I was very much impressed with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot on Bill Moyers' Journal last night. A Harvard professor of sociology and winner of a 1994 MacArthur "genius" award, she herself is a great presence--poised, energetic, charismatic, beautifully spoken, full of wit and wisdom. Not to mention sartorially elegant and compellingly attractive in her person. Her most recent book--which she was on the Journal to talk about--looks like a great read. The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 is based on interviews with forty people in this period of their lives who have, as I understand it from what the author had to say, abandoned the conventions about who they were up to this time and stepped up to the adventure of rediscovery of themselves and their potential. In some instances, this involved a whole new invention of the self, the discovery of a previously-unknown creativity, a step away from self-service into service of others.
Ellie and I found her thesis particularly fascinating because it so nearly describes our own experiences in recent years. Ellie, formerly professionally engaged for many years in the promotion and sale of contemporary art, grew tired of that commercial involvement and has invented a whole new life as a coach and mentor to working studio artists, in which she gives of her experience and knowledge to stimulate and encourage others. Juat recently, as readers of The Buddha Diaries will already know, she has herself turned to art-making--and not entirely as a beginner, since she has years of observation and engagement to build on as she takes the risk of confronting the blank white paper or the empty canvas. It has opened up wonderful new horizons for her.
My own post-50 adventure began with abandoning an academic career, cold-turkey, and finally embracing my life-long wish to be a writer. This decision led, through various by-ways, to the men's work I have been engaged in, in which I have discovered unique opportunities to be of service; and to the great Buddhist adventure that has allowed me to explore my spiritual life and to continually deepen my understanding of what it means to be here in this world, alive, and human.
I would like to read Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot's book. I kind of wish she had not made quite so sharp a division with her "chapters": by her definition, it worries me a bit that I'm approaching the end of Chapter Three. But I guess it's not about the numbers! It was a delight to see the picture of her mother--now, in her nineties, well into her "fourth chapter" by that definition, and looking hale, mentally sharp, and pleased with life. Perhaps there are some of us who can look forward to a prolonged thrd chapter, pursuing the adventure way past the quarter assigned to it. I certainly hope so--and intent to make it so!