Reflecting Further on my Ongoing Midlife Journey
I am using these words of T.S. Eliot quoted in an earlier post to open these reflections that continue, broaden, deepen, and dovetail with that same earlier post located below.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
(T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”)
From Confusion to Fusion
T.S. Eliot’s (1971) powerful tapestry of words gives me a perfect backdrop for this reflection. It conjures up images that seem impossibly irreconcilable: being old and being explorers, being still and still moving, intensity in the midst of desolation, and endings as beginnings.
Dark Cold and Empty Desolation
But my experience of rejection leads me now, to more than just a superficial understanding of Jung’s and Erikson’s ideas of wholeness as a mere fusion of opposites. This midlife issue that is before me, I would like to think, continues to bring me to the heart of what integration really stands for, what midlife individuation is all about - a change in the whole area of relationships with myself, the world, and others (Levinson, 1978, p. 195). I know I am at the crossroads of Erikson’s “generativity and stagnation” stage. I am face to face with the famous polarities of midlife individuation (pp.197-198). But I am realizing very gradually that this process of individuation is never an either/or situation, nor is it a shuttling back and forth the two extremes, now acting this way, now acting that way, in a mutually exclusive sort of way, but more akin to an acceptance of mystery in one’s life, the capacity to live with paradox, more like the ability to “have patience with everything unresolved and try to love the very questions themselves” (Rilke, 1934).
Into Another Intensity
Brueggemann, Walter (1986). Hopeful imagination: Prophetic voices in exile.
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the
Cousineau, Phil (1998). The art of pilgrimage: The seeker’s guide to making travel sacred.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1990). The brothers Karamazov. Translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Dresner, Samuel H. (Ed.) (1983). I asked for wonder: A spiritual anthology by Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns (1971). Four quartets.
Erikson, Erik H. (1963). Childhood and society. 2nd Edition.
Fowler, James W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning.
Jung, Carl G. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. Translated by W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes.
Levinson, Daniel J. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life.
Sheehy, Gail (1999). Understanding men’s passages: Discovering the new map of men’s lives.
Yalom, Irvin D. (2002). The gift of therapy: An open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients.