Recently, the United Nations published a ‘100 Plus’ report on average life expectancy through history:
- Cro-Magnon era: 18
- The Renaissance: 30
- America in 1850: 43
- America today: 78
By the year 2300 in the developed world, the projected average is 101, an apparent ceiling for humans. According to Sherwin Nuland, even if we cure all disease, “…all life has a finite span and each species has its own particular longevity. For human beings, this would appear to be approximately 100 to 110 years.” (How We Die, p. 84) As I enter my 7th decade, my thoughts are not so much on death and dying but on life and living. Now as more of us have a “second half of life”, will the chapter headings for Part II in our Table of Contents be more of the same or something different?
My friend Sarah, author of the Noontimes and one of my guides, referred me to Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. (http://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/the-second-journey/) Rohr writes that most people and institutions necessarily focus on first-half-of-life issues: establishing identity, creating boundaries and seeking security, linking to people and projects. In our first-half, success oriented culture, many build strong “containers”; but if that’s where we stop, we remain narcissistic. Living longer gives us time to pursue our “contents”, to take an inner journey and quiet our voices so we can listen deeper, to fall down into the unknown in order to fall upward into honesty, wisdom and who we really are. It is frightening to let go of first-half comforts. Sometimes I feel impatient or overwhelmed even to the point of wishing I could escape back to my well-fabricated life. I understand why people avoid walking the path into the second-half even if they know that they will find peace in a more authentic home.
Still on sabbatical and reinventing myself as a writer, I’m pulling apart a “first-half” book draft because it doesn’t really know what it’s about. By re-shaping the outline and almost completely starting over again, I’m trying to craft a “second-half” book that knows what it’s really about. It’s a tentative process, like an inchworm coming to the end of a branch and reaching for the next footing. I’m not sure where this is taking me, but I’m going there.
What topics are in your life’s Table of Contents?