Monday, August 01, 2016

A game of two halves

That mortal life is a story of two chapters is a theory I've come across several times in psychological and spiritual writings.

My current guru, Daniel O Leary, believes we usually enter the second stage of life between the ages of 35 and 55. (Some, like Jesus, are ahead of the game.) The midlife transition is often marked by a crisis of some sort: a prolonged and intense period of reflection on our value, output, relationships and choices to date.

At best, during the first half of this life, we struggle fiercely and tirelessly to discover our identity. During the second, we are less vivacious but more free and authentic - perhaps even productive - because we are secure in our discovered identity.

The tragedy is that most people don't do this 'best', which can only happen in the context of love. The good news is that it is never too late to discover you are loved and redeem things.

Sadly, I don't think that we as a society, or as churches, are good at helping people navigate this two-part journey.

During the first half of life, we demand productivity and load on responsibility that prevents young souls finding out who they are. We do this to impose a 'good' identity onto our young charges, rather than allowing them to discover it. Many children and young people are anxious and stressed by the 'normal' abuses of pressurised school life, media, consumerism, dogmatic Sunday teaching and other forms of adult control / protection (depending on your perspective!) 

So, entering the second half, abandoned by some of those controlling / protective influences, we remain 'undiscovered', never having had the space to process our pain, fight our demons or find ourselves. We look like grown ups but are immature and unformed. We are powerful, angry children. We cope with the ageing process in cynicism, bitterness, fatigue, withdrawal.

Those who do grow up well, unsurprisingly, are often misunderstood, dismissed and resented. (Again, see Jesus).

I think I've entered my second half. Probably. Maybe. Lots of demons still to fight. Not least the one who tempts me to stagnate, to fight my children's battles instead of focussing on my own.

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