Sky & Earth, the Clash of Awe and Awful

A special blessing to all on the passing of our brother Thich Naht Hanh yesterday.  He was and is a great gift to the world.  We will be honoring his memory beginning in tomorrow’s DM.

Awe is one thing; the awful is real too. 

Even though we look to the sky for awe and wonder and truth about our origins, back here on earth we are witnessing lots of Awful: a rise of more hate, more racism, more sedition, more cowardice by politicians, more lies championed by media who have no values whatsoever other than fanning fire in order to make more money to satisfy its insatiable greed, more vitriol, more despair, more chants of “lock her up,” more sick religion financed by authoritarian fronts, more fear, more anxiety, more meanness, more institutional violence (and therefore fascism) than ever before in my memory.  More domestic terrorism and more political cowardice. 

Mitch McConnell voices racism after just after blocking the Freedom To Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Video by American Bridge 21st Century.

It is hard not to recognize the rise of authoritarianism and fascism, especially with a supreme court dedicated to having 1) dismantled the hard-earned voting rights act of minority citizens oppressed for hundreds of years and 2) informing us that corporations are people (Mussolini defined fascism as the marriage of government and corporations) and 3) a majority of the court having defined themselves as “political hacks”, some among them having been appointed when a certain senate leader denied a (black) president the right to appoint a supreme court judge within a year of an election and then turned around and rushed through a new judge while an election was going on.  This new judge found it necessary to exclaim a few months into her job that “we judges are not political hacks.”

Fascism is often attractive when a feckless democracy accomplishes very little.  Consider the weak democracy in Germany under Paul von Hindenburg that immediately preceded Hitler.  

“Crimes against Humanity.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet “appalled” by conditions in which migrants and refugees – children and adults – were held in detention in the United States of America after crossing the southern border. Photo by Thomas Cizauskas on Flickr.

Consider how Hitler’s modus operandi included scapegoating and America elected (by electoral votes, not numbers of Americans voting for him) a scapegoating president who began his political career descending an escalator and declaring that Mexicans are rapists, etc. etc.  Such scapegoating has only grown since that descent.  Anti-semitism and anti-Asianism is more scapegoating.

A democracy with no regard for truth (such president was counted uttering 35,000 lies during his presidency) is doomed.  No truth means no virtue, no values.  A democracy cannot endure without truth as a value. Democracy also presumes some basic virtues which are sorely lacking in much of the media today and in our educational system.  Judging from lawyers who create documents on how to steal elections, apparently they don’t teach values in our law schools these days.  We find ourselves in a place where raw power and knowledge for power sake rule.

See Mary Oliver, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 112.

See Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 1-34. 

And Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 27-42. 

And Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Insurrectionist carrying poster with Jesus in a MAGA hat at the Capitol, 1/6/21. Photo by Tyler Merbler on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What are your thoughts about Awe and the Awful?  About the media and education itself often being purveyors of the latter?  Can Awe displace the awful?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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12 thoughts on “Sky & Earth, the Clash of Awe and Awful”

  1. Avatar

    What I sense in today’s DM, is the necessity of movement, not just any movement, but rather a movement initiated by the Spirit of Divine Love, Compassion, Mercy and Justice… and all the characteristics, qualities, virtues and values of this. Contemplative Action vs Apathetic Atrophy is the tension of the times we live in. I think of the words of the apostle, when he stated I know what I am called to do, but I fail to follow through on living and being in the flow of this knowing.

    I sense also the imbalance, the dissonance between the contemplative Divine Feminine and the active Sacred Masculine within the hearts, minds and souls of humanity. The image that comes to mind is a hardened stone sculpture of humanity, with its hands and feet broken off from the body, and it’s face disfigured beyond recognition, heart turned to granite, stagnant and lifeless, stuck in the muck and mire of apathy and atrophy.

