The Via Positiva amidst Grief, Loss, and Anger – Part 1

With the anguish playing on nightly news and commentaries, and with hearts the country over broken by thirty-one unnecessary deaths in El Paso and Dayton, and dozens of persons wounded through violence and crazy gun addictions, one might ask: Why are we “stuck” in meditations on the Via Positiva?  What good is the Via Positiva consciousness of joy and beauty and wonder in the current climate of grief and loss?  Shouldn’t we jump out of our Via Positiva discussions and move into areas of Grief (Via Negativa) and Creativity (Via Creativa) and social transformation (Via Transformativa)?

My answer to this follows.  First, many people are debating the political and transformative questions now and such debates are sowing the seeds for awakening creativity and for launching possible short and long term transformations from expanding voting rights to standing up to the NRA and more.  And communities are coming together to handle their grief (and we must not forget that the first level of grief is anger).

Citizens of Dayton, OH, flood the streets in an impromptu vigil mourning those lost in the August 4, 2019 shooting. Photo by Becker1999, Flickr

Second, there is a sometimes subtle but always significant relation of the Via Positiva to the other Three Paths along the mystical/prophetic journey.  I will touch on some of these intersections in today’s and tomorrow’s meditations.

  • The Via Positiva expands our hearts and makes us stronger and gives us courage to carry on in hard times.
  • A great loss such as that of a loved one snatched suddenly from us for no good reason is a great loss because of the Via Positiva.  In other words the depths of the loss is proportionate to the depths of our love.  It is precisely because we love our sons, daughters, parents, friends, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, etc. that we fall onto our knees in total disbelief when we hear they have been suddenly snatched away and we feel we have nothing left but memories.
“Free Hugs, 8/4/19 Dayton” Photo by Becker1999, Flickr
  • Furthermore, loss ups the ante on the Via Positiva reminding us of the impermanence and the transitoriness, of our lives.  We are reminded: Don’t take for granted.  Don’t take the joys of life—the moments shared with friends and loved ones–for granted.  That is the mystical way, not to take for granted.
  • The emptying and the nothingness of loss and grief do their work of carving a hole in the soul which allows us to connect with others who have experienced emptying.  There is a solidarity among those in touch with their own grief that is a valuable resource for what comes next.  (What does come next?  See tomorrow’s meditation.)

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 35-56, 140-172.
Banner image: Protestors lift placards in the demonstrations following the shooting in Dayton, OH, August 4, 2019. Photo by Becker1999, Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

What is your experience of the relationship between the joy of the Via Positiva and the sadness of loss and grief?  Do you resonate with the points made in this meditation?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

In this book Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology). Here Fox lays out the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.

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11 thoughts on “The Via Positiva amidst Grief, Loss, and Anger – Part 1”

  1. Avatar

    Our own Episcopal chaplain to Indiana University has told me on more than one occasion after a loss: “those who mourn deeply are those who love deeply.” Your meditation today is much appreciated. God bless.

      1. Gail Ransom

        Lynn, I am saddened to hear of your nieces’ trauma from the Las Vegas shooting. I think about these events in terms of the loss of loved ones. But you remind me how painful it is to survive these attacks. I am grateful your nieces had you to care about them.
        Gail Sofia Ransom
        For the Daily Meditations Team

  2. Avatar

    Over the past eight years I have watched my son in law adapt to the devastation of quadriplegia caused by botulism and my daughter struggle to juggle caregiving, a demanding job and exhaustion. Many times I have grieved and despaired. Through love, commitment and lots of healing humor, the two of them have shown how positive determination can create a strong marriage in the worst of circumstances.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you, Lynn, for your inspirational story. Your daughter and son-in-law show us how to seek the Via Positiva in the midst of hardship and eroding loss. May you all hold on to your humor and determination as you move through the challenges of this disease.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    Thank you Mathew,
    If we didn’t have experiences of beauty, joy and love to draw on in times of devastating loss, it could destroy us.

    I keep thinking about a black woman mystic, slave mother who taught her children strategies to survive “within the oppressive system of slavery. Mau-Mau Bett would sit with her children during the evening under the stars and teach them how to call upon God to help them in times of crisis.”

    Beautiful and empowering

  4. Avatar

    We experience so much sorrow because the other is our self, part of our self, part of our inter-being. When someone dies, a part of me dies with them, for grief moves through all of us who are willing to feel our oneness with Creation. That also includes all life. John

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you, John, for lifting up our capacity to share grief and sorrow as an experience of our oneness with Creation. Your reflection caused me to on the ways I respond to these horrible events when I hear them described on the news, or worse, watch a video someone took while ducking bullets. Does anyone else find themselves thinking about how it must have felt to be told that a loved one was lost, or be given a traumatized survivor to care for? Perhaps it is this imagining, this putting ourselves in the other’s shoes that connects us to each other through grief and loss – and creates a shared determination to change how we live together – as one body with some very sick parts.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

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