Faith Column: The second half of life
In the first article I wrote Our Two Halves of Life, we learned about what we do in the first half of life where we spend much of our time filling the vessel with possessions, power and prestige, often referred to as the three “P’s. We think for the most part that life is all about us, that it is a life of self-advancement. Most of our decisions are usually based on personal, egoic preference and choice. This is the life we are called to “leave,” the self that Jesus says must “die” to fall into our Larger Life or True Self. In the second half of life we start realizing that the three “P’s” aren’t cutting it, that is, giving us a life of fulfillment or spiritual attainment. We start looking for ways to fill our vessel with new “stuff.” In this quest, we realize that we must first free ourselves from the self. The first half of life does have meaning and is necessary or we wouldn’t understand the changes we will be undergoing in the Second Half of Life, or should be.
So in order to be free for life, we must quite simply be free from our small selves. In order to understand this internal spiritual movement or even see it, our first question is something other than “What do I want?” “What do I prefer?” or “What pleases me?” St. Francis in his book The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, he says “it really does not matter what I want. We are not free at all until we are free from ourselves (emphasis mine).” We finally realize the three “P’s” only controls us, does not free us, and does not fill the spiritual emptiness we feel inside us.
Our break through moment, the beginning of the Second Half of Life is where we start making peace with our past, stop accumulating and gathering titles and look forward to moving from Age-ing to Sage-ing. My final statement in the first article on the Second Half of Life was “We find a profound new vision of Growing Older.”
Let’s travel a ways done this road and see what can be in store for us in the latter half of life. In this discover, we will find it can add life and meaning to those years. In this part of the aging process, we should discover how healthy aging can be if approached in a positive way, and as Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine, & Miracles, “aging is more like the process of birth than only a reminder of our mortality.” We find the second half of life is more than just comparing how many different meds I take with my fellow senior, how many joints ache, or had to be replaced just for starters!
We are now prepared to go on a vision quest to understand more about growing older, and the fears about death and infirmity.We investigate how to turn aging into the most meaningful, and truly wonderful, time of life. Can we create a radically different aging process characterized by adventure, passion, myster, and fulfillment? Yes, we can. It means overcoming the negative aspects of growing older, expanding our horizons beyond the narrow present to a grand and enduring eternity. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in his book From AGE-ing to Sage-ing states we can do it by “harnessing the power of the spirit,” entering into Elderhood, and the rewards of volunteering.
In my next article, I shall pass along how we can use our life experiences to nurture, heal and “perhaps save both a younger generation and this world.” We discover we are about life!
F. Neil Folks, The Wandering Elder, writes on behalf of the Religion Column-Ministerial Alliance.
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