The 10 C’s: Toward a More Whole Humanity

Many of you will have heard of Matthew Fox, the Roman Catholic Dominican priest who was shown the door for his rather revolutionary theological views.  He, of course, found his way to The Episcopal Church, and is now a priest of the Diocese of California.  He continues to explore the frontiers of Christian theology, and in doing so, often seems to go far afield of what is considered “normal” by our tradition.  He excels, in my mind, at doing what theologians really ought to do first and foremost:  get people to think.

Recently, he got me thinking about education and formation, through a book that was published in 2006 called “The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human”.    A.W.E. stands for Ancestral Wisdom Education, and Fox intends his book to be a call to supplement the rational “three R’s” of traditional education with an even more traditional education, a kind of formation with ancient roots:  an education or formation in wisdom.  The idea, it seems to me, is that for human beings to be whole, we must become practiced at different ways of knowing.  Our culture tends to value knowledge acquired through the sciences, and while that knowledge is certainly important, the kind of knowledge which falls under the category of wisdom is also important.  Wisdom is rooted in the collective human experience over the ages, the kind of knowledge which the world’s spiritual traditions are adept at preserving and handing down (though, it must be admitted, these traditions are also good at obscuring that wisdom from time to time).   The world’s spiritual traditions hand down that wisdom in a variety of ways, not only through texts and teaching, but also through ritual and practice.

In exploring the idea of wisdom education, Fox distills what he calls “The 10 C’s” which he believes should be a part of a fuller program of human formation:

  • cosmology (or creation)
  • contemplation
  • creativity (or co-creation)
  • chaos
  • compassion
  • courage
  • critical consciousness and judgment
  • community
  • ceremony and celebration
  • character development

There isn’t space in this blog to go into all of these 10 C’s — although one of the most intriguing of them to me is chaos.  I suppose I am intrigued by it because we seem to live in a cultural context that dislikes chaos, and craves order.  Yet, as Fox points out, chaos is part of the human experience, and can often be a fruitful time.  He quotes a midwife who describes childbirth as one of the most chaotic of human events, and yet, the end result is new life.  Chaos is the womb out of which galaxies and stars come forth.  And chaos in our own lives can give birth to new beginnings and new directions.  The wisdom of our spiritual traditions, including the Christian tradition, helps us embrace the chaotic parts of our lives and ourselves in creative, dynamic and transformative ways.

Considering all that Fox has to say, it strikes me that we so often think of our religious traditions as authorities that tell us what life is about and demand our allegiance to their doctrinal truths.   But I think that what these traditions are really about (in part) is preserving and passing on the wisdom of the ages.   If we are to live our lives meaningfully, if we are to develop a sense of wholeness within ourselves and our world, we need to discover this wisdom.  I wonder how our experience of religion would change if we saw our faith communities as wisdom communities, perhaps the only places in our society that provide a space to develop the intuitive, non-rational aspects of our being, and that preserve for us the fruits of human contemplation and experience over many centuries.   If we valued this kind of formation, then not only would we know how to do things, but then perhaps we would have the wisdom to know how best to do them or whether to do them at all.

4 thoughts on “The 10 C’s: Toward a More Whole Humanity

  1. Matthew,
    First thank you very much for blogging with a consistent frequency. One of the reasons I eagerly await the weekly Trinity and Family Ministries emails is the (almost) certainty that you will have written for your blog within the previous 24 hours. Second, (almost always) your latest writing pushes my thinking, expands my knowledge, or stirs my emotions. As our community grows I look forward to seekers finding your blog a treasure which gives them room to grow and a place in which they can be comfortable in finding a spiritual home. Thank you.

  2. Maybe part of the reason chaos is a catalyst in our spiritual development is that it generally turns us toward God for comfort and strength. Contemplation can help us connect with God by filtering out distactions, and character development is fostered by taking the time to look at our shadow side, which may also be brought into focus by our experience in community. This sounds like a great book for study, both individually and in group. Wish I could be there to hear you teach on this!

  3. Chaos:
    1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion.
    2. A disorderly mass; a jumble
    3. The disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space supposed in some cosmogonic views to have existed before the ordered universe.

    I would contend that there is no such thing as chaos, except in our own perception. Chaos could be defined as an apparent randomness whose purpose is beyond our understanding, or a jumble which does not conform to our own sense of order. In cosmic terms, everything is acting in an entirely logical and predictable- although sometimes cataclysmic- way, that can ultimately be understood by science. To believe otherwise, would be to believe that the Creator simply brought the universe into being on a whim, with no idea how things would interact with each other. I can find no data that would indicate this whimsical side of God. The fact that we do not yet, and may never, understand how these seemingly inexplicable events occur does not make them chaotic- it simply means that the “why” of things is still not understood by us.

    Within the realm of human events, chaos could also be defined as those things or behaviors which offend our sense of order, or our ability to predict. That there IS no order or predictability cannot be demonstrated- simply our ability to understand.

    The accumulation of wisdom may be the process of gaining an understanding of those things that we previously thought to be chaotic. That accumulation of wisdom is often expressed in traditions. And those traditions are often accepted with no awareness of the accumulated wisdom which led to the traditions in the first place. The problem arises when new information is uncovered – either through a new discovery or simply new conclusions based upon centuries of contemplation on an old discovery- which in turn changes the body of wisdom. Too often this “new” wisdom brings about conflict with our “old” traditions. It seems that this conflict is often called- you guessed it- chaos.

    This resistance to change is itself a positive force in our understanding because it forces us to examine the purported “new” wisdom over time, to contemplate its truth or falsehood. If its truth is accepted, so is its incorporation into the body of wisdom, and hence into our traditions.

    We should therefore be cautious about changes in our time-tested traditions, and always examine the veracity of any “new” wisdom, from which these traditions are constructed. Otherwise, we will inevitably devolve back into that state of not understanding…what we call chaos.

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