A Thank You to Norman Lear, a Bearer of Light

Advent and Hannukah season are now both upon us. Each brings promises of light to a world clearly wrapped in darkness at this time of history.

It is often useful when discussing spiritual topics to go to its opposite first. We have been doing this recently by discussing how the Catholic Bishops Conference is pushing abortion as their Number One issue this  upcoming presidential year. This in preference to Climate Change, Misogyny, Authoritarianism and other moral demands.

A tribute to Norman Lear upon his death at age 101, after more than 40 years of activism. Video by PFAWdotorg.

Sadly, religious leaders can choose to line up with fanatics and fascists ushering in darkness instead of light. 

Humans are called to be bearers of Light. Norman Lear, who left us this past week at the age of 101, was a light-bearer. He was a prophet in the sense that Rabbi Heschel talks about a prophet—one who interferes.

Norman Lear was a light-bearing man. Like all prophets, Lear used art to spread light. The art of comedy.

The logo for People For the American Way. Image taken from their website.

Both in his comedy and in his non-profit, People for the American Way, he shed light on cultural issues of injustice, including racial, gender, social and economic injustice. Wisely, he chose humor as a means to bring people together on what needs interfering with.  

I was privileged several years ago to receive an invitation from Norman to have lunch with him in Los Angeles. I remember thanking him for his many contributions to our culture by way of his programs such as “All in the Family” that dealt with Joy and Justice by way of comedy. 

Comedy that is still relevant today: “Archie Bunker’s” memorable conversation on slavery with guest star Sammy Davis Jr. on All In The Family. Video by baldevis.

Much of our conversation focused on Hildegard of Bingen. He told me his wife was an artist and was very familiar with my first book on Hildegard, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, wherein I shared 24 of her paintings and mandalas, with commentaries drawn from her works and other sources of creation spirituality. Norman wanted to learn more.

Needless to say, I found him alive and lively, curious and intelligent, creative and a great conversationist.   

To be continued.

See Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen.

And Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality, pp. 250-292.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice.

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

Banner Image: People For the American Way’s tribute to their founder, Norman Lear. Taken from their website. 

Queries for Contemplation

How do you see light emerging in this time of Advent and Hannukah 2023? Was Norman Lear and his work a certain light-bearer in your life?

Recommended Reading

Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition.  At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.”  – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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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4 thoughts on “A Thank You to Norman Lear, a Bearer of Light”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for highlighting Norman Lear. In these dark dystopian days you focus on the light of mystics and activists who show us the way. The speed of light is the only constant in our universe. The promise in Genesis is that darkness won’t overcome the light. The deeper the darkness the brighter the light…

  2. Avatar

    TRANSFORMATION~CREATIVITY~BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION… is growing and evolving in our hearts~Souls and lives with one another, as the darkness and barriers are being cleared out, here on Sacred Mother Earth and with-in All our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS of LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for this tribute to Norman Lear. Sometimes, coming at social issues sideways, so to speak, can be very effective, and that is what many artists do for us. I find laughter very healing. Prophets like Matthew meet the issues head on, and we need them also to keep us informed.

  4. Avatar

    Various types of artists through the platform of the arts, assist humanity in exploring the blocks to experiencing our full potential within the many human experiences we encounter in daily life. It’s important to see these blocks in order to open them up and unpack what lies within them; in order to evolve. This is known as heyoka medicine, to the Indigenious people.

    Artists assist humanity in a subtle way, to become self-reflective, encouraging others to face their shadows, their fears and the many narrow and restricted points of view we hold; that these may be recognized and transformed within ourselves.

    Through the arts, artists creatively open the hearts and minds of humanity to our innate capacity for finding and cultivating love and the beauty and goodness of belonging and the potential of this unfolding, evolving and emerging within our cultural identity; which is central, within the human experiences of our daily lives.

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