Bright Sadness 

We are only the light bulbs, and our job is just to remain screwed in!” Desmond Tutu 

The next book I’d like to expose you to is, Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two halves of Life, by Richard Rohr. Rather than trying to give you a quick summary of what he has to say, I’d like to wet your appetite for the book by sharing snippets from his chapter titled, “A Bright Sadness” where he introduces his focus on the second half of life with exhilarating descriptions of the awesome rewards that will unfold for us in our senior years if/when we “remain screwed in” to the mysterious truth that “Christ is in us, and we are sharing in the glory of God”. Here is how he describes what unfolds when we stay faithfully connected to the vine: 

“Our mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness, if that makes any sense. …. There is still darkness in the second half of life – in fact maybe even more. But, there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety. There is a simultaneous coexistence of deep suffering and intense joy in a good many of our older saints. In this second half of life, one also has less and less need or interest in eliminating the negative or scary things in life, less holding onto old hurts, less need to punish other people. You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly. …. Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times. 

When you are young, you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for the things we all share in common. You find happiness in alikeness, which has become much more obvious to you now. …. In the second half of life it is good just to be a part of the general dance. We do not have to stand out, make defining moves, or be better than anyone else on the dance floor. Life is now more participatory than assertive and there is no need for strong or further self- definition. God has taken care of all that, much better than we expected. The brightness comes from within now, and it is usually more than enough. 

In the second half of life we do not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us, and truly influence us. Now we aid and influence other people simply be being who we are….. Strangely all of life’s problems, dilemmas, and difficulties are now resolved not by negativity, attack, criticism, force or logical resolution, but always by falling into God’s larger “brightness”. This is the falling upward that we have been waifing for, where the best criticism of the bad is the simple practice of the better. Such inner brightness ends up being a much better and longer-lasting alternative to evil than any war, anger, violence or ideology could ever be. All we have to do is meet one such shining person and you know that he or she is surely the goal of humanity and the delight of God. I hope that you are becoming that shining person yourself, and that this book will help you see it, allow it and trust it. My hope (Paul speaking again) is that these snippets will deepen your eagerness to stay connected to The Vine and walk closely with Jesus into your declining-yet- rising years. Fall Upward! Pastor Paul