I do not remember who recommended to me Rohr’s book. It might have been my friend Chris Heuertz, a well-known specialist in the Enneagram, the same who put me in contact with the author when I fell in love with this book, about ten years ago.
After reading it, I recommended it to my colleagues (I was at the time a member of the Middle East & Eastern Europe team of World Vision International). They loved it too, so I decided to invite fr. Rohr to lead a retreat for our team. The opportunity came when he was invited to lead devotions for a meeting of European prison chaplains, in an Orthodox monastery in Romania. He accepted to meet with me for half an hour after the session. We went to a little lake behind the monastery and we started talking, going on and on around the pond. We clicked from the first moment. I was totally fascinated with this senior Franciscan monk. When we looked at our watches, 90 minutes had passed, and we did not feel it. WE stayed in touch after this, but I will never forget this encounter.
I read Falling Upward at least ten times, in written and audio form, at a time when I really needed it. Let me share a few things about the book, in the hope of getting you interested in it.
Fr Rohr divides the spiritual life into two periods. During the first one we define our identity, usually by contrast, opposition, and competition. It is a dualistic ‘either-or’, ‘this or that’ time, when we build our ‘container’. Many people do not go beyond this and they think that this is what life ids all about. Yet, sages from all wisdom traditions talk about a ‘second half of life’, a time of synthesis, of ‘this and that’, that is not in opposition to or a negation of the ‘first half of life’, but it incorporates it and transcends it.
The tricky thing is that often we become so enamoured with the container, so narcissistic about the building of our ‘container’, that we are never able to fill it, which is the reason we need a ‘container’ in the first place. As the author says, we often lean our ladder on a wall and go up on it, to find out at the end that we leaned it on the wrong wall. That is why the transition from the first to the second half of life is often traumatic. We need a real life crisis to discover that there is more to life than the competition game. However, at the end of this painful crisis we discover new and rich horizons which we never thought existed. Without this experience our lives would be wasted.
I invite you to follow this fascinating journey. I assure you there will be multiple benefits at the end of it.
(Richard Rohr – Falling Upward: A Spirituality For The Two Halves Of Life, SPCK, 2013)
NOTE: I have written this short presentation for The Koin (the magazine of our Episcopal parish in Glasgow), the June-July 2021 issue.