Ernesto Cardenal writes that “the greatest discovery of the twentieth century is the expanding universe.” But while the universe is expanding, are we? If not, we are contracting.
Where there is fear, writes Aquinas, contraction takes over. Fear “denotes avoidance in general,” he teaches. To allow fear to take over our ways of living or our hearts or our institutions is to void a cosmic law: the need to expand through love and courage.
The fundamentalism that rules so much religious consciousness today represents a failure of love, a failure to enlarge the size of our hearts. So, too, do all expressions of racism, sexism, classism, adultism, sectarianism. These are examples of the human species settling for contraction when the universe is urging us to expansion.
Persons and institutions stuck in fear oppose the universe as they attempt to build bigger moats and thicker walls of defense or develop more orthodox litmus tests. It takes a lot of energy to fight the universe itself—energy that could be used for more productive tasks.
To celebrate and enter into expansion is not to deny that contraction also occurs in the universe. Limits are important. For example, a painter limits the size of her painting by a conscious decision about its form, and then she puts herself out into that form in as fully expansive a way as possible. Or consider our lungs. If they only expanded and never contracted, we would explode.
But the general message of the universe is: “When in doubt, expand.” As Jesus and other moral teachers have told us, “Love has no limits.” Love expands to the breaking point and beyond—in other words, to crucifixion and then on to resurrection.
The breaking point, the end point that Jesus experienced in his crucifixion was not the end of the story. The belief in resurrection carries us beyond intimidation, which fear and contraction preach, to the world of divine surprises that, like the universe itself, are beyond our wildest imaginations.
Joy by nature is expansive. One wants to share one’s joy with others. Love is expansive, it goes out. Creativity is expansive. Meister Eckhart says what is creative “goes out but remains within.” We can expand both outwardly and inwardly at the same time therefore.
We are built for expansion, as French philosopher Gaston Bachelard puts it, we are wired for intimacy, intensity and immensity.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Liberating Gifts For the Peoples of the Earth, p. 45.
And Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, pp. 185-188.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE
Banner Image: A chiaroscuro depiction of the expanding Universe after the “Big Bang.” 2008 Painting by Cédric Sorel. Wikimedia Commons.