Home Concepts Adult Development Deep Caring XXXIII: The Origins of Generativity in the Soul

Deep Caring XXXIII: The Origins of Generativity in the Soul

7 min read

William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

[Note: The complete book (Caring Deeply: Engaging the Four Roles of Life-Fulfilling Generativity) is available for purchase. Use the following link:  Caring Deeply.]

While Generativity of the Spirit is primarily concerned with accomplishment and agency, Generativity of the Soul concerns connection and communion. It concerns discovery of that about which we truly and deeply care. If Kotre is correct in suggesting that the primary motive behind the generative impulse is a desire to live beyond ourselves, then is the search for soul essentially a quest for some form of immortality? Living in a secular world, is generativity and deep caring the way in which we continue, in some way, to live beyond our death? Generativity resides “on stage” throughout our adult life, but it becomes more powerful and more often at center stage as we grow older. The allure of generativity might increase as we grow older precisely because we come to realize that most of our life lies behind us rather than ahead. We are facing what Rudolph Otto (1923) calls the “numinous”: a great chasm that is devoid of all meaning and that resides at the end of life. We have a strong desire to live somehow beyond our current self and to fill this chasm with generative accomplishments and a lingering memory of good will among those who outlive us.

Generativity of the Soul

In Its a Wonderful World, George needed to attend first to his crisis of the spirit. He needed to address his concern about not being a success in life and about facing the challenge of financial insolvency. Then at the end of the movie, he could attend to his soul, which was so powerfully represented in the Capra myth of hearth, home and the fabled Christmases of bygone years. George didn’t just want to be remembered after his death as a good and decent man; he wanted to live at the moment, while still very much alive, in a state of generative rebirth. O’Donohue (2004) states this truth in a similar manner:

The primal energy of our soul holds a wonderful warmth and welcome for us. One of the reasons we were sent onto the earth was to make this connection with ourselves, this inner friendship. The demons will haunt us if we remain afraid. All the classical mythical adventures externalize the demons. In battle with them, the hero always grows, ascending to new levels of creative and poise. Each inner demon holds a precious blessing that will heal and free you.


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