Speaking of Getting Drunk on the Universe

Yesterday we spoke about getting “drunk on God’s home, the universe” (from Thomas Aquinas’ one-word commentary on a psalm). 

Voyager 1 image of Jupiter moon Io, showing the plumes from volcanoes Loki and Pele. The images that make up this mosaic were taken from an average distance of approximately 490,000 kilometers (340,000 miles). Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

Before going to bed last night I underwent such an experience of intoxication while watching two Nova documentaries on PBS—one on the planet Jupiter followed by another on Voyager 1, the satellite that explored Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune and then exited our solar system–the first object created by humans ever to do that. 

I went to bed utterly saturated, yes, drunk, with the wonder and awe of our home, the universe.  Yes, the Via Positiva can be intoxicating. 

Dying to numb out: Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016, 66% involving a prescription or illicit opioid. (CDC). Photo by Ajay Suresh, Flickr

I often ask the question: “Why are drugs so attractive to so many North Americans?”  We have this ‘thing’ called the “war on drugs” which for the most part seems to be an abysmal failure since drug cartels are still doing a very good business and their primary market continues to be the USA.  Why is this?  What is missing in our souls that we need to fill so gaping a hole with drugs?  Or alcohol?  Or shopping ad infinitum?  Or accumulation of power?  Or money?  Why do the gods of addiction find so many suckers in our culture?

I am convinced that much of the attraction of such idols derive from the lack of the Via Positiva in peoples’ lives, a lack of our drinking deeply from the wellspring of awe and wonder bestowed on us daily by the cosmos.  Our divorce from creation with its wonder and joy leads to a search for ersatz joy and wonder, ersatz highs.

Aquinas says “every human being is capax universi (capable of the universe)” yet our culture—its education, religion, politics, media, economics—rarely deliver on the ecstatic encounter with the cosmos.  Does this set us up for addiction?

Social media, the addiction of the mind: dopamine rush without genuine human connection. Photo by Silviarita on Pixabay

Addictions promise ecstasies but do not deliver over time.  Given this failure to succeed, one always has to up the ante. One never has “enough.”  Aquinas describes addiction as “a quest for the infinite,” but a quest that is seeking the infinite in the wrong places. According to Aquinas’ analysis, the right place to seek the infinite would be:

1. Our minds (no one ever knows too much);

2. Our hearts (no one ever loves too much); 

3. Our hands which, when connected with our imaginations, give birth to “an infinite variety of artifacts.”  These, he feels, satisfy.

Praise to the great minds, hearts and hands that set Voyager 1 into space to bring back new wonders of the universe.

See Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, p. 259.
Banner Image: Detail from Hubble Telescope close-up photo of the planet Jupiter, April 3, 2017. Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (NASA Goddard)

Queries for Contemplation

What are the occasions that get you “drunk” on the universe, the cosmos, our home and God’s?  What happens deep within you when you sit with that revelry?

How can we heal the cause of drugs and drug wars which lies in the empty souls of addicted people? How can we bring alive the cosmic experiences that can fill a hungry soul as well as the development of mind, heart, hands and imagination that can satisfy our quest for the infinite?

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.  The result is exciting!

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.

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