Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thirty More Years/libidinal failure

Good to be with my old friend Mary yesterday in Hatfield for her 40th Birthday celebration. I know a number of people who are turning 40 his year or next. Myself included (next year). Some are at peace with it and some are struggling a little. It is liminal space for sure and crossing the threshold from the first half of life to the second is perhaps not easy.

My spiritual director and I talked recently about 'libidinal failure'. He wasn't meaning it primarily in the sexual sense but in a sense connected to this transition from the first to the second half of life. For many people - particularly guys - in the first half of life we think we are invincible: there's nothing we can't do, the world is at our feet. We feel that everything is within our grasp and we are very powerful. That's the outlook of the young man. One of the painful things about moving from the first half of life to the second is the realisation that we're not as powerful as we thought we were and that we can't do everything we would like to be able to do. That's a difficult reality for guys to cope with and we rail against it.

My life has been enriched recently by the poetry of Wendell Berry. Here's one I read the other day that touches on this subject and I offer it here for my friends who are transitioning...

'Thirty More Years'

When I was a young man,
grown up at last, how large
I seemed to myself! I was a tree,
tall already, and what I had not
yet reached, I would yet grow
to reach. Now, thirty more years
added on, I have reached much
I did not expect, in a direction
unexpected. I am growing downward,
smaller, one among the grasses.

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