The second simplicity…

israel-125year-old-man-laughing

I should be packing, but here I am again. I felt compelled to reflect on one of Richard Rohr’s meditations that landed in my inbox like manna. If you have not heard of him, you might like to check him out here, via his Centre for Action and Contemplation website.

Richard Rohr speaks of the one-ness of all things; the hope that we might come to understand ourselves not as individual units of consumption, satisfaction and distraction, but rather as held in a relationship with all things.

Today he used this wonderful phrase ‘the second simplicity’, which he defines like this;

As we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we thought we were. Separation from God, self, and others was a deep and tragic illusion. As we grow into deeper connection and union, the things that once brought meaning and happiness to our small self no longer satisfy us. We tried to create artificial fullness through many kinds of addictive behavior, but still feel empty and nothing, if we are honest. We need much more nutritious food to feed our Bigger Self; mere entertainments, time-fillers, diversions, and distractions will no longer work.

At the more mature stages of life, we are even able to allow the painful and the formerly excluded parts gradually belong to a slowly growing and unified field.  This shows itself as a foundational compassion, especially toward all things different and those many people who “never had a chance.” If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for everybody else too. If you have not forgiven yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. “What comes around goes around.”

Many who are judgmental and unforgiving seem to have missed out on the joy and clarity of the first childhood simplicity, perhaps avoided the suffering of the mid-life complexity, and thus lost the great freedom and magnanimity of the second simplicity as well. We need to hold together all of the stages of life, and for some strange, wonderful reason, it all becomes quite “simple” as we approach our later years. The great irony is that we must go through a lot of complexity and disorder (another word for necessary suffering) to return to the second simplicity. There is no nonstop flight from first to second naiveté, from initial order to resurrection. We must go through the pain of disorder to grow up and switch our loyalties from self to God. Most people just try to maintain their initial “order” at all costs, even if it is killing them.

As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why we are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Merton called “a hidden wholeness.”

I love this. Not because I think that I have yet embraced this deeper sense of who I am in my second half of life. I can lay claim to no great maturity, and have more than my fair share of mid life complexity. However I know that in these words there is such hope.

Not just hope for a life of some kind of Zen like personal satisfaction, for what is the point of that, but rather a hope for all things, that at the end of all things, there is a wholeness that holds everything.

 

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