Occupy Spirituality: Addressing Fear, Hope, and Generosity (Excerpt)
Categories: Excerpt Society & Politics Spirituality & Religion
In this excerpt from Occupy Spirituality, Matthew Fox, a theologian, and Adam Bucko, a spiritual activist and mentor to homeless youth, share their thoughts on the Occupy Movement, the Tea Party, and how courage and generosity in the face of anger and outrage can change the world.
ADAM BUCKO: I love it when Chris Hedges says that “any act of rebellion, any physical defiance of those who make war, of those who perpetuate corporate greed and are responsible for state crimes, anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others.” Somehow I feel that this captures what happens when kids from the Occupy movement come together.
MATTHEW FOX: One often gets the impression from people of the Occupy generation that they are listening especially deeply to their vocations, their callings, rather than just listening to the noise of the media and of incessant advertising, whose goal is to feed Wall Street with addicted consumers. In this regard, I like what Howard Thurman says about listening deeply to that call inside us, “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
ADAM BUCKO: I remember being at Occupy with some young people from our community during the protest. I felt there a certain kind of energy, a kind of spiritual and moral power. It felt like we were able to come together in a way that created an opening for this energy to enter the world. It literally felt like the world cracked open and let this moral, soulful force come in and do its healing work. I remember marching the streets and looking around at the bankers and corporate executives standing there in their suits, watching us. I saw that they too were feeling this energy. They could see that this was not just another dress-up game of angry and frustrated college students. It was a manifestation of moral authority that was here to change things. I swear I saw a recognition in them that things would change.
MATTHEW FOX: I think one reason for this is that they found something positive to do with their grief and their anger. On the right, the Tea Party is also fueled by anger and outrage, but I fear that most of their solutions are hardly thought out at all. Yet they have been amazingly successful in getting their people elected and in changing political discourse (not always for the better, I fear) in America. Hopefully the Occupy movement will also spawn dedicated political leaders and alternatives with well-thought-out principles and policies that defend Main Street and the 99 percent. Already their protests have assisted to redefine the debate around economics and to reintroduce values of justice and fairness into the political discourse.
ADAM BUCKO: This reminded me of an experience that I had in Europe. When the Occupy movement began I was given an opportunity to go to my home country, Poland, and speak at the Warsaw Stock Exchange. While there, I spoke on a panel with some leading Polish politicians who remembered Poland’s struggle for democracy and were very sympathetic to the Occupy movement in New York City. After our panel, a Wall Street banker came up to me and asked, “Do you think things will really fall apart?”
I looked at him and I could see the fear in his eyes, but I could also see hope. There was a fear of losing everything. The hope, however, was that if things did change, it would relieve him from participating in a corrupt system. He no longer would have to justify supporting his own children in a way that prevents others’ children from being fed and given opportunities—opportunities that all children deserve.
It is this fear and this hope that I see in the 1 percent. They fear losing their way of life, but deep down they also hope for it. They hope, like we all do, for a world that can nourish everyone, not just the 1 percent or not only the 99 percent, but one that can work for 100 percent.
MATTHEW FOX: One thing I have learned from seventy-two years of living is that the primary signs of spirit are courage and generosity. They go together nicely because to stand up for justice is always demanding in terms of generosity. It requires giving to those you may not even know personally. Giving to future generations. It also requires courage, of course, because one is always taking on powerful forces when one stands for justice and speaks truth to power. Without courage and generosity we do not have spirituality. With it, we do.
Consider the many sacrifices of those in the Middle East who have been standing up to dictatorships and often paying the ultimate price for it. Consider the civil rights movement in this country fifty years ago, which brought alive the courage and generosity of the tens of thousands of persons who participated, often at great risk to themselves. Consider those in South America who did the same a generation ago, when they stood up to the dictators (often supported by our government, I’m sorry to say) and transnational corporations who then and still today are raping the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous peoples for their gods of mammon. It is a pity that so many so-called religious leaders do not stand up with courage and generosity toward the young and the future but are busy playing games that insure the security of their institutions.
Recently I spoke to a gathering of world youth leaders sponsored by UNESCO, and I told the following story, which I think reinforces the principles of courage and generosity and caring. A few years ago a whale was trapped off the coast of San Francisco in ropes laid by fishermen. As she thrashed around in the ropes she made them even tighter and it was clear that she was so enmeshed that she was going to die. Five men went out in rubber dinghies and in wetsuits with machetes to try to free her. It was a dangerous mission—one swing of her tail, and they could be killed. They spread out around her and starting chopping at the ropes that imprisoned her. The operation took about forty-five minutes, and she was freed. First she swam a big circle out of sheer delight; then she swam over to each of these men and individually touched each one, thanking them. The men said afterward that it was the “most transcendent experience” of their lives.
ADAM BUCKO is cofounder of the Reciprocity Foundation, empowering homeless youth to break the cycle of poverty, and HAB, an interspiritual contemplative fellowship focused on training young people in radical spirituality and sacred activism.
MATTHEW FOX is an internationally acclaimed theologian working in the creation spirituality tradition of Christianity. He is the best-selling author of 30 books, including Original Blessing, A Spirituality Named Compassion, and The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.Tags: Sacred Activism Matthew Fox Adam Bucko