Angeles Arrien is a cultural anthropologist, award-winning author, educator, and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology, psychology, and comparative religions. She is President of the Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research, and a Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
In this compelling primer on the second half of life, Arrien presents this stage as one of great adventure and meaning. The book is filled with wisdom from indigenous cultures where elders are honored and cherished for the abundant resources they bring to the community. Arrien divides the material into chapters on the Eight Gates of Initiation: The Silver Gate (Facing New Experiences and the Unknown); The White Picket Gate (Changing Identities, Discovering One's True Face); The Clay Gate (Intimacy, Sensuality, and Sexuality); The Black and White Gate (Relationships - The Crucible of Love, Generosity, Betrayal, and Forgiveness); The Rustic Gate (Creativity, Service, and Generativity); The Bone Gate (Authenticity, Character, and Wisdom); The Natural Gate (The Presence of Grace - Happiness, Satisfaction, and Peace); and the Gold Gate (Non-Attachment, Surrender and Letting Go).
Arrien includes plenty of fascinating illustrative material. She recounts how the Spanish painter Francisco Goya once drew a picture of an old man showing all the signs of advancing years. He gave it a caption, "I'm still learning." The old man in the picture was the artist himself.
Then there is the experience of Martha McCallum, an 86-year-old woman who stated in What's Worth Knowing, an anthology of interviews with elders: "One morning I was sitting at my kitchen table staring into space. It was one of those windy days when the sun keeps coming out and going in. All of a sudden, a sunbeam crossed my kitchen table and lit up my crystal saltshaker. There were all kinds of colors and sparkles. It was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen. But you know, that very same saltshaker had been on that kitchen table for over 50 years. Surely there must have been other mornings when the sun crossed the table like that, but I was just too busy getting things done, I wondered what else I'd missed. I realized this was it, this was grace."
With material like this, it is easy to see why Arrien considers the second half of life to be a spiritual adventure.