A Post-Election Message

On Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock I finished a major undertaking — literally. I entered the last batch of copyedits from three reviewers and sent the 250-page manuscript of my autobiography, THIS GIVEN LIFE, off to the publisher to be printed.

Four hours later, the calamitous election results began to trickle in and continued late into the night. By the morning I was in shock, deeply despondent.

Another 24 hours has now passed, and some clarity has begun to emerge. Though the autobiography is done, I am not done. New tasks — as yet ill defined — apparently await.

A conversation I recount in the book is relevant. I was speaking with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who was a mentor to me in much of my work with Second Journey. It was 2004; I had just turned 60; Reb Zalman was approaching 80. I told him I knew he had begun his Age-ing-to-Sage-ing work in his 60s, and I expressed my hope that I also would have 20 years — as he had — to complete the work I’d started.

He responded by giving me a blessing. “This blessing,” he told me, “carries all the good will of all my ancestors. May you finish your work in ten years and have ten years to enjoy it!

I took this to heart. Two years ago when I turned 70 and entered this decade of promised enjoyment, I began to trim the sails on Second Journey and steer it toward dry dock. I let Itineraries take its final bow. I neglected the website. I rechanneled my own energies toward my immediate community of Chapel Hill and my own neighborhood of Falconbridge. The book Reimagining Your Neighborhood, published in 2015, was the tangible result. Then earlier this year, I turned my focus inward, on discerning the experiences and commitments that have shaped and animated my own life. This Given Life emerged from this intense inner work of life review.

This election is like a call you receive
about a death in the family that interrupts your vacation abroad and summons you home..”

My “retirement” and promised years of enjoyment must be put on hold. But to do what?

Let us remember what we know:

  • Our generation in its youth dreamed dreams of peace, justice, and community. Those youthful dreams were wonderfully diverse. I, for example, dreamed of “Communities for Imagining the Future” where new ideas and a way for society to move forward emerged from the give and take of human conversation.

  • Now, on the other side of the long sleep of midlife, those dreams of peace, justice, and community await rekindling.

  • The revolution in longevity has added extra years to the lifetimes of our generation and those which follow. This extraordinary gift of time comes with an obligation to use it to build not a wall, but A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY “where people can think deep thoughts, create beauty, study nature, teach the young, worship what they hold sacred, and care for one another” (Ted Roszak).

And let me remember what I know from pondering my own life story these past six months:

  • In the darkest times of my life when there seemed no way forward, a path always opened.

So, I dwell now in uncertainty, knowing work awaits but not yet what work. Perhaps, the tiny craft that was Second Journey can be recommissioned and — in my hands or in the hands of others —put again to good use. Perhaps I am called to do something else. I wait for clarity.

Clarity will come.

Peace and all good things,

Bolton Anthony

Second Journey founder Bolton Anthony is the author of Second Journeys: The Dance of Spirit in Later Life, Reimagining Your Neighborhood: Transforming car-centric housing developments into vibrant, verdant, sustainable communities; and, most recently, This Given Life: One Catholic Life in Context.