I met a woman in her mid-70’s while on a walk at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town who, in essence, stated that she had come to the same conclusions as I: we no longer feel we have to prove ourselves. She was proud to say that she had finally put it in writing, to make the statement firm to herself; actually, I might have been the first person to whom she actually spoke of it. And me, I’m pleased with the satisfaction that comes with such a place in life; besides a greater sense of ease, I like the generative side of it.
In Generativity on the Second Half of Life, the author writes: “At this stage, I no longer have to prove that I or my group is the best, that my ethnicity is superior, that my religion is the only one that God loves, or that my role and place in society deserve superior treatment. I am not preoccupied with collecting more goods and services; quite simply, my desire and effort is to pay back, to give back to the world a bit of what I have received. I now realize that I have been gratuitously given to—from the universe, from society, and from God. I try now, as Elizabeth Seton said, to “live simply so that others can simply live.”
Erik Erikson calls someone at this stage a “generative” person, one who is eager and able to generate life from his or her own abundance and for the benefit of following generations. Because such people have built a good container, they are able to “contain” more and more truth, more and more neighbors, more and broader vision, more and more of a mysterious and outpouring God.
Their God is no longer small, punitive, or tribal. They once worshipped their raft; now they love the shore where it has taken them. They once defended signposts; now they have arrived where the signs pointed. They now enjoy the moon itself instead of fighting over whose finger points to it most accurately, quickly, or definitively.
One’s growing sense of infinity and spaciousness is no longer found just “out there” but most especially “in here.” The inner and outer have become one. You can trust your inner experience now, because God has allowed it, used it, received it, and refined it.
Quotes from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
(c) 2014 Susan McDonald