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Weekly Alibi Second Half Journey

By Harry Willson

JANUARY 10, 2000:  Sometimes you stand still, and find yourself moving. The loop of life itself takes you over there to the other side, beyond the mid-point, and on around.

When you're 25, the other side of the loop is in the future, say, when you'll be 50. When you're 40, for most people, the other side of the loop is still in the future, say, when you'll be 80. When you're 80, the other side of the loop is in the past, when you were 20, or 40, maybe. You're not expecting to live to be 160.

Ancient Hindus divided life into three stages: child, householder and sage. In our time, we moderns have two stages, but we keep it very quiet and have no rite of passage from one to the next. We do have a high priest for each half.

The first half of life could be called, "The Construction, Fortification and Use of an Ego." See Freud, even though he was wrong about women. The second half of life, then, has to be, "Learning to Let Go of Ego." See Jung, even though his disciples now call him, "The Master."

Each of us constructed an Ego, thought it was real and used it as the center of operations for all those decades. Now things have shifted, and "getting rid" becomes the order of the day. We have to get rid of stuff. We lose the role of being in charge. Finally we see that Ego is something each one made up with the help of people around us, but we suspect it isn't really there.

We don't quite know how to handle the transition from the first half task to the second half journey. Often we're not fully conscious of the shift that has taken place. "Life is becoming very exciting," the middle-aged person exclaimed. "Every time I turn around I'm in the middle of another archetypal experience!"

My hair falls out. My teeth come out. Another offspring leaves home forever. Someone I love dearly dies. I keep asking myself, "Is this all there is?" This second half journey is a lonely and serious matter. It can be neglected for a while, or turned over to someone else, but such a method of handling these things is unwise. Consider my idea for a scene from Pilgrim's Progress:

Pilgrim meets Helper, coming down toward him, on The Path. Helper is very fuss-budgety, worry-worry, "Don't forget this. You'll need that. Let me give you some advice" type person. Pilgrim is pestered, bothered and hindered by the fussiness of Helper.

Pilgrim: "Why aren't you going up The Path?"

Helper: "Oh, I'm a Helper."

Pilgrim: "Well, you delay people."

Helper: "No, I'm helping them."

Pilgrim: "When are you going to go up The Path yourself?"

Helper: "Oh, I'll come later."

Pilgrim: "You know, you're drifting down The Path in the wrong direction, and you use this helping business as your excuse. You're not going, and you're not helping. You help others by going up!"

Helper: "Not yet. I'll stay here and meet the next pilgrim."

Pilgrim: "Well, I'm going on now."

Sometimes I think I'm a character in somebody's novel. The freer I become in my thought and action, the more useful and interesting I am in the story. And I also am writing a novel, making up characters and making them do things. They behave, sometimes, as if they had minds and wills of their own, yet they are my characters and expressions of me, just as I am of It. I am doing what It does.

Tadpoles become frogs. Tadpoles don't know they're going to become frogs. Can frogs remember when they were tadpoles?

We are tadpoles and don't know we're going to become frogs. Some Sages are frogs and can remember when they were tadpoles. They try to tell us, but we don't believe them.

In theory, most of us would rather be frogs than tadpoles, but we don't quite trust it, and shrink back from the transformation process. We live as if we were going to be tadpoles forever.

Some exhorters try to push us by saying, "You tadpoles should be trying harder, so you can become frogs." Usually they know the right words, but they haven't experienced any of it directly and don't really believe very much of it.

The Sages know that we tadpoles will become frogs. They chuckle at our attempts to believe it. Some tadpoles spend a fair amount of effort giving the impression that they believe it. But it will happen in any case.

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