Tag Archives: mary oliver


With XC Team Pictures

“[T]he task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and answer the first essential questions: ‘What makes me significant?’ ‘How can I support myself?’ and ‘Who will go with me?’  The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver.  As Mary Oliver puts it, ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’”

– Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Richard Rohr’s description of two halves of life in Falling Upward has me interested in emerging from the locker room for the second half.   We shall see.  Since the first half is so much about achievement and success, the transition is surely difficult to wrap my brain around.  It is much easier to try to be someone than to actually be someone.

As I struggled over the summer just to imagine such a thing, I tried to remember myself as a child before I boarded the train to Achievement Town.  What did I enjoy back then?  What did I love?  What made me smile?  What would I do just for the joy of it all?  Well, one of the primary answers was sports, so I made the calculated decision to be a huge Pepperdine Waves fan this year.

I haven’t been a very good Waves fan in recent years.  This is my third year to serve as volunteer chaplain for the cross country team (see proud team picture above), but I have been a sporadic fan at best for the other sports on campus.  My excuse was that I was just too busy, but “too busy” is undoubtedly the sort of thing you say when you are stuck in first half of life thinking.

The thought that got me was that if you had told “Little Al” that I/he would one day live on an amazing university campus with a fantastic NCAA Division I program fielding seventeen teams and would have open access to watch all of them in action, that would have sounded like heaven.  And I am too busy?  Give me a break.  Literally.

I am off to a great start so far.  I have been there in person to cheer on our cross country, soccer, volleyball, and water polo teams in the last few weeks – with many more teams to cheer on soon.  

Being a sports fan is surely not the point of or secret to life.  But for me, it just may be the secret to remind me not to be too busy to enjoy it.


Seek Extraordinary

“If you aren’t living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” – Jim Whittaker

Reincarnation is a cool concept, but I can only locate the receipt for this one particular life so I would like to get some good use of it since it is all I’ve got and already pretty stained up and, presumably, nonreturnable.

It is not my style to tell people how to use theirs. I hate to appear presumptuous. Best I can tell, it is your prerogative to be extraordinary or ordinary or wasteful or a downright jerk with “your one wild and precious life” to borrow Mary Oliver’s poetic phrase. I can still make suggestions.

I suggest taking aim at extraordinary.

I live and work on a university campus. Admittedly, this particular campus is disgustingly awesome, but I think all college campuses are pretty fantastic because they are places where big dreamers and big ideas fall in love and produce miracles.

This is on my mind because we just returned from “Summer in Seattle” at Seattle University, a pre-orientation program for new freshmen and their families, including mine. In the closing session, a vice president shared the quote used as the epigraph for this little essay from an alum of Seattle U who also happened to be the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It is a great bumper sticker quote that I loved at first, hated at second, didn’t know what to do with at third, but by the time it reached home I liked it pretty much a whole lot. Hence, my presumptuous suggestion for your life’s consideration:

You can’t be extraordinary playing it safe all the time.¹

I am a fan of safe. I’m a lawyer after all. But playing it safe is only useful if it keeps you safe for something, not just from something.

And I am not a fan of stereotypical thrill-seeking. Those thrills are cheap. But you should seek something that will ultimately be thrilling—just don’t settle for cheap.

I suggest that you seek an extraordinary life. But you get to choose. I hate to appear presumptuous.


¹ See the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30).