11 great quotes from the book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr  

by Mark Votava

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1. The creation and maintenance of first-half-of-life issues

“Almost all of culture, and even most of religious history, has been invested in the creation and maintenance of first-half-of-life issues: the big three concerns of identity, security, and sexuality and gender.  They don’t just preoccupy us; they totally take over.  That is where history has been up to now, I am afraid.  In fact most generations have seen boundary marking and protecting those boundaries as their primary and sometimes only task in life.  Most of history has been the forging of structures of security and appropriate loyalty symbols, to announce and defend one’s personal identity, one’s group, and one’s gender issues and identity.  Now we seem to live in a time when more and more people are asking, ‘Is this all there is?’”  

2. To live in the now that is given

“All that each of us can do is to live in the now that is given.  We cannot rush the process; we can only carry out each stage of our lives to the best of our ability…”

3. We do not know how to hold creative tensions

“Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well.  Without a contemplative mind, we do not know how to hold creative tensions.  We are better at rushing to judgment and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us.  This is not the way of wisdom, and it is the way that people operate in the first half of life.”  

4. Imposing tragedies on others

“One could say that the tragedy, the ‘goat stories’ of racism, slavery, sexism, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the two World Wars, all of which emerged in and were tolerated by Christian Europe, are a stunning manifestation of our disillusionment and disgust with ourselves and one another, when we could not make the world right and perfectly ordered, as we were told it should be.  We could not love the imperfection within ourselves or the natural world, so how could we possibly build any bridges toward Jews, Muslims, people of color, women, sinners, or even other Christians?  None of them fit into the ‘order’ we had predecided on.  We had to kill, force, imprison, torture, and enslave as we pursued our colonization of the rest of the world, along with the planet itself.  We did not carry the cross, the tragic sense of life, but we became expert instead at imposing tragedies on others.  Forgive my anger, but we must say it.”

5. One’s present comfort zone in life

“There is no practical or compelling reason to leave one’s present comfort zone in life.  Why should you or would you?  Frankly, none of us do unless and until we have to…”

6. A creation of your own mind and attachments

“Your false self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments.  It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.  ‘How much false self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?’ is the lasting question.  Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying…”

7. As we learn to draw upon our deepest inner life

“We never ‘create’ or earn the Spirit; we discover this inner abiding as we learn to draw upon our deepest inner life…”

8. Becoming fully and consciously who we already are

“Life is a matter of becoming fully and consciously who we already are, but it is a self that we largely do not know…”

9. People who have no inner struggles are invariably both superficial and uninteresting

“One of the great surprises is that humans come to full consciousness precisely by shadowboxing, facing their own contradictions, and making friends with their own mistakes and failings.  People who have no inner struggles are invariably both superficial and uninteresting.  We tend to endure them more than communicate with them, because they have little to communicate.  Shadow work is almost another name for falling upward.”

10. More calm and contemplative seeing

“More calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality…”

11. Failure and suffering are the great equalizers

“Failure and suffering are the great equalizers and levelers among humans.  Success is just the opposite.  Communities and commitment can form around suffering much more than around how wonderful or superior we are…  There is a strange and even wonderful communion in real human pain, actually much more than in joy, which is too often manufactured and passing.  In one sense, pain’s effects are not passing, and pain is less commonly manufactured.  Thus it is a more honest doorway into lasting communion than even happiness.”

Have you read Falling Upward?