July 29, 2017
Originally published 1989
By Don Mathews
The great arc of life has symmetry and meaning as we cycle through four major phases of approximately two decades each. In the initial stage we are nurtured into adulthood by family and culture. In the second phase, as we gain independence, we move actively into the outer world to gain experience and confidence from its vast knowledge. In accordance with our spirit, we also begin to build a foundation for personal wisdom. A third phase starts near mid-life after we have encountered life’s hardships and begin to quiet outwardly while learning to reconcile pain and opposing forces as they are reflected inward. In this phase we take the great inner journey that must be completed alone to develop compassion and soul. In the final phase, we begin the return to a community of deeply spiritual beings to give back to life—to nurture creation itself.
I discovered recently how my interest and involvement with the arts in mid-life was the necessary vehicle and gateway to understanding the third stage of my development. I knew that our human artistic abilities—abilities of the fine arts— to sing, dance, imagine stories and images and express them were innate to all humans. Although these abilities are often guarded by great personal fears. In our culture most adults have not owned their artistic abilities—I had disowned them myself in the sixth grade and needed to reclaim this heritage together with the ability to work with dreams as the necessary vehicle to explore my inner world.
However, I intuitively knew the arts were leading me to something else beside a second career as a professional artist. I now understand the major transition I still am in—entry into the fourth and final stage. My strong goal oriented drive has always hid my capacity to simply enjoy the life process in whatever form it appears, so I have been learning to listen to the pleasure of my heart as it calls me to creative expression for its own sake, not for an outside goal.
In some mysterious way, when we learn to listen to the murmurings of our heart and have the courage to act on them creatively, we are answering our personal call to participate in creation at the deepest level. Thus we fulfill our divine life destiny regardless of the phase or stage we are in.