Some of these books had substance. Some were shallow. During the Eighties, a whole new series of books came on another theme. The theme was the journey of man in this world. I would like to share some thoughts with you on what can be called for each of us the second journey.
The expression, "the second journey", is sort of on the bland side. Basically, the origin of the expression is this:
From adolescence to adulthood is considered man's first journey. The age of about thirty and onwards is considered to be the beginning of "man's second journey." In the first journey of our life, much of it is planned for us. We are born. Our schools are picked out for us. We select this vocation or that business, but for the most part, the second journey is often something that is thrust upon us. It is a situation that we are placed in because of a circumstance that we never anticipated. It can be the death of a spouse or a terrible tragedy in the family way of living. It can also be the loss of the husband's job, a divorce, infidelity on the part of some spouse, but usually, it is something that we never anticipated. Nevertheless, it happens and we are part of it, for better or worse. Because of this happening, we are thrown into a new way of living, a new life-style. We begin to display a series of anger and frustration that we never knew we had. We feel inadequate and incompetent, and we think that no one can understand the depths of the pain that we are going through. When this happens, we hear all the bromides on how we should handle the situation: take a vacation or go to the health spa, or try the route of tranquilizers or vegetarianism or whatever. And after we have followed this routine, basically, we know that the work of putting the pieces of our life back together must come from within each one of us.
Years ago, Carl Jung pleaded with the academic educators of his time to initiate into universities throughout the world courses that would enable people starting this second journey to get through this unusual period of their lives. He often thought that some of the biggest mistakes people make who have this second journey thrust upon them, is that they think that many of the values and ideals they learned in the morning of their lives will see them through the afternoon of their lives. He said that their sense of frustration just grows when, after trying so hard with their own values, they are in deeper levels of frustration and lack of orientation.
Gail Sheehy, in her book "Passages", mentioned how her second journey started while she was covering a newspaper event in Northern Ireland. While preparing her story and being in one of the war-ravaged areas of Londenderry, right next to her, a young man was hit in the face by a bullet and his whole head was blown off. For the first time in her life she was confronted with the reality of her own death and what she called the arithmetic of life. She suddenly realized that no one is with me. No one keeps me safe. There is no one who won't ever leave me alone." If you read the life of St. Ignatius, while he was a member of an army in Spain, he was wounded. This event eventually led him to the founding of the Jesuits throughout the world. If you read the life of Cardinal Newman, who was sent to Greece for a vacation, at which time he was expected to die because of a rheumatic ailment, he returned to start the work of the conversion of England. All had something thrust on them which forced them to start their second journey.This second journey that all of us will experience is a voyage of self-exploration. It finds us going through a temporary loss of orientation, where it seems that everything is uncertain. Still, it can be a most positive spiritual adventure if properly approached. Carl Jung once said that most of the problems in life after thirty are not basically psychological, but spiritual. Most people today in the same field would even be a little more specific. Most problems today have a solution not in the psychological, but in the Christological.
By now, you may be wondering how does one or how should one react when this second journey is thrust upon him? The first quality that must be developed is what is called, a sense of acceptance. If an individual approaches this second journey by denying what is happening to him, if he takes refuge in compulsive activity and resorts to some coping techniques that are out of his past, then he will be making a big mistake with the second half of his life. To flee the issues, to pretend they don't exist, is merely compounding the problem of the second half of life. Whether we like to think this way or not, a breakdown is often just another word for a shake-up. Men who have been weaned in the business world by the expression, "If you haven't made it by forty..." are usually the most susceptible. Acceptance means that you have the realization that God is permitting this to happen to you at this time for a reason that you might never know. In the language of the Gospel, "We have to die in order to be reborn." Acceptance is no longer a question of therapeutic growth. It is a question of survival.
The second quality that must be developed for entering this second journey is what is called a sense of discernment. If I, at my stage of life, for some reason had to be taken from the world of communications, and then thought I was going to be made Pope, I would be thinking an illusion, a counterfeit destination. For most men who have lost their jobs for whatever reason, for most women who have experienced some similar setback, for either one to select some unreal answer, is again another example of seeking a counterfeit destination. Call them by whatever name you like; false goals, unreal priorities, counterfeit values, but the effect is the same. If it leads you to making and selecting a goal that will end with a counterfeit destination, then it is all in vain. T.S. Elliott, in his work "East Coker" once spoke about his second journey, "In order to arrive there... you must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy." If you seek a counterfeit destination, in the language of the romantics, you will never live happily ever after.
The last quality that must be developed is a sense of prayer. Prayer gives you the ability to reappraise your original commitment and still come forth with the insight that you are doing the work of God on earth. Mother Teresa, on a train in Calcutta, heard the voice of God through her prayer life. God told her that she should leave the convent she entered and took her vows in to form a group of nuns that would take care of the dying people of India. A sense of prayer gives us insights that we never get through our own native talents. Prayer gives us a sense of energy to implement the thoughts that will enable us to enter this second journey. Cardinal Newman summed it up beautifully when he said, "The night is dark and I am far from home, lead Thou me on. Amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on." Prayer puts you in touch with God and His direction leads you on the journey that you have been asked to make at this stage of your life. Prayer enables us to be transformed from helpless wanderers into guided pilgrims.
Thoreau once said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. I think, in the light of the good news of Christ, that this statement is overstated. However, there is some truth in it. For each one of us, a call to a second journey will be one day as real as the call to our vocation, to the vocation that we are in now. It is a journey that all must take. With a sense of acceptance, with a sense of discernment, with a sense of prayer, we can be led, in the language of the poet,"out beyond the earth and stars, out beyond the planet Mars, into the arms of God."
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