Forty Days of Contemplating Fifty

sam sweet orange profile

Yesterday marked the culmination of Christian faith, the end of forty days of Lenten spiritual practice, and the celebration of ultimate sacrifice—ultimate love—the journey of Jesus through hell into resurrected life to make clear an unimpeded intimacy between God and me. Today I find myself facing another forty-day slice of time anticipating my 50th birthday. To navigate the ambivalence surfacing as I surveil the day closing in, it seems fitting to engage a spiritual practice of contemplating all things fifty.

To begin . . . fifty years ago on this day—April 17, 1967—the Chicago Tribune addressed the news of nine GIs injured by two Viet Cong terrorists, and killing 25 Vietnamese civilians; the submission of a 1.3 billion-dollar proposal for a network of toll roads; a commentary blaming “Marxist” leadership in India for food shortages due to coopting focus on agricultural development for industrial technological advancement; the buckle leather pump by D’Antonio selling for $25; and the Cubs loss to the Pirates in the 9th inning.

Everything changes. Nothing changes. And what of my soul? Richard Rohr speaks of what Carl Jung submits as two halves of life: the first of striving to “successfully survive” and the second into—really, out of—time, contemplation that ceases to strive and begins to acknowledge suffering, meaning. The beautiful element that Rohr extracts is the sense that this second-half living in not necessarily chronological. That is, 20-somethings can engage contemplative, meaning-driven daily living, and 75-year-olds can be completely motivated by acclaim or money or power.

And so today, this first of forty in my spiritual practice anticipating 50, I contemplate the half that I may or may not occupy. I suspect it is both-and, rather than either-or. One thing of which I am certain is that I absolutely desire not to be driven by capricious “successes.” Yes, today I will accept Mary Oliver’s invitation to seek delight in plain sight:

“Becoming keenly and consistently aware of what’s good, true, and beautiful demands a discipline: we must open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open.”

Whether you are nearly 50, nowhere near 50, or merely feel like whatever 50 is supposed to feel like! would you like to join me in keeping our whole selves open to see what is good and true and beautiful today? Because, as with any discipline, my effort if far more fruitful when others accompany me on the journey!

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