(This is my review of Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox. 2013, North Atlantic Books.)
I was very pleased with this book. It is a conversation between a young activist and an old one. Adam Bucko (late 30’s, raised a Catholic in Poland, helps run a ministry to homeless youth in New York City) and Matthew Fox (late 70’s, a thinker, educator, author, and former Dominican, was evicted from “The Church” by the Vatican – in effect for talking too much, sorta like Socrates. He then became an Episcopal priest).
It is full of wisdom and good examples deriving from the integrity of the authors’ own spiritual searching and service. There’s a strong Christian flavor, but don’t go here to learn conservative American Evangelical theology. They show some preference for Christ and his teaching but are open to a wide variety of spiritual theories and practices.
“The Bhagavad Gita, for example, talks about the importance of service, but it’s more about fulfilling your role or duty … In Western traditions, there is more of a concept of individuation. You’re literally called by name to a specific kind of task. In this way, sensing your calling becomes a very deep connecting point with life and God.” (Bucko, p29)
They think and study carefully, they actually practice what they preach, and they do so with careful truthfulness and courtesy. If Jesus is right to tell us to “judge them by their fruits” – well, there’s some pretty good fruit here.
Several themes recur that are important to me and, I think, to our threatened and questioning culture. (Underlines added.)
Young / Old.
“Nothing is going to happen in reinventing new forms … if the young don’t get on board and begin to lead. This is the elder’s job: to assist the young in their vocations to lead. Besides, I learn from them.” (Fox, p74)
“Elders are only useful if they first listen. Then truly dialogue as equals … As Thomas Aquinas put it in the thirteenth century, “the experience of God must not be restricted to the few or to the old.” Amen!” (Fox, p75)
“Friends tell me that I’ve been very lucky to meet some really great mentors. I agree … But I also worked very hard at it … We are not meant to do things on our own. We become who we are through other people.” (Bucko, p162)
“What is the method that you use to help them find their calling?”
“It is more of a ‘spiritual direction’ in the Christian sense, with the Spirit doing the work and me trying to ‘get out of the way.’… It is really a contemplative process that directs itself. It feels like a gentle wind blowing across our faces … in the last few years … my work has become about prayer.” (Fox and Bucko, pp93-4)
“We need, on the one hand, the serenity of the Buddha, but also the moral outrage of Jesus … Jesus often retreated into the wilderness for contemplation and refreshment. The prophet is the mystic in action.” (Fox, p120)
“Study leads you to contemplation; it leads you to quiet and stillness. But it also leads you to want to teach or to speak that fire that Jeremiah talks about.” (Fox, p127)
The Occupy Movement ethos.
“No spiritual teacher, north, south, east or west, has ever countenanced greed and rapaciousness as values worthy of our species.” (Fox, p74)
“Young people are carrying a huge burden, with the ecosystem collapsing … with the job market not delivering … with education costs out of control … with religion being silly a great deal of the time.” (Fox, p75)
The difference I have
with these men is that I am committed to Jesus as THE Master Teacher (as Dallas Willard insists is necessary if we claim to “believe in” him). (Jesus is not in practice seen thus by much of American Christianity; they have other uses for him.) I see him as the true integrating Personality, his teaching as indispensable to life, and his ancient and ongoing work as the truly integrating work for the history of the human race – all of which I think makes Jesus himself a more unavoidable or demanding presence in my life than he seems to be to these authors.
But there is a lot of healthy motivation and wisdom in this book. If you are looking for honest, informed, activist thinking deeply influenced by strong spiritual sensitivity, you can find it here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.