Julian on Goodness, Hope and the Future of the Body Politic

To speak of goodness is to speak of hope.  That is why Julian grounded her theology in a time of Europe’s most severe pandemic, in goodness.  To practice goodness during hard times requires a fierce commitment to our in-depth experience of beauty, joy, awe, and goodness.

Miniature by Pierart dou Tielt illustrating the people of Tournai burying victims of the Black Death, c. 1353. On Wikimedia Commons.

Julian is not alone.  One of the biggest differences between feminism and patriarchy, the sacred and the toxic masculine, centers around hope and/or the lack thereof.  When the great psychologist Otto Rank (often recognized as the father of humanistic psychology) tells us that “pessimism comes from the repression of creativity,” he is saying a mouthful about the power of mothering, of our capacity as humans “to birth and birth again/ when so much unbirthing reigns” (Adrienne Rich). 

Human creativity has brought us several working vaccines by which to fight the current pandemic.  Unfortunately, government has been so lame that the same creativity was in no way applied to the distribution of the vaccine.  But hopefully, with a new government in place, that might change swiftly.

“Sportsmanship.” Sculpture by Mitch Mitchell at Olympic Park, Melbourne, depicting runner John Landy helping fallen competitor Ron Clarke during the Australian mile championship of 1956 (Landy subsequently won the race). Photo by SuperJew on Wikimedia Commons.

Wisdom is about love of life and it is feminine.  Patriarchy is not about love of life; it is about control, domination, power-over, not power-with or com-passion, but about who is number one; who is on top; who wins (forget those who lose).  Is this why Donald Trump is the worst loser I have ever experienced?  I was taught as a young boy growing up in a big family and an athletic one, that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that a decent person is as gracious in losing as in winning.  

Poor Donald, so spoiled as a child with material things, missed many of life’s most important lessons—and this is one.  He never learned how to lose with grace.  His colossal fit at losing the election by 7 million votes cost us the price of a sacrilegious invasion of the nation’s capital, the loss of 5 lives, and a deep rupture in the body politic.  It moved many into the realm of despair about the body politic and our future as a nation.

The feminine voice of Wisdom at the 46th presidential inauguration: National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recites her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Uploaded to YouTube by ABC News.

And it revealed that many other Americans are out of touch with the feminine.  But why wouldn’t they be?  All of education is about the naked masculine called “Knowledge.”  Scarcely is there room in what we call education for Wisdom and wisdom, not knowledge, teaches us the lessons of what it means to be alive.  What it costs.  Why it costs.  What community or a healthy body politic is all about.  How beauty matters; and justice; and service; and compassion.  In short, values.

Bullies know nothing about wisdom or justice or compassion.  They are afraid of the divine feminine therefore.  They hang out in packs because they are afraid to confront others face to face.  Packs were unleashed in the capital on January 6, the Feast of Epiphany.  Inside every bully there is a scared child.

Julian calls us to the feminine: “God is delighted to be our Mother.”

See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp.  20-33, 45-58.

Banner Image: Student volunteers from Thomas Nelson Community College biology classes spend their Saturday morning participating in International Coastal Cleanup day at Dandy Haven Marine in Hampton, VA on Oct 19, 2019. Photo by Virginia Sea Grant on Flickr

Do you agree with Otto Rank that pessimism comes with the repression of creativity?  How to move from pessimism to hope, then?  Art as meditation would be a pretty good help, wouldn’t it?

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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4 thoughts on “Julian on Goodness, Hope and the Future of the Body Politic”

  1. Avatar

    Matthew, Your writings give me joy. Thank you for sharing your reflections on Julian of Norwich .This morning as I read your thoughts , you quoted, “God is delighted to be our mother”, and a shot of pure joy flowed out of my soul. Oh the happiness at knowing that God is like a mother, like a father, like a brother, like the wind, like the earth, like the sun etc. etc. Thank you for lighting up my life.

  2. Avatar

    So many potent points here. I have always tried to look, with compassion, at the wounded bully. I understand the importance of seeing the big picture and stepping back from judging. However, our country’s wounded bullies have seriously challenged me. These meditations have supported and lifted me out of grief, encouraged me to keep stretching and growing, and helped me to understand the importance of transforming “wisdom into right action.” I am grateful!

    I use The Mayan Prayer of the Seven Directions as a twice daily practice. So often, these meditations help give depth and additional meaning. Oh Yum Hunab Ku Evam Maya E Ma Ho – All Hail the Harmony of Mind and Nature
    Thank you for your blending of knowledge and wisdom and encouraging others to do the same.

  3. Avatar

    Yes, Mr. Fox, sports raise our self esteem and actually teach us how to win and lose. Sports teach us to have self confidence because we are really competing against our self to be better. Sports teach us Self Inquiry Meditation as we look within with honesty. We are able to take this state of honesty into our everyday lives. As you know, we find the God within and without through being honest with ourselves. I love losing at a close one on one competition such as ping pong. When we lose a close one on one game or match we employ the Discipline, Patience and Concentration Virtues described by Eric Fromm in his book THE ART of LOVING along with Self Inquiry Meditation to make us better for the next time. We also learn that we can be beat. We give loving compliments to our competitor. We appreciate that the competitor who beat us has also employed the Virtues and Self Inquiry. We also attempt to employ this attitude in team sports. Many competitors hug each other after competition. It is extremely important to have a team leader, coach or manager who realizes this – like you – I know you are humble.

  4. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Thank you Phila for your thoughtful meditation. You can tell from the other comments that the intent of your words were brought to heart. Original Blessings to you…

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