Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One
A Further Journey
Friday, August 14, 2020
If we are granted this first stage of Order (and not all are), we feel innocent and safe. Everything is basically good, it all means something, and we feel a part of what looks normal and deserved. It is our “first naïveté.” Everything has an explanation, and thus feels like it is straight from God, solid, and forever. This is probably why we are so reluctant to relinquish our innocence; it often feels like a loss of faith.
Most worldviews have encouraged this perspective. We, in the United States, are a “first half of life culture,” largely concerned about surviving successfully. Probably most cultures and individuals across history have been situated in the first half or “Order” stage, because it is all they had time for. We try to do what seems like the task that life first hands us: establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.
But this is only the first task! When we try to stay in this first satisfying explanation of how things are, we tend to avoid any conflict, inconsistencies, suffering, or darkness and therefore opportunities for transformation. The familiar and habitual are so falsely reassuring, we make our homes there permanently. The ego believes that disorder or change is always to be avoided, so we hunker down and pretend that our Order is entirely good, should be good for everybody, and is always “true” and even the only truth. The new is always by definition unfamiliar and untested, so God, life, destiny, suffering have to give us a push—usually a big one—or we will not go. Even many Christians do not like anything that looks like “carrying the cross,” no matter how piously they use the phrase.
Most of us are never told that we can set out from the known and familiar to take on a further journey. Our institutions, including our churches, and our expectations are almost entirely configured to encourage, support, reward, and validate the tasks of the first half of life. We are more struggling to survive than to thrive, more just “getting through” or trying to get to the top than finding out what is really at the top or even at the bottom.
Most of us in the first half of life suspect that all is not fully working, and we are probably right! Many, if not most, will settle for first-stage survival, and never get to “the unified field” of life itself. As Bill Plotkin, a wise guide, puts it, many of us learn to do our “survival dance,” but we never get to our actual “sacred dance.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), xiv‒xviii; and
The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 244.