18 September

Falling Upward: The Two Great Tasks Of Life. Change And Fullness

by Jon Katz

I am falling upward, the gate to a richer, fuller, and more meaningful life.

Father Richard Rohr, a brilliant Franciscan priest and spiritual author, wrote Falling Upward: A Spirituality For The Two Halves Of Life.

It is a book that means a lot to me. Rohr, a favorite spiritual thinker of mine, got my head spinning; his books tap into my life and the profound changes affecting me.

It seems the spiritual authors carry the truth for me in ways I have always been searching for.

There are two major tasks to human life. The first is to figure out who we are, where we want to go, and how to survive successfully.

In the first half, we establish our identity – what we do, who we marry, where we live, whether we have children, build a platform for our lives, searching for security and community.

The second is what Rohr calls “the task within the task,” learning to be honest about our integrity and intentions, accepting our hopes and failures, and facing up to who we are as we move into older age and the fullness of our lives.

Aging is what we make of it; for me, it is a time of significant advancement and peace of mind. I am open to it.

In our culture, we are taught to think of the second half of life as primarily about getting old, dealing with our health, fading into irrelevance, and losing much of our physical energy. And then, death.


I have found the opposite to be true. As Rohr suggests, I experience this time of life as falling upward,  learning tolerance and acceptance, and moving into a broader, wiser, more profound time of life.

I am living my revolution now, free to understand who I am and who I still have time to be.  I am changing once again. I am free of the worst of me and open to the best.

My soul is finding its fullness connected to the whole of my life, letting go of the fear and uncertainty that marked the first half of my life and its many failures and traumas. I’m living inside the Big Picture and loving it there.

I am 76, but I do not see my life as about loss but gain. Those experiencing this fullness have gotten there against overwhelming odds, often by personal loss and fear.

I remember Helen Keller, the blind and deaf writer who lived the entire second half of her life in happiness while caring for others. I think of Jesus describing such a person, “from their breasts flow fountains of living water” (John, 7:38.

Helen Keller had a devoted mirror named Anne Sullivan, her teacher, and she taught me to find a mirror and listen to the truth.

Maria came to me as a mirror and accepted me as hers.

We helped to transform each other.

Every changed person has a mirror to reflect the good often buried or hidden inside them. I believe these human mirrors make the second half of life meaningful.

For me, this transformation would not have been possible at all alone. I saw the truth about me in Maria; she saw the fact in me. Maybe we all need a mirror we can trust.

I had years and years to mess up my life and years and years to heal.

I am a transformed person, and I see a significant difference between transformed and nontransformed people; they divide the country with their anger, grievance, and self-pity.

A aspiritual and political life is a cold and empty space.

With spirituality comes compassion and honesty. Without it comes hatred and deception.

I am happy to be accepting myself at long last. I see that there are people who love and admire me for who I am not and those who resent me for who I am, my flaws, and my troubles.

They are forgetting how to live. I am shedding the need for them.

I am learning that people’s often angry responses to me say more about them than me. Good people mirror the goodness in us; troubled people mirror the flaws.

In the second half of my life, I am learning the difference between who I am and how other people mirror that or not. That’s the price of being in the public eye.

In the second half of life, people have less power to dazzle me and control or hurt me. This is the freedom of the second half – not to need, but to be me.

I see that all of the great men and women of the world have something in common. They come to serve, not to be served.

I understand it isn’t in me to be a great person; it’s too late. But I can be a good person, accepting of myself and others and living without fear, resentment, or self-pity.

That’s the task of the second part of my life. It inspires and rejuvenates me.

I’m grateful to be falling upward. I have nowhere to go but up.



  1. I like the phrase *falling upward* Jon. I’m trying to fall that way also…..but it is a challenge (but isn’t everything?). I find encouragement from you, which is very welcomed always. Wonderful post………
    Susan M

  2. Oh Jon, I disagree – I believe you are indeed a great person. Perhaps no marble monument will be erected in your likeness, yet the way you have served others, the ways you work to be the change you wish to see, the love you have for yourself and your wife and others, the way that you share your good, bad and ugly – this is what great people do. The fact that you don’t do any of this intending to be great is what makes you great. As you wrote in another post, you “seek to enrich the lives of the people around me,” and this desire is your driving force. And remember, being “nice” isn’t the real deal, being kind is. Nice is for show, kind is internal.

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