Julian of Norwich: Is there Hope for the Body Politic Yet?

This question arose for me on MLK Jr day this week when I heard the new poet laureate of San Francisco speak about his role in that position.  He said that behind the language of the poet there must lie an awareness, a social awareness of politics and society and what is (or is not) transpiring there. 

San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin shares his Brief But Spectacular take on poetry as revolution. Uploaded to YouTube by PBS NewsHour

This very much awakens me to the immense contribution the black community has made to advancing our current political situation, dire that it is.  The movement by Stacey Abrams to get out registration and voters of all communities in Georgia, but her own black community especially, is what turned the Senate blue and wrested Mitch McConnell’s do-nothing control out of his hands.  McConnell had let pile up over 400 bills passed by the House for years, no action on them whatsoever.  It was like no government, no legislation, for the body politic.

The catastrophic fall in which Alex Smith suffered his career-threatening injury. Photo by KA Sports Photos on Flickr

This past Sunday, 60 Minutes featured Washington quarterback Alex Smith and what he went through to get back on the field after undergoing a severe leg break and going to a rehab program with military veterans suffering from such dire injuries from land mines in particular. 

The doctor who treated Smith said only 12 people out of 1000 recover as he has from such drastic wounds.  But Smith worked very hard.  And actually, contrary to all expectations, and contrary to those who told him he should have his leg amputated, he returned to the rugged terrain of professional football.

Where is the wisdom of Julian of Norwich in all this struggle regarding body and body politic?  Hope, as M. C. Richards affirmed in my DM videos earlier in the week, is a product of goodness.  And trust, Thomas Aquinas, says, brings a “vigor” to hope.  Trust is Julian’s very definition of faith.  

A view of the U.S. Capitol Building’s Dome, taken from the east side Photo by Kevin Burkett on Flickr.

And goodness—recognizing it, looking for it, seeing it in all of nature–is the key to Julian’s spiritual practice.  Indeed, “God is the goodness in nature” and “nature and God are the same thing.”

If goodness is in nature, and humans are nature, then there is deep goodness in humans.  And the things humans give birth to—such as the body politic, also brim with goodness. 

This does not mean what we give birth to does not often enough veer off course and wander from goodness.  But deep down there is goodness there just as Smith’s body, while strikingly damaged for a while, was able—with the goodness of human science and medicine and the hard work of Alex himself—renew itself.

Highlights from the inaugural address of Joe Biden, 46th president of the U.S. Uploaded to YouTube by HuffPost.

Is the same true for the body politic we call America?  Can it move beyond the ruptures of the current scene into a better space?  Can it, with hard work, be renewed? 

Hope is about the possible; despair is about the impossible.  Hope says it can.  Hard work is required of all citizens and their representatives.

See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp.  20-33.

Banner Image: National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman delivers her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. At age 22, she aspires one day to become President. Photo by Chris Coons on Wikimedia Commons.

Are you practicing Julian’s advice to find goodness everywhere?  How important to you see a spiritual practice like that in a time like ours?

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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