“Odysseus is a loyal soldier for the entire Odyssey, rowing his boat as only a hero can—until the blind prophet tells him there is more, and to put down his oar.” – Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
Richard Rohr planted this seed of discharging the loyal soldier in my mind. He described the ritual used with Japanese soldiers returning from World War II being thanked for their service and discharged to focus on the next stage of their lives – to be productive members of society. I’ve read a fair amount of history of that war and know the fanatical intensity of the typical Japanese soldier, so to shed that character and assume some level of normalcy on a mass scale is itself impressive and instructive. If your only path was total victory or death, how do you process defeat and going back home? So ritualistic discharging saved what was left of a generation of soldiers to rebuild Japan from the ashes.
“This kind of closure is much needed for most of us at the end of all major transitions in life. Because we have lost any sense of the need for such rites of passage, most of our people have no clear crossover to the second half of their own lives.” – Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
We’re at a time in our collective lives where we need this ritual for society. Thank you for your social isolation, for your mask-wearing and countless hours trying to keep people alive. Thank you for your passionate political opinions and protests on both sides. Thank you for voicing your opinions so forcefully on social media. You’ve done your service for society. It’s time to focus on rebuilding now, for the world needs you for another mission. To save the planet and humanity.
I recognize the transition happening in my son’s life – graduated from college, finished with organized sports, and now what? With the pandemic they didn’t even have a graduation ceremony, let alone a discharging of loyal soldiers. Here’s your diploma, mailed without pomp or circumstance. Good luck! No wonder this generation is looking around and saying “What next?” You learn that they aren’t ready to hear everything yet, as you weren’t. But they’re definitely ready to hear the message that they’ve done well fulfilling the first mission – we’re proud of you, now go forth and find the next mission.
I’m in my own transition, of course, with the responsibilities of parenting shifting to sage advice strategically inserted whenever a teaching moment arrives – sometimes validating, sometimes contradicting the advice from the other parent. But what of us? We’re stepping into the second half of life when we start filling the proverbial container we built in the first half of life. So what do you fill it with?
“Discharging your loyal soldier will be necessary to finding authentic inner authority,,, When you first discharge your loyal soldier, it will feel like a loss of faith or loss of self. But it is only the death of the false self, and is often the very birth of the soul. Instead of being ego driven, you will begin to be soul drawn.” – Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
Discharge that loyal soldier and become “soul drawn“? That’s a bumper sticker or a name for an IPA if I ever saw one! The coolest cat surfing life, dispelling timeless wisdom in clever soul drops as you serve your new guiding light.
We’ve all been in a period of forced transition, timed for some of us in a period of natural transition. It’s time to focus on what comes next, and do the work you were honed to do during the previous you. Time to put the oar down and follow through on that next mission. That soul drawn and fulfilling mission.