Balancing the Good News and the Hard News

Global news that arrives online in minutes from all around the world these days can easily weigh us down.  Today it is the sad news that the people of Myanmar appear to be facing a civil war that they cannot win against the military without outside help.

“Respect Our Votes.” Protestors rally against the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar U Win Myint, 02-08-2021. Photo by Thu Tun on Wikimedia Commons.

So often it is Good Friday news and not Resurrection news.  We can’t turn away from it entirely on the one hand, but we dare not drown in it either. 

We need to perfect that spiritual habit of finding balance between the Via Positiva (good news) and the Via Negativa (bad news).  It’s a dance, a dialectic, that can keep us alive and on our toes and seeking.  Or, can sink us.

Several days ago we celebrated the universality of the Resurrection experience, a universality and diversity that today’s scholars acknowledge was alive and well in the earliest Christians who encountered the risen Christ beginning with Paul.  Each had his or her own experience (though for some it was a group event) and responded in their own way. 

But the ways, though various, had some things in common such as: Generosity; Courage; Sharing; and a deep Transformation of one’s life.  Such that Paul could say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  Or, “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” etc.

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of awakening to compassion and aliveness out of suffering. Excerpt from Whispers on the Wind, uploaded to YouTube by Arnie Battaglene.

We have touched on how receiving such breakthroughs and acting on them is what constitutes mysticism itself.  Thus our awakening experiences are our mystical experiences which are our resurrection experiences that in turn inspire us, energize us, embolden us, to act to imitate Jesus, whose primary teaching after all was to “be compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.” 

The mystics are our mentors and guides to this responding.  Eckhart says that there is no better name for Divinity than Compassion.  And that humans do not actually have souls yet—we are soulless—until we become instruments and agents of compassion.  And compassion includes justice and working for justice, indeed “compassion means justice.”

Author/scholar Karen Armstrong narrates the mission and vision of CharterForCompassion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and cultivating the principle and practice of compassion across spiritual traditions and cultures. Posted to YouTube by Charter for Compassion

The mystics have diverse ways to name the mystical experience that we all undergo.  Julian of Norwich talks of oneing, a word she invented (she also invented the word enjoy).  Eckhart invented the word breakthrough to name our mystical or resurrection experiences.  He tells us that for the person who is awake (i.e. has paid attention to his or her resurrection experiences), breakthrough does not happen once a year, once a month, once a week or even once a day—but “many times every day.”  Yes, many, many resurrections! 

Thomas Aquinas’s favorite term for mysticism or everyday resurrections is: ecstasy.  When he says amor facit ecstasim (love produces ecstasy), he is using the most generic term for love.  Amor love can be love of a tree or horse or dog, a sunset or person, a poem or book, love of just about anything. 

Aquinas’s spirituality is so thoroughly democratic and available to all.  As close as everyday love.  Resurrections abound.

See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 59-70;

Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 293-312;

Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas, pp. 1-10.

Banner Image: “Balance” Photo by Rey Perezoso on Flickr.

Which of the three names for mysticism and resurrection offered here most speak to you?  How do they complement one another?

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.

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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3 thoughts on “Balancing the Good News and the Hard News”

  1. Avatar

    Breakthrough is what speaks most to me, for I experience breakthroughs over and over as God sees I need them. Oneing is almost always with me until I suddenly become beset with troublesome thoughts and feelings which can upset me until I can work through them by asking: “Who is the one seeing this disturbance?” And affirm that I am NOT the thought or the feeling, but the one who is SEEING it. I have also enjoyed times of great ecstasy, which have given me such insights of what Heaven is like that I’ve been wanting to go Home since the age of 23 . . . and here I am at 89! Obviously more work to be done and more growth to achieve. So be it!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Vivian, Since you have been wanting to “go Home” since you were 23, and you are now 89, I am amazed at such patience. In fact you must have the “patience of the saints” as spoken of in the book of Revelation. Breakthrough also speaks to me, and Breakthrough is another word for “Satori” which is Breakthrough in the Zen Buddhist tradition. The Oneing that Julian speaks of is not always easy for me, but when I use the technique that you mention and which I learned from Ram Dass, the obstacles are removed. May God bless you, as he already has, since you were born those 89 years ago.

  2. Avatar

    Richard, thank you for sharing! It seems that we have a lot in common, spiritually speaking. It is always heartwarming to come across a meaningful relationship across so many years and miles apart. God bless you, too, my friend. Namaste! (which to me means “The God in me HUGS the God in you!) Blessings!

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