Falling Upward

Falling Upward

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Book - 2011
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"A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life. In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the only ones who understand "up." Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward". In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness. Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens loss is gain Richard Rohr is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780470907757
Branch Call Number: 248.4 ROH
Characteristics: xxxvii, 199 p. ; 19 cm


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Jan 10, 2019

In my recent dark night of the soul, I found Father Rohr's writings. His work on the contemplative approach is fascinating.

Feb 28, 2016

Being well into my second half of life and having read several other books on human development and spirituality, I was interested in reading this one also because some good friends recommended it. The book is well worth reading and thinking about. Fr. Rohr has many good things to say. But I found it less helpful to me than other books like it.

Many of his most helpful and thoughtful sayings are mixed with what read like simplistic put-downs of people living according to what he describes as the "first half" of life. He also makes some broad generalizations about how "most people" for most of our history, and many for most all of their lives, never mature into truly "second half of life" people. This may be true, but it seems a bit overdone to me; as if to invite his readers to consider themselves, along with the author, to be more enlightened than most for seeing themselves in the book or for, at least, being inclined to read it. This sort of thing nearly spoiled the book for me.

I'm a little skeptical of approaches to spirituality that seem to overemphasize finding God within oneself. There's some truth to it, I think. We are made in God's Image and can grow to be more Christlike though the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Greater self understanding is essential to understanding our relationship to God. But it can also lead to self-justification, even at the expense of others in the relative judgements we then make about them. We can end up trusting too much in our own inclinations as a basis for our understanding of God.

Fr. Rohr illustrates many of his points with scripture references often taken out of context. He seems to use the Bible to illustrate his own point of view in many places, rather than as the inspiration for it. Examples of this have been pointed out by other reviewers of the book, leading some of the book's advocates to comment that such a concern for biblical accuracy is the mark of a "first half" person. Ugh. Maybe. Maybe not.

For such a strong advocate of non-dualistic, "both-and" thinking, Fr. Rohr sure relies heavily on what seems to me to be more dualistic, "either-or" distinctions between "first half" and "second half" people with their respective concerns for their "container" vs. its "contents." There is the "shadow self" and the "true self." While there is some validity in these distinctions, they can also make it too easy to pigeonhole others and put ourselves in a category apart, beyond the understanding of others and the flaws they might expose in our own way of thinking and living. Then there are statements like this: "Either God is for everybody and the divine DNA is somehow in all of the creatures, or this God is not God by any common definition, or even much of a god at all" (p. 109). Really? It's just that simple? Hmm.

As I've said, there are many wise and insightful words in this book, but I think it should be read with some detachment and discernment. I have a hard time accepting that everything Fr. Rohr describes as a second half quality of life, which resonates with my experience or outlook on life, is a mark of spiritual maturity. I think spiritual maturity can take different forms in different people depending on their personality and the situations with which life confronts them. Rohr's description may be one of them but I wonder if it may be just as much a product of cultural influence as he says the first half of life is. The "container" and its "contents" may not be so easy to distinguish at any stage of life, if such a distinction even makes sense. Maybe that's OK. I think I can live without it.

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