I shared in a recent DM how writing my book The Pope’s War forced me to study Opus Dei and other extreme right organizations that invaded the Roman Catholic Church during the 34 years of the papacies of JPII and Benedict XVI and are still with us.

Living in a garbage can: Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. Photo by Jenny Jiminez on Flickr.

I found myself suffocating from spending so much time living with shadow that I had to put my manuscript down half-way through writing it. I told a friend  I felt like Oscar the Grouch who lived in a garbage can on Sesame Street. 

Putting the project down, I found refuge in writing a book on Christian Mystics which so filled me with joy that I was eventually able to return to the darker project and finish it after all. 

So I want to pause for a moment as we necessarily meditate on the realities of our time such as three Supreme Court judges appointed to their positions by a president (and Senate leader) who explicitly said they were appointing them because they would end Roe vs Wade—and come up for air and light and wonders. 

After all, this is the season of both Hanukkah and Advent/Christmas, and there is plenty of air, light and marvels (otherwise known as “miracles”) to ponder and celebrate at this time of the year.

Desert under a crescent moon. Photo by Vista Wei on Unsplash

I believe we all need to become camel-like in such dark times as we currently find ourselves in.  A camel has a big hump to fill up with water before entering on a long journey into the desert.  The via negativa can be a long and parched journey for our souls and prophets/spiritual warriors must make those unpleasant journeys more often than we would like.  It is important we prepare ourselves well.

That means that we become camels, storing up our experiences of the Via Positiva—that wonder, awe, joy and beauty, that is ours to imbibe still on this stunning, unique planet we call our home. 

The Via Positiva can serve as an oasis in a human desert of folly.


See Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War;

and Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics;

also Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 201f.

To read the transcript of Matthew F?ox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner image: Crossing the desert in shadow. Photo by Jakub Jacobsky on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Are you a good camel?  Or at least getting better at being a camel, buttressing yourself for journeys through the desert of the Via Negativa?  Do you also find that the mystics bring joy to your soul when it is parched by bad news?


Recommended Reading

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II


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12 thoughts on “Liberating Oscar the Grouch & Becoming Camels”

  1. Avatar

    I am getting better at being a camel, by drawing from the living waters of the One River that feeds into many wells. The well that I am drinking from, as of late is what I like to call the “East Meets West Well.” Sitting at this well I have met others, whom share the wisdom ways within Eastern Spirituality. This has come about through spiritually reading books such as The Lotus and the Rose, by Mathew Fox and Jesus in the Lotus, by Russill Paul, and West Meets East, by Bede Griffith. As of late, I am now engaged with Pema Chodron and several of her spiritual writings through four of her books, Welcoming the Unwelcome, The Compassion Book, Awakening Loving Kindness, and Becoming Bodhisattvas.

    Drinking from these wells, I find personally, is actually helping me to spiritually mature, through ways that I could not find within my own christian faith tradition. This exploration of West meets East, is an enriching encounter, as no one religion or spiritual path contains the whole, but rather each one has something of value, meaning and purpose that contributes to the journey of wholeness.

    In my personal experience, the Holy Spirit knows what your soul thirsts for, what it needs for the journey ahead, especially during these chaotic, uncertain, confusing, dark and dangerous times we are living in. She, in the wisdom of Her ways, knows what wells to rest at, whom you need to meet, and what you need, to quench the parchment you sense deep within your soul. When you surrender in trust, responding to Her subtle promptings, leadings, and guidance… you discover that She is indeed preparing you with what you need for the long journey ahead into the wilderness of these dramatically changing times.

  2. Avatar

    Trading Oscar the Grouch for camels—I love it and identify too. We must have divine balance if we expect to hold great suffering in and with greater love. Thank you Matthew, and now breathe in some pure joy. }:- a.m.

  3. Avatar

    I agree and like whole heartedly Matthew’s metaphors of how our spiritual journeys include the Via Negativa (which our universal contemplative tradition emphasizes), and the Via Positiva (which Creation Spirituality emphasizes). I am grateful for both spiritual traditions, and the many ways Matthew teaches us about the importance of integrating both traditions and the Loving~Living~Creative Spirit in our universal inner/outer spiritual journeys as co-Creators with God’s Loving Oneness~Presence in our daily lives and in the Cosmos….

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Damian, And in a way we are living on the Via Transformativa, in that we are trying to transform our society into a more just and compassionate society. This is the land of the “Mystic-Prophet,” which is Matthew’s true home. Unfortunately, sometimes people of different perspectives feel as if they are on the Via Negativa, while if they were looking through Matthew’s eyes, they might be seeing the Via Transformativa!

  4. Avatar

    Thank you so much for this timely piece. I have struggled and still am with depression over the state of the world and our nation since Trumpism triumphed in 2016. Oscar the Grouch is a perfect metaphor for how I feel and live most of the time. This devotion gives me comfort and a way to think about how to put my anger and frustration down and embrace the grace and goodness of the Advent season. Reading Christian Mystics every morning is a wonderful gift and a tool for filling up my hump with living water. Thank you so much.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, during the Advent season besides reading, CHRISTIAN MYSTICS may I recommend reading as well, one or both of these books by Matthew (if you haven’t already read them): ORIGINAL BLESSING and/or THE COMING OF THE COSMIC CHIRIST–they were exactly what I needed when I first read them and I was depressed about world at the time (early ecology movement). Thank you so much for your comment!

  5. Avatar

    The glorious affirmation of ALL THAT IS GOOD and all that reaches far beyond our ability to comprehend (we call this “God”), is built into EVERY human being. The “made in God’s image” is a declaration of this. Many mystics directly experience this.
    Celebrate together with the mystics, with awe and joyous wonder.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, I too enjoy Stephen Colbert’s version of the news too! And thank you for the web address for James Finley’s podcast!

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