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Falling Upward summary

Richard Rohr

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

4.5 (68 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr explores the two halves of life – the first half is about building identity, the second is about spiritual awakening. It invites readers to embrace the challenges of aging and open new horizons of thought and experience, providing insight into a more meaningful and joyful existence.

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    Falling Upward
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    Life’s Two Halves

    Important thing: the two halves of life aren’t related to age. Some people – particularly those who have suffered in some way – enter the second half of life early, even as children. Others get there much later in life, or not at all.

    But if this is the case, what do we mean by “two halves,” and how do we know that these halves exist? 

    Well, let’s consider what Joseph Campbell, the famous comparative mythologist and theologist, called “the monomyth of the hero.” This is a story, a myth that is common to numerous cultures, though these cultures had no contact. The details differ, but the narrative arc is extremely similar.

    Here’s the outline:

    The protagonist lives in an idyllic world, a place where they’re content. Often, they’re a prince or princess, or they have some divine origin they’re unaware of. Then, they leave home on an adventure – an adventure that forces them out of their comfort zone. While on the adventure, they encounter a problem. Whatever the problem is, the process of resolving it makes the hero’s world larger and more open; as a result, the protagonist’s outlook is enlarged and opened, too.

    The protagonist thinks that the first task is their only task, but, in reality, it turns out the real task comes later. They discover that their real life is much deeper than their outward appearance. Finally, the protagonist returns to their roots, their home. And upon returning, they see it anew. To quote T. S. Elliot, they know “the place for the first time,” and they pass on the wisdom of their experience to others.

    Campbell calls this myth “the hero’s journey.” And, as you may have guessed, it’s analogous to our own transition from the first half to the second half of life.

    There are numerous other texts, both sacred and secular, written in a similar vein, by people who’d either undergone the transition from life’s first half to its second, or were in the process of going through it. And then, of course, there are our own observations of those who are in the second half, and of those who remain forever in the first.

    Many people don’t realize that there is a second half to life; they remain in the first half their whole lives. There are many reasons for this, which we’ll get into in the next chapter. But no matter which half you’re in, knowing where you stand is beneficial: that knowledge can help you transition out of the first half or, if you’re in the second, it can be a comfort – a reassurance that you’re exactly where you should be.

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    What is Falling Upward about?

    Falling Upward (2011) explores the “tasks” of the two halves of life. It explains that the second half of life isn’t about getting old; it’s about filling the “container” that we create during the first half and finding our purpose. 

    Falling Upward Review

    Falling Upward (2011) is a thought-provoking exploration of the two halves of life and the stages of spiritual growth. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Richard Rohr seamlessly combines psychology, spirituality, and personal stories to provide deep insights into the process of transformation.
    • By examining the differences between the first and second halves of life, the book offers a fresh perspective on aging, loss, and meaning.
    • With its emphasis on spiritual development and the invitation to embrace our imperfections, Falling Upward presents a compelling case for the importance of continued growth and introspection.

    Who should read Falling Upward?

    • First-half lifers looking for insights
    • People who’ve “fallen” and need comfort
    • Second-half lifers seeking reassurance 

    About the Author

    Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest. He’s written over 20 books, and traveled the world as a speaker, teaching on themes such as spirituality, scripture, nature and Earth care. He also writes for Radical Grace, Sojourners, and Tikkun magazines.

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    Falling Upward FAQs 

    What is the main message of Falling Upward?

    Falling Upward is about embracing the second half of life as an opportunity for spiritual growth.

    How long does it take to read Falling Upward?

    The reading time for Falling Upward varies. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Falling Upward a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Falling Upward is worth reading for its insights on finding meaning and purpose in the later stages of life.

    Who is the author of Falling Upward?

    The author of Falling Upward is Richard Rohr.

    What to read after Falling Upward?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Falling Upward, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Why Café by John P. Strelecky
    • Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
    • Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World by Iddo Landau
    • The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
    • A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
    • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
    • The Negativity Fast by Anthony Iannarino
    • 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse
    • Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman