We have been discussing art, creativity and healing in a time of pandemic in our most recent Daily Meditations. A story about my own work and creativity occurred this weekend when I had the privilege to dialog on video with Jaih-Hunter Hill.
Jaia is a twenty-seven year old Apple product design engineer with an engineering degree from Stanford University. We first met at a Sierra Club gathering last Fall when I was invited to speak on Pope Francis’s encyclical on the Environment, “Laudato Si” (which was written in great part by a graduate of my Master’s program in Creation Spirituality). Two scientists were also speaking on the environmental crisis and Joanna Macy, having just celebrated her 90th birthday, also showed up and offered powerful words of hope and inspiration.
During a break in the event Jaih came up to me and introduced himself as being genuinely excited about my book Original Blessing. As a writer, it is always fun to learn that someone—especially a young person–has derived some benefit from one’s work and equally fun to learn what part of one’s writing has moved another.
This weekend Jaih and I interacted in a video exchange where he went into greater depth about what moved him in Original Blessing. One topic that impacted him was “holiness as Cosmic Hospitality.” It turns out that Jaih loves to cook and create hospitality and took immediately to the teaching that this work of his was a spiritual practice. Recent scholarship reveals that it was central to the work and teaching of the historical Jesus as well.
In the book I cite Simone Weil who warns that
…today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself is without precedent.
Holiness is a word worth retrieving. One of the most telling questions that can be asked about a period’s spirituality is, what is its understanding of holiness? A people’s grasp of what constitutes holiness will affect its entire way of living, questioning, celebrating.
I reject the fall/redemption definition of holiness as “perfection” and this for psychological reasons (Otto Rank called perfectionism “a disease”); and for feminist reasons–poet Adrianne Rich warns us: “Let us return to imperfection’s school/ No longer wandering after Plato’s ghost.” Patriarchy countenances perfectionism.
In nature, beauty and imperfection abound together. Every tree is beautiful–but also imperfect. Theologically, we need to realize that the Greek word in Matthew’s gospel often translated as “perfect” actually means “ripe” or “come to maturity.” Furthermore, in the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel the word is “compassion.”
Having criticized the dominant definition of holiness as perfection, I propose that holiness consists in hospitality–cosmic hospitality. Creation has been laid out for us as a banquet. God is a host; we are guests. Through the Incarnation God becomes a guest and ourselves hosts. Jesus offers an “eschatological abundance” that the prophets envisioned. (Amos 9:13-15)
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 108-117.
Banner Image: Matthew Fox and Jaih Hunter-Hill in conversation
Queries for Contemplation
Do you learn and feel blessed when people respond to your work and your creativity? Reflect on those moments of interaction and the gratitude the arouse in you.
What is your definition of “holiness”?