"Aging is Enlightenment at Gunpoint!"
This post title sums up the gravitas and levity I’ve learned from Christian mystic Richard Rohr (and, of course, it tumbled out of his mouth).
A Franciscan Friar, Enneagram master, and author of multiple bestsellers, including "Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life," Richard lives in Albuquerque (where his Center for Action and Contemplation is located), which means we’re now neighbors given the acquisition of our MEA ranch in the Galisteo, New Mexico area.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon and early evening with Richard and his good friend Doug Lynam. While we explored our ranch, he gave me his thoughtful perspective on our 2,600-acre homestead. We also talked about wholeness as a path to holiness, the idea that feeling integrated with oneself miraculously connects us with something bigger than ourselves. And, of course, these ideas came full circle with our shared belief that growing old is about growing whole and, sometimes, holy.
For the uninitiated, allow me to share a little of his writing:
"The harmonic of the universe is wholeness, not perfection; more specifically, it is wholeness that involves differentiation. Fusion is a union that sacrifices differentiation; wholeness retains differentiation. Without wholeness, we hear only the cacophonous noise of the various parts of ourselves, clanging together. Without differentiation, we hear only the pure sound of a single tone, but not its harmonics. How do you know if you are on a path that leads to increasing wholeness and involves living out of wholeness? You will hear harmony, not simply the cacophony of a fragmented self. You will also sense the energy of the larger whole—an energy that goes beyond your own.”
"You will, at least occasionally, experience the thrill of being simply a small part of a large cause, the thrill of being a tool, seized by a strong hand and put to an excellent use. You will be comforted by knowing that we are all interconnected. In a very real sense, therefore, what you do for another, you do for yourself. Love passed on to others becomes the most meaningful form of self-love, and care of the earth and its inhabitants becomes care of self. We live wholeness when we “re-member” our story and, through it, experience a deeper sense of being part of a greater whole. We live wholeness when we know we belong—to people, to a place, to a community and tribe, to earth, to God (however named), and to the cosmos…”
I’ve spent years reading Richard’s books and listening to his podcasts. He’s one of those luminaries I never thought I would meet. In my eyes, he was always a holy man, almost superhuman. But, spending a day with him, I came to realize he’s not superhuman, but just a super human being, full of holes like the rest of us, and, yet, always striving toward wholeness.
He reminded me that God seems to send us on the path to our own wholeness not by eliminating obstacles but by making use of them. This becomes more and more apparent as we get wiser at identifying the "breadcrumbs" in our lives and how they’ve weaved us on a path to wholeness and a holiness that has allowed us to bear witness to something much bigger and more profound than ourselves.