On Grief Work, Youth Work, & Adam Bucko’s Latest Book

We have seemingly interrupted our meditations on Praise to reflect on the heart-breaking events of murder at the gay Club in Colorado Springs and other colleges this past week.  And on a preferential option for the young.

Portrait of Rev. Adam Bucko, Co-Founder and Director of the Center for Spiritual Imagination (CSI). Originally posted to CSI staff page.

But really it is not an interruption so much as a deepening of our acknowledgement of what our special but dangerous and endangered species is all about after a 13.8 million year journey to today.

After all, to praise the universe is to praise human beings also, children of the universe that we are.  And children of Earth.  We are capable of great goodness but also of evil and we need to find the goodness in the evil and find the goodness in the bad news as well as the good news.

Meister Eckhart put it startlingly when he said: “All things praise God.  Darkness, privations, defects, evil too praise God and bless God.” 

Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Dancing in the Dark” reminds us that even when things seem bleak, if we choose to dance, a spark will eventually arise. Originally posted to YouTube by Bruce Springsteen.

This is a hard saying and not at all immediately obvious.  But it is real.  From evil can come great good.  Recognition, for example, of how free and powerful we are that we can choose to do good or evil with our mighty imaginations and creativity.  And how creativity must be steered into healthy and loving directions.

Even at the club in Colorado Springs, good came forward.  The persons who wrestled the killer to the ground have been called “heroes” by the mayor of the city for good reason.  And the city planning that got the police to arrive in full force within 3 minutes of being called was wise and caring.  And hopefully the caring for those who are grieving is going on generously.

Grief is like floating away from the world we have once known, towards a different world. Photo by samane mohammadi on Unsplash.

All this is testimony to human courage and caring brought out of ordinary citizens by an evil event.

In a recent book, Adam Bucko has shown a great deal of prescience for our times: The title alone carries a deep message–Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide: Lessons in Engaged Contemplation

He chooses to speak to the broken heart and hearts are plenty broken these days and for a variety of reasons from war in Ukraine to climate change to many murders of the young and by the young. 

The Via Negativa needs our attention and always in the context of the Via Positiva or praise.  The Via Positiva is part of the healing of course.  “Walk your walk of lament on a path of praise,” instructs poet Rainer Rilke.

Adam’s short but substantive book speaks to today’s human crisis of despair and possibility.  It derives from the deep experience of his  growing up under soviet domination in Poland, living through the excruciating overthrow of the Soviet dictatorship, and coming to America as a teen-ager unfamiliar with the English language, hanging out in subways among the poor, living in India and encountering great poverty there, and then working with young homeless adults on the streets of New York City for 16 years and now an ordained Episcopal priest in the Long Island diocese.  To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, p. 56. 

See Matthew Fox and Adam Bucko, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion. 

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

Banner Image: Photo from the 2018 CSC Gathering. Originally posted to the website of Creation Spirituality Communities.

Queries for Contemplation

What lesson do you derive from Eckhart’s hard teaching that “all things praise God—even Evil praises and blesses God?”  What lessons emerge for you from meditating on the title of Bucko’s latest book, “Let your heartbreak be your guide”?

Recommended Reading

Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book

A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.  

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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8 thoughts on “On Grief Work, Youth Work, & Adam Bucko’s Latest Book”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you reminds us of the fact that we are children of the universe and children of Earth. “We are capable of great goodness but also of evil and we need to find the goodness in the evil and find the goodness in the bad news as well as the good news.” And then you quote Meister Eckhart as saying, “all things praise God—even Evil praises and blesses God?” I see the first of these two comments different in that, whereas Meister Eckhart living nearly 700 years before us had no idea what the universe even was. The universe is not about praise. It totally neutral to evil. Our universe was born out of extreme violence–even the great beauty we have seen in the pictures that have come to us from outer space of galaxies and things like quasars came out of great force which was indifferent to anything that lives. The praise that Eckhart speaks about comes out of tradition that teaches, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord”–not that all things are good, but that God can bring good out of anything, but even that good is yet for us to see. How will we or should we praise what happened this week in the events of murder at a gay Club in Colorado Springs and other colleges this past week? I confess that I find that almost impossible for me to do. Adam Bucko’s new book, “Let your heartbreak be your guide” may not be able to stop the murder and violence, but it may give us reason for hope in a realistic and doable way.