    And yet another image arises, that of dead dry bones, coming back to life, through the utterances of the voice of the Divine Spirit, breathing into humanity, the words that prophetically call forth an awakening from death into new life. Will these eternal truths, strike the ground of our beingness, like Moses struck the rock, in order to release the living waters from the flowing fountain, freeing the movements of the Spirit Within? Will we evolve, allowing ourselves to be refashioned and reformed and become the hands, the feet, the mind, the heart, the soul, the living, moving essence and presence of the incarnation of the Spirit of Divine Love, the universal and cosmic body and blood of the Emergent Christ?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, There is an imbalance “between the contemplative Divine Feminine and the active Sacred Masculine within the hearts, minds and souls of humanity.” And I think that by now it should be more than evident that we have focused for the most part on the toxic masculine. And taking a metaphor from you, I say, that as Moses struck the rock in order to bring water to his thirsting people, we have struck the rock of patriarchy and we too thirst for the pure water of the Spirit to flow to us and quench our thirst for the Divine Feminine.

  2. Avatar

    One of the best of recent meditations – at least to me. I am grateful to hear again, Mary Oliver’s poem, read in the context of Matt’s reflection. How he integrates the poem, increases my appreciation of Oliver’s poetry – and today’s reflection. Brilliant. Thank you.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, thank you for your comment, and I am glad that you were grateful for this meditation and especially Matthew’s reflection on Mary Oliver’s poem…

  3. Avatar

    Our Faith, Hope, and Love call us to answer Yes to Matthew’s and Jeanette’s profound and existential questions facing us in these perilous modern times, even though they’ve always been with us in human history in our human soul evolution… Suffering and fighting for/ incarnating (“…Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven…”) Wisdom, Truth, Peace, Justice, Creativity, Joy,… have always been important parts of our spiritual journeys, but never alone, and Always Present with-in God’s Eternal Spirit of Love~Light~Life~Oneness….

  4. Avatar

    We repeat the horrors of the past if we refuse to learn from history. Covering our ears and whistling happy tunes won’t prevent the suffering we keep inflicting on ourselves while we try to crush the “others”. Writing “happy histories” won’t allow us to learn from our painful mistakes in the past, and silencing the teaching of climate change won’t stop the degradation of our planet.
    “See no awful” won’t help fix the cascade of disasters we’ve created: it’ll just compound the problem. But it does help the rich to get richer, the powerful to grind down more souls under their gargantuan egos while abominating the planet.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Melinda, Your comment here is summary statement of what the philosopher , George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” You write, “We repeat the horrors of the past if we refuse to learn from history” and this is very true! But then you write, “’See no awful’ won’t help fix the cascade of disasters we’ve created: it’ll just compound the problem. You ‘re right, we cannot just close our eyes to all that is wrong that is going on. But on the other hand as Einstein wrote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” So we need new ways of thinking, new ways of approaching these problems, and my own personal feelings are that we won’t fix the problem by dwelling on the problem. We fix the problem by dwelling on the solution. That is what Einstein was telling us…

  5. Avatar

    Small, hard, and full of meanness are our hearts, and only love can melt them. What a moving and profound meditation this is! I fear that this democracy is doomed because we are not worthy of it in this time, but, if we don’t totally destroy ourselves, future generations will rise up and recreate a much better one that is not founded on slavery.

  6. Avatar

    January 27th is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the United Nations urges every member state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism. We see these signs rising again today globally as the disconnect continues. Examining history, listening and learning about our own family stories can help us see just how connected we all are, and how fundamental are the words of Edith Stein, (St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross) whose story transcends from a point of dogma, even questionable “laws” to this quote:
    “Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love if it lacks truth. One without the other is a destructive lie.”
    Space must be made for our stories to raise the “Awe” that connects us and to reject the “Awful.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jill, Thank you for reminding us of Holocaust Remembrance Day which is coming up, and for reminding us of Edith Stein. Stein had been one of Edmund Husserl’s doctoral students, and wrote her dissertation on an aspect of the philosophy he developed which was called, “Phenomenology.” And so we first know her as Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher and Phenomenologist, then, after her conversion to Catholicism as, Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross OCD (1891-1942). She was one of the saints of the Holocaust… as if they were not all martyrs…

  7. Avatar

    Thank you for the reminder that this is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I recall learning the full details of the Holocaust as a young woman. It generated a very deep crisis of faith in humanity and religious orthodoxy. Thank you also for the quote from Edith Stein. It blends with Jesus’ fundamental message that Love and Truth are vitally connected.
    “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32

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