Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Human Odyssey

I am still "navigating" this book - The Human Odyssey. Unfortunately, work and life has kept me from reading as much as I would like to, and I find that when I am reading non-fiction, it seems to take even longer. Why? Because I am actually learning something.

I need to begin by reiterating that I do not review books. However, this book is really, really cool.

The author, Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D is apparently a renowned educator, parenting expert, veteran workshop leader, and successful author. I have to say - I am captivated by what he has accomplished in this book.

He has taken the 12 life stages and broken them down into little pieces. Comparing and contrasting folk lore to history to biology to psychology to philosophy. Intense in the scope and amazing in the long run.

Just so you know, there are 12 stages in the human life. He breaks each one down per chapter. Here is a look at what the subjects are:

Prebirth: The Undiscovered Continent
Birth: Through the tunnel
Infancy: Legends of the Fall
Early Childhood: The Magical Mystery Years
Middle Childhood: Entering the Civilized World
Late Childhood: Becoming Part of a Crowd
Adolescence: Adventures into the Twilight Zone
Early Adulthood: Building an Independent Life
Midlife: Through the Muddy Waters
Mature Adulthood: Scaling the Peaks
Late Adulthood: Approaching the Horizon
Death & Dying: Crossing the Bridge
Beyond Death: Travel to Other Lands

Then he concludes with - Planting your oar in the sand.

If human growth and development is interesting to you - then pick up this book. You won't be disappointed. Right now I am in the Midlife chapter. (Figuratively and literally.) This is clearly speaking to me, according to the book - I am in mid-life right now. (35 - 49)

One of the things I like about the book is that at the end of each chapter he will give you "Ways to explore and support _____" For example, since I am in "Midlife" here is what he suggests:

For Yourself:
1. Keep a journal of your dreams, visions, reflections, and feelings as you begin to experience the sense of becoming an older person.
2. Make a list of all the things you want to do in your life3 before you die. Then start doing them.
3. Go over the goals you've had for your life as an adult, and see if they are still relevant to your current life. If not, then modify them accordingly.

For Friends & Family:
1. Gather friends into a "midlife" support group that meets regularly to discuss social, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual changes going on in your lives.
2. Support a friend or family member who may be going through a "midlife crisis" by offering counsel, friendship, and/or referral to an appropriate mental health professional or program.
3. Help a midlife friend or family member who has been "downsized" find another job or career.

For the Community:
1. Start a women's or men's group for middle-aged adults in your community to help them cope with major life transitions in relationship, jobs and/or illness.
2. Contribute financially to a woman's midlife health center that serves the poor or indigent.
Volunteer at an organization that provides midlife career advice or job placement services.

Pretty neat, huh? I realize the Midlife portion is probably the most boring.. but fascinating all the same.

Remember a couple of weeks ago I was pondering the idea of the "Great Exit".. last night I came to a place in the book that confirms - at this stage in my life - you begin to THINK about death more often. I will close with the excerpt from the book, I think you might find it fascinating:

"For many creative individuals, midlife actually feels like death. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote to a friend, "I am at the end of the 35th year of my life... for 1.500 years they called this period the 'midlife point of life'.... But I, at the midpoint of life, am so 'in the midst of death' that i may take me hourly..." The main character in Dotoyevsky's "Notes from the Underground" declares, "I am forty years old now, and you know forty years is a whole lifetime; you know it is extreme old age. To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is vulgar, immoral." Jungian psychologist Maria von Franz suggested that the puer aeternus (eternal youth) who has refused to grow up as an adult, may be at risk for an early death at this time if he has not make a firm commitment to adult responsibilities.     I remember being terrified by this pronouncement when I read von Franz's book in my early thirties. Somewhat of a man-child myself, unmarried, and conflicted about whether I wanted to continue to work with children or not, I did, in fact, go through a depression at the age of thirty-seven when I had trouble eating, sleeping, functioning at work due to an obsession with the fear of death."

Need I say more? ;-)


Ron Cooper said...

Nicole! Following you from Tuesday blog hop by Nimbler Grove. Please follow me back on my new Facebook fan page or blog:



Cassiopeia said...

What a wonderful, thoughtful book review.

I am 48 and "middle aged" according to his chapters. I am at the stage of life where many friends and family members are passing away or have chronic illness, I no longer know the names of the up-and-coming musicians and actors, and somehow my brain cells that used to know how to work all the high tech gadgets are dying away!

Sometimes I feel 18 again and look forward to dreams coming true (my "baby" is 18!), and other days I feel contented that all is well in my world and I have all I need.

Other than having to get my son to show me how to use my new cell phone every time I pick it up, I like this stage. Even the funerals and grieving process is different when you're older because you understand that sometimes it's better for that person to be free from pain, and you can let go of your own sense of loss when you believe they're in a better place.

Bossy Betty said...

Thank you so much for this suggestion! It looks like a great book.

Mama Hen said...

This sounds really cool Nicole! Cassiopeia's comment made me laugh, because while I love music and listen to all different genres, I ca't really say who the new musicians are sice I have become a mom. I just don't care as much any more, or maybe it is because i will be 40 soon. Yikes! It is interesting when you see a lifetime broken down into sections like this. I hope you are doing well my friend!

Mama Hen

Mama Hen said...

Ugh! I hate typos! Just wanted to add that the part of getting older and seeing the generation before us get much older and fragile and pass on really gets to me.

Mama Hen

Robin said...

I read several of your blogs. I am going to comment on them all here b/c I know that sometimes comments on older blogs get lost. Meaning never read. Thanks for stopping in on my blog and leaving the lovely comment. This books sounds interesting. I know what you mean about having to read this kind of thing slowly. So much thinking involoved. Your blog about trust and your sister was very touching. I didn't pop over and read her blog. I was afraid it might make me cry after your blog and today has not been a good one. I've already had one breakdown today. Just so much stress. Ugh. Lastly, I know EXACTLY how you are feeling about blog hops. And I base my participation just the way you do. If I am interested in the blog I will follow back. If not, I won't. I really don't like how people don't leave any sort of comment even indicating that they read my blog. Just I'm following you, please follow me. It seems to be all about the numbers. When you go to their blog you can see that they are following hundreds of blogs. You know that they can't be reading them all. In all likelihood, they probably read 20 or so. Or maybe none. They just post. Who knows? But good for you for getting it out there!

Leanne said...

At first I was sad when I realized that I am in stage 9 of 12. That thought alone is rather depressing. I'm doing a lot of thinking about death today, as well, so this post is so fitting for what I am watching from my own windows. I think this book is something that would be so good for me to read right now. Even though the nightstand is kind of full - I may need to put this one on the top of the stack. Really great thought provoking post, Lady N. Great job, as always!!!

Cheeseboy said...

Very interesting. I want to read the chapter on after death - traveling to other lands. Awesome.


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