Meditations with Matthew Fox: The Tension between Inner and Outer Work

Recently a reader wrote that she felt troubled hearing about contemplation when there are so many people facing crisis including kids who don’t have food…for whom school was their place of safety and where they received hot meals. I think of women stuck home with their abusers. I think of all the people facing eviction, unable to pay bills because our society never believed their lives to be valuable. I think about the farm workers…. 

She asked: “How do we incorporate this tension?”

She is right of course. A moment of apocalypse like we are living through brings plenty of tension with it.  Contemplation needs to lead to action; yet action needs to flow from a deep place of love, goodness and Source.

A crisis like the pandemic becomes a watershed for all the “tensions” we as a society may have refused to face over the years and centuries.  The “sins of our fathers” (and mothers) can pile up—and spill over.

Take slavery and genocide and racism as examples along with ecocide and our neglect and abuse of Mother Earth.

Observe how the rugged individualism mythos that characterizes so much of our value systems can easily take precedence over a sense of the common good.

Observe the failures in health care access and the glaring and growing chasm between haves and have-nots.

“Workers in a Hog Slaughter and Processing Plant” Image from U.S. GAO report “WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH: Additional Data Needed to Address Continued Hazards in the Meat and Poultry Industry,” U.S. Government Accountability Office 5/27/2016. Wikimedia Commons

An example is how workers at the White House are now afraid to go to work because COVID-19 has invaded—so workers there will receive regular testings.

Yet the message from the WH to other workers is that they should just suck it up and go to work without testing or with minimal testing.  (Especially workers in meat processing plants, all of whom are poor and most of whom are people of color).

This does not pass the justice test by any stretch of the imagination.

Work is the place where our values most hit the road.  Work exposes what values we cherish and believe in.  Work may be the single greatest witness to our so-called beliefs.  And to our character.

Too often a sentimental culture equates love with home life–but work?  It’s everyone for themselves.  Survival of the fittest.

What work do we do?  Whom do we serve by our work?  How are we expressing our love in our work?

One of the gifts of the pandemic may prove to be an awakening consciousness about work.

Work is our love in action.  The mystics knew this and why inner work and outer work must marry. 

Here is how John of the Cross put it,

Forever at his door
I gave my heart and soul.  My fortune too.
I’ve no flock any more,
No other work in view.
My occupation: Love.  It’s all I do.

Source: The Tension between Inner and Outer Work – Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox

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