With the exception of Scripture and a few Christian mystics, Christian spirituality, up to now, has been weak in presenting us with a vision for our retirement years. It’s not a mystery as to why. Until recently the majority of people died shortly after retirement and so there was no need for a highly developed spirituality of generativity after our active years.
What are our retirement years meant for spiritually? What’s our vocation then? What might generativity mean for us, after our work’s been done?
Henri Nouwen, one of the first contemporary writers to take up this question, makes the following suggestion. There comes a time in our lives when the question is no longer: what can I still do to make a contribution? Rather, the question becomes: how can I live now so that my ageing and dying will be my final great gift to my family, my community, my church and my country? How do I stop writing my curriculum vitae in order to begin writing my eulogy?
Happily, spiritual writers today are beginning to develop a spirituality around these questions, and in doing that, I believe, we can be helped by some rich insights within Hindu spirituality.
In Hinduism, life is understood to have five natural stages. First, you are a child. As a child, you are initiated into life. You learn to speak. You learn how to interact with others and are given time for play.
The second stage is that of being a student. In Hinduism, you’re a student until you get married, begin a family and establish a career. As a student, your primary focus is to enjoy your youth and to prepare for life.
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