  2. Avatar

    I really needed to hear today’s message about letting heartbreak be your guide, and how one must not only accept the the via negative of what is, through FEELING… but also the importance of not getting stuck in the eddy of these heartfelt emotions. Choosing to REFLECT upon what’s stirring in the depths of one’s heart, and ARTICULATING this in creative ways, can shift oneself from the via negativa into the energy of the via positiva… which helps to transform not only ones feelings, but also one’s perceptions and responses to the what is, with more conscious awareness.

    I’m in the thick of Covid again, now mixed with the RSV and FLU outbreak and lockdown at the Retirement Home where I work. For three years I’ve been dealing with this off and on; and to be honest I’m fatigued and grieved. For three years I’ve kept myself Covid free, but now I have it. This along with everything else going on in the world, has brought on feelings of depression and despair, wondering if any of this will end, or if this is just going to be the new normal of being and living in a pandemic world. However, after reading today’s message I realized that my 10 days in isolation can be received as a blessing for not only physical healing, but also an opportunity to find safe refuge, rest and rejuvenation for my weary soul… by my choosing to respond to the nurturing, creative and transformative essence and presence of the Cosmic and Earth Mother, whom is with me.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I am sooo sorry that you have Covid. That virus is another neighbor in our world, just as cancer and numerous other diseases are. They are not good neighbors because they want to live off of us–and they live off of us from their level in the micro realm, while the wealthy and corporations live off us from our realm. We cannot escape this duality of things that do bad things to us–and yet there is also much good. “Eat or be eaten” is the law of the universe, from the macro to the micro and even to the subatomic–we just cannot escape it in this world. What however the Christian mystics have done with their suffering which is unique in most religious traditions, is they accept that suffering is just a given in this world, and rather than fighting it, they experience their sufferings as joining Christ in his passion, and they gain merits for their suffering. Just something to think about–and may this illness run its course quickly and may healing come and fill your body…

  3. Avatar

    To hold great suffering in and with Greater LOVE is to express our faith, hope and trust in God Who IS LOVE, and Their Presence in the midst of brokenness and violence, even now making all things new. Great Mystery indeed, Lover of every soul…

    }:- a.m.

  4. Avatar

    “Even evil praises and blesses God.” What caused Eckhart to say this? Comparing the relative ease of living in the U.S. with living in 13th Century Germany, I asked, Was there a plague during his time, as during Julian of Norwich’s time? Eckhart was not just a preacher, but an administrator; so he had to travel through dangerous country as he checked on other parishes. Did he, like her, see such suffering that he couldn’t help believe that evil must also praise and bless God? So I Googled “Meister Eckhart + plague,” opened the first promising link, and found the following site: http://myanchorhold.com/meistereckhart. I stopped my “research” because the post I found has enough to ponder for one day (or one lifetime). The writer raises another question: “Does evil praise and bless God because good or ill doesn’t matter?” The writer (Candice Bist) quotes Eckhart at the beginning of her essay, “If you account anything more than something else, you do wrong.” A very Buddhist statement. Detachment. I know nothing about Ms. Bist yet I find her essay instructive, and I will be reading more of her writings. In his statement, is Eckhart talking about detachment or is it something else?

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    To accept the hard teaching is necessary if we are to survive as individuals and a society, I think. We must find the inner strength and hope that come from faith in God or whatever serves as one’s Higher Power. As Matthew says, hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up, and without its power, we will simply stay passive and stuck in the slough of despair. Hope is not dependent on outcome, although I need to be able to envision better times, in order to try to bring them about–if not for myself, at least for the generations to come. But sometimes it seems as if the violence is so pervasive that it is hard to see any good that can come from it. It does not seem to be enough to hope that some who speak so hatefully and encourage the murder of innocents will see the consequences of their own actions.
    Heartbreak as guide can open us up to the suffering of all people, not just our little selves, to make us more compassionate and impel us to do what we can to correct the conditions that cause such suffering.

  6. Avatar

    The mystery of Divine Love and Compassion includes the Paschal Mystery of suffering, death, and resurrection/transformation to Rebirth/New Life with others and All Life in Diverse Loving Oneness in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment….

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