This week I advertise just one new Loyola Press book: A Season of Mystery: 10 Spiritual Practices for Embracing a Happier Second Half of Life. The author is one of my favorite people, Paula Huston, and she is also one of the most capable writers for this topic. I’ve included a substantial excerpt from the introduction, to give you a sense of the book. We will hear more from Paula in January, but her book is available now.
My culture . . . offers me two inspiring myths. The first is that technology is my friend, and if only I am willing to tap into its wondrous resources, I never have to age or die. The second myth is loftier and does not concern itself with wrinkle abatement; instead, it assures me that the older I get, the more fascinating, wise, and powerful I am destined to become.
The first myth, clearly corporate-sponsored, encourages me to spend a lot of money on health supplements, gym memberships, plastic surgery, and hormone replacement therapy. The second taps into my unrealized ambitions and leads me to seek gurus who can bring me forth into full blossom. Underlying each is the same unquestioned modern belief: the purpose of life is to get what I most want before I die. Postponing aging buys me the time to do that, and “believing in myself,” as the gurus put it, provides the necessary inspiration.
If my culture is right about this—and it does make a passionate case for itself—then my job from now on becomes clear. I must avoid aging at all costs. I must live as though there is no death. And most of all, I must strive harder than I ever have before to achieve my unrealized aspirations, obtain what I desire but still lack, and come into my own as a self-fulfilled, autonomous being.
So why does such stirring rhetoric make me feel so tired?
One of the great minds of the twentieth century, philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, speaks of the consoling illusions we so readily embrace. Such fantasies make us feel better when we are hurting or even help us bear real suffering. They inspire us to higher purposes; they sustain us for the long haul. What then can be wrong with them? Her answer is simple: they shield us from the truth. And since we are truth-seeking creatures, ultimately such fantasies cannot satisfy.
If our two modern myths about aging are really just consoling illusions, then where can we find a more truthful view? If our culture’s underlying belief about the purpose of life is misguided, then where shall we go for wisdom?
Here are my questions for the week:
- Where do you turn for reliable help when it comes to mid-life or second-half-of-life issues?
- What do you think is missing from the available material on how to thrive in the second half of life?