Searching for Wisdom in a Season of Whiplash

by | Jun 2, 2022

Whiplash is probably not a “spiritual” word, however it perfectly describes my experiences of being yanked from one emotion to another, as I reflect on the days around Memorial Day, which has become the unofficial beginning of summer.

  • May 19 and 20: Our Loyola staff spent 24 hours on a retreat.  After two years of only meeting on Zoom, it was an  amazing re-connection.  I experienced JOY.
  • May 24: A shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas has killed 19 children and 2 adults, marking the 27th school shooting this year.  I experienced ANGER.
  • May 26:  A long-time directee, now in her 80’s called to cancel our scheduled meeting.  She has Covid, is 4 times vaccinated – luckily it is a mild case.  I experienced SADNESS.
  • MAY 29: My Granddaughter, Middy’s graduation from St. Olaf College. We could all come! Parents, Grandparents, and her 5 siblings were there to celebrate.  The siblings had not been together for a long time.  I got to hug them all!  I was ECSTATIC.
  • May 31: A tornado hit Eagle Bend, MN with winds of 95 miles per hour.  Four counties had tornado damage.  I experienced FEAR.

This is my 5-day report of Whiplash,  capturing in that snapshot of time many of the issues that are whirling around in all of our lives – with the shadow of the pandemic lurking in our midst.  One writer summed it up nicely “We’re kind of  at the beginning of the end” (or not!)

This past Tuesday as I was meeting with a directee at Loyola, she shared with me a quote from Julian of Norwich that has been helpful to her in these times: “FROM TRUST COMES HOPE . . ALL WILL BE WELL.” She was reading the book Julian of Norwich: Wisdom  in a Time of Pandemic – and Beyond, by Matthew Fox.  I could hardly wait to get home to read my copy. I had started to read it during lockdown, but I must confess that during that period of the pandemic, I had difficulty concentrating on reading.  That used to be one of my favorite pastimes.

This gem of a book was published in 2020 . The author, Matthew Fox, first woke me up to Creation Spirituality many years ago when I read On Becoming A Musical, Mystical Bear. His groundbreaking book, Original Blessing, published in 1983, resulted in his being silenced by the Catholic Church and later expelled from the Dominican Order.  In a sense, they freed him for the years of research in which he cultivated a spirituality of radical blessedness. The publishing of this book has been warmly acclaimed by today’s prominent spiritual leaders.

Julian lived her whole life in the time of the Bubonic Plague. At age thirty, she had a near death experience.  The visions she experienced at that time convinced her of the unconditional love of Christ.  The first woman to write in English, Julian recorded the “showings” as she called them, immediately after her near-death experience. Then she walled herself into a small cell attached to a church where she spent her time contemplating the meaning of these visions and giving spiritual counsel to her community.  Fox’s book invites us into the life and mind and heart of this woman he considers one of the greatest Christian mystics.

At the end of the book, Fox gives us a chapter by chapter summary of Julian’s teachings. Just meditatively reading those few pages could be a summer’s worth of wisdom.  I offer a few examples:

  • Face the Darkness; Do grief work.
  • Fall in love with the world, in spite of history.
  • The first good thing is the goodness of nature.
  • The working of compassion keeps us in love.  Justice is integral to compassion.
  • We were created “luminous and noble,” and we were known and loved from the beginning.
  • There is a case for mirth and a cause for mourning.
  • Expect to be confused – respond with “holy assent.”

Finally, Fox advises us ”It is not enough to ‘return to normal’ after this  coronavirus, even if it does finally go away.  A pandemic is too important to waste.  This pandemic is here to wake us up.  To what?  To a ‘new normal.’  One that honors the sacredness of the earth – and of all its Iife forms.  One that honors the divine feminine alongside a sacred masculine.  One that honors the human body and its basic needs, along with those of the earth’s body, and on that basis gives birth to a new body politic.”

The first good thing is the goodness of nature.

God is the same thing as nature.

The goodness in nature is God.

God feels great delight to be our Father.

God feels great delight to be our Mother.

We experience a wondrous mix of well and woe.

The mingling of both well and distress in us

    is so astonishing

     that we can hardly tell which state

     we or our neighbor are in –

     that’s how astonishing it is!

        – Julian of Norwich