I began to ask as I read toward the end of the book was, “What are some of the hallmarks of the second half of life?” While Rohr does not give a list of hallmarks, he makes this insightful statement, “Doers become thinkers, feelers become doers, thinkers become feelers, extroverts become introverts, visionaries become practical, and the practical long for vision.”

This book is not a “step one, two, and three” kind of a book. It is a primer, a road map for discerning the outlines of  the second half of life as journey toward a more spiritual, and really human, kind of life.

Some readers will be frustrated with Father Rohr’s lack of a more overt Christian discipleship in this book and feel that it moves toward a broad inclusive mindedness that leads to a relativistic point of view. Well it is a broadly inclusive book. But it also points the reader toward a ‘lose your life for My sake’ view in which the dominant model of the first half gives way to a serving mind set and a surrendering of the ego (will) to God so that one becomes a person in which the Christian faith takes deeper root and leads to a more Christlike attitude and character.

Notice: I received a copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program. I was not required to write a favorable review.

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