It is 4:38 am. The following thoughts woke me a few minutes ago. They have been roiling around my mind for a lifetime. But for some reason, they rose to the top of my thinking in the early hours of this new day, and I feel compelled to write them down.
The book I am currently writing, The Quest, is not a memoir. Nor does it not contain personal details or biography. It is the first book I have written from an objective rather than a subjective viewpoint. However, I realize that every work of art reflects in some way, the one who created it.
The process is prompting intense rumination and reflection. So, I am using my website and social networks as the forum to express personal applications. And thus, the following words.
I believe that regardless of the current political situation—words have meaning. They are concrete and not slippery. It is possible to describe a concept and agree that that unique combination of letters can be defined and agreed upon as truth and therefore provides the ability for human communication. It is fascinating to ponder the task that writers (such as Samuel Johnson) undertook to write the first dictionaries and define words.
One such word is freedom. My definition of freedom is: To break the chains that restrict individual physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional processes. A positive slant would be the unfettered ability to pursue a quest toward wholeness, one of enlargement of the self, and, therefore, a journey of enjoyment.
The Quest posits that each person has four essentials (foundational principles) that radiate from the center of who they are. These essentials personify our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional self. We develop, establish, and adapt these essentials (much influenced by the institutions of life) during the first half of life.
I believe we can (if we dare embark upon the Quest) determine authentic words that describe each essential. The words I would use to describe my first half of life essentials would be as follows.
Physical (Body) — Repression
Mental (Mind) — Knowledge
Spiritual (Spirit) — Service
Emotional (Soul) — Charisma
I talk in-depth about how all this plays out for each individual in the book.
Psychologist Carl Jung says, “We cannot live the afternoon (the second half) of life according to the program of life’s morning (the first half). For what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” This profound statement has enormous consequences.
As I began to ponder mortality and meaning increasingly, the words I had lived by for the first forty years or so became lies. If I was to live out the second half of my life in good faith (in the words of Sartre), I must find new terms. And so the search (the Quest) began. I say much more about this in the book.
For me, this journey, this rite of passage, was a long and lonely one. There was no support or empathy from the institutions of my life. It was the opposite. My family, friends, and co-workers did not want me to change. They liked me the way I was. They had formed and established my essentials. And so, my journey to wholeness took almost fifteen years.
Something similar (but hopefully not nearly as long) occurs in all who cannot be content entering the second half of life as a fragmented being. The transition to the second half results in what modern culture tritely calls a mid-life crisis. I believe a better term could be a mid-life search for identity. It is a confusing and challenging time. It is an “in-between” time. Again, I speak to this in-depth in the book.
Today, at long last, I can confidently say I have discovered my personal Holy Grail—that of wholeness. I know the words that currently describe my authentic self. The terms intuitively feel right. They resonate throughout my being and radiate from the center of who I am.
I wandered and stumbled through the transition to the second half of life. It took a highly-trained, and empathic psychologist to help me understand that my center, my core, had not changed. I was still the same person. He encouraged me to discover the essentials (the programs) of life that would sustain me through the second half of life.
As I embarked upon the Quest, it was vital first to discover new words that authentically describe the foundational principles of my body, mind, spirit, and soul. These four words (essentials) gave me the clues to begin to know my true self. They began to reveal the mystery of wholeness in my second half of life.
For the first time in years, I experienced joy—a profound feeling of rightness. My therapist calls it congruence. A word that I remembered from high school geometry that describes matching triangles. In psychological terms, it means a close matching between what is experienced at my center, what is present in my awareness, and what is then expressed to the world.
Here are the words that describe the four essentials of my self today.
Physical (Body) — Sensuality
Mental (Mind) — Curiosity
Spiritual (Spirit) — Freedom
Emotional (Soul) — Communion
As you can see, the essentials of my first half of life are incredibly different than those of my second. No wonder the transition was so painful. From my research, I have learned that fleshing out these essentials (connecting all the dots) is the primary job of second life. And it is a way to know and enjoy my self.
These four essentials and the layers underneath personify the journey to discover wholeness. The goal of the journey (the “Holy Grail”) is wholeness, and the treasure (elixir, boon) that I am to bring back to the world is my essentials. They are noble goals, and I feel my book The Quest: A Way To Know Your Self and Enjoy the Second Half of Life provides a map for this new rite of passage.
The word that best describes the core of who I am (my center) is encouragement. I cannot adequately put into words how much work and therapy were required to write this simple but profoundly significant sentence. I have come to understand the reason I chose a profession as a minister of music—worship leader—in the first half of my life was that I am an encourager.
And now, I understand in this second half of my life, that everything I am and all that I do (my writing, my art) should radiate from this center of encouragement. I realize it will take all of my remaining years to understand—to live out—and fully enjoy this truth. And to bestow and endow my essentials to others, my tribe, and ultimately as my gift to the world. To realize that I am much more than what I have accumulated—be it money, friends, possessions, good deeds, or milestones in life.
I lost a lot of time preparing for the second half of life—almost fifteen years. That is over one-fifth of an average lifetime. I am writing The Quest book, and I lead the Quest experience at Kalien Retreat in the hopes that my loss can be your gain.