Grace & the Reinvention of Work, continued

One example of the power of human grace reinventing one’s work emerged recently in Iran when a 70-year-old operator of a fish market stall started to groove in public—which is a violation of Iranian law.

An Iranian fish seller who published videos of himself dancing has inspired daring imitators across the country. His Instagram now has 400,000 followers. RadioFree Europe/Radio Liberty

The result?  A new kind of anti-government protest was born.  The fish seller’s upbeat folk song attracted crowds who joined in by clapping and chanting a chorus consisting of “Oh, oh, oh, oh.”  It caught on and people were dancing in the streets, shops, sport stadiums, classrooms, malls, restaurants, gyms, parties.  In a major tunnel in Tehran, traffic stopped for an impromptu dance to the music.

In parks, young women danced with hair uncovered and young men created a hip-hop dance.  A 32-year-old DJ said, “It’s obvious that joining this dance trend sends a strong message.  It’s a way of protesting and demanding our freedom and happiness.”

Islamic clerics in power for 43 years have forbidden women and men to dance in public.  The dance became an act of civil disobedience, and it all began with a 70-year-old fish market seller whose nickname is Booghy.  He tells us he dances “to make people happy.  I only want people to be happy and to change their mood.”  When the video of him dancing went viral, he had 128,000 followers on Instagram.

International channel WION offers commentary on the nationwide dance protest inspired by Sadegh Boughi.

But on Dec 7, the group of 12 men who sang the chorus behind him on the video were arrested and Booghy’s Instagram went dark.  A post from the judiciary said: “This page has been shut down for creating criminal content.”  Those arrested were interrogated for hours, beaten and forced to sign a pledge they would not sing and dance in public again.

When the news got out, a movement called the “happiness campaign” took off and 80 million viewers saw the video.  The government backed down.  Booghy’s Instagram followers now number 1.2 million, with dozens of tribute pages.*

Clearly street workers practicing joy can be mystics and prophets and carriers of grace for others.

*Farnaz Fassihi and Leily Nikounazar, “A Viral Dance and ‘Happiness Campaign’ Frustrates Iran’s Clerics.New York Times, December 16, 2023.

See Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time.

Banner Image: Screenshot of Sadegh “Booghy” Boughi’s viral Instagram page.

Queries for Contemplation

What lessons do you learn from this contemporary story of reinventing work happening in Iran?

Recommended Reading

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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 Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

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12 thoughts on “Grace & the Reinvention of Work, continued”

  1. Avatar

    It never ceases to amaze me, the inspiring, creative and imaginative ways in which the essence and presence of the living Spirit within responds; intuitively, spontainously, courageously and joyously expressing the means of transforming the pains, sufferings, fears and angers of oppression and suppression.

    For centuries religions and heirarchal institutions that be, have tried to contain, constrict, control, limit, and destroy the movements of the essence and presence of the living Spirit within not only humanity, but also the spiritual reality of the Great Mystery of this, within the all and the everything in creation.

    Yet, the Great Spirit moves as She wills and Her ways are so much more than that of the doctrines and dogmas of religions and the man-made laws of heirarchal egocentric leaders temporarily in positions of political power.

    Time and time again we see the essence and presence of the living Spirit within; mysteriously, continuously, courageously and creatively rising from the ashes, unfolding Her wings dancing… evolving and emerging as She converges with and through humanity, in the power of Her joyous, gracious love for all Life. Oh oh oh!

  2. Avatar

    The Spirit manifests itself anytime, anywhere, without boundary across all time and space. We are one in Spirit as well, and there becomes no distinction between job and profession, geographic boundaries, male or female, colour of one’s skin. The universal Spirit brings forth an ever-flowing stream of inclusive peace, joy, love, truth, thanksgiving, mercy and compassion in all their manifestations. Let the dance that never ends, begin. — BB.

    1. Avatar

      Bill: Just last night I read your recent Comment that told of your deep and scary battle with Covid. Welcome back to the DM Comment page! You were missed, I was wondering what happened. I am glad to hear that your lesson from all that struggle was and is: Grace. I wish you continued healing and sharing of your wisdom along with other wise souls in this “circle” of DM responders.
      With grace,

  3. Avatar

    The Divine Spirit of LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE… and Its many manifestations in the Human Spirit (our Divine Nature) such as Truth, Peace, Justice, Healing, Transformation, Creativity, Beauty, Joy, Compassion… within our Unique human daily lives/hearts with one another, with Sacred Mother Earth and all Her creatures and graceful abundance, and with All Our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse evolving COSMOS in LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS Is Always With-In Us in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  4. Avatar

    This meditation makes me want to dance in the streets! In fact sometimes we do. He will now have another follower- thank you for this perfect story.

  5. Avatar

    In my work for Amnesty International Urgent Action, I am constantly amazed and inspired by the irrepressible spirit of people who will not give in to tyranny, even at the cost of imprisonment, torture, and death. These dancers were fortunate not to be so treated. But many have been executed for their participation in the protests from September to December of 2022 following the murder by security forces of a woman who refused to wear a veil. The 2023 Nobel Peace prize winner is an Iranian woman who is in prison and in danger of death because her life threatening lung and heart conditions are being deliberately ignored because she refuses to wear the veil. Perhaps dancing is not so threatening to the authorities as women who are standing up for themselves and the men who support them. At any rate, I wish I could be half as brave as these people.

  6. Avatar

    In keeping with my reflections upon work and the reinvention of work, and reading your meditation, I was asking myself the question: what “work” wants to be born in the womb of this darkness? It takes bravery and boldness to create new life after all that has taken place, and I really appreciate Jeanette’s reply, that there is this Living Spirit that moves, in spite of oppression. Then I came upon this quote right after reading this meditation, so I think it fits in my comment here:

    “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

  7. Avatar

    The hidden rebellion of hope and self-expression amidst repression and discrimination.
    The actions of those low in power and voice to reclaim and rejoice within their human soul’s beauty, refusing to be totally crushed.
    The poorest and weakest refusing to fade into timidly quiet ghost-shadows.

    Those who’ve known abuse and discrimination are quite aware of the efforts of those in power to weaken and tame their inconveniently challenging and unruly voices into gentler, quieter, acceptably-conforming whispers. “Don’t make waves, it might upset someone”. Keep the keepers happy.
    A few brave souls may dare to express their defiance in carefully small acts of gentle rebellion. Often, they pay a high price for even that much self-assertion.

    Silence is a universal voice of pain.

    Let’s join together to pray for freedom, here and around the world, from systems and attitudes of dominance and abuse, and for the rights of every person to live in equality, peace, and human dignity.

  8. carol

    PRAYER – in light of all these faithful declarations and in light of the 3rd Story of an emergent universe that is a vast communion – what is prayer?

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