“The Latin poet Terence is supposed to have said, 'Nothing truly human is abhorrent to me.' I think the truly human is always experienced in vulnerability, in mutuality, in reciprocity. When human beings try to deny their own vulnerability, even from themselves, when they cannot admit weakness, neediness, hurt, pain, suffering, sadness, they become very un-human and not very attractive. They don’t change you; they don’t invite you. I think that’s why Brené Brown is having such influence. Because, like few other people, she has brought this central—for me, as a Christian—central, divine, gospel notion of vulnerability to really begin to make sense to a lot of people. So that’s why I’m anxious to present the vulnerable God, which, for a Christian, was supposed to have been imaged on the cross. But again, we made it into a transaction. Transaction isn’t vulnerability anymore, really. Vulnerability transforms you. You can’t be in the presence of a truly vulnerable, honestly vulnerable person and not be affected. I think that’s the way we are meant to be in the presence of one another.” —Richard Rohr
Richard Rohr is known as one of the world’s great living Christian mystics and spiritual elders. In this interview with Krista Tippett, he guides us from the dualistic thinking of the first half of life into the contemplative mind of the integrated self. We are reminded that the path of nonduality can never be a bypass project towards transcendence alone, but is rather a progression towards meaning, spiritual fullness, and what Rohr calls “living in deep time.” He reminds us that the movements of the spiritual life are not for the faint of heart: “order, disorder, reorder” is the lay of the land—this is what Christians call the “folly of the cross.” No matter how uncomfortable or counterintuitive it may feel, Rohr insists that “disorder is part of the deal” in the process of spiritual maturation. Similarly, Rohr reminds us that no matter how hard we work, how good we are or how auspicious our lot is, we can’t avoid the “necessary suffering” which is part of our incarnational deal, and that “moments of crisis,” “thresholds” and the pain of “facing our shadows” are not abominations, but rather important moments of grace and opportunities for invaluable growth. Learning to hold it all with kindness is the great spiritual task before us as we grow into spiritual adults. Tippett and Rohr discuss the importance of shifting from an attitude of “follow your bliss” to a conviction to “take up your cross.” They explore ways to nourish what Rohr calls the “father hunger” of the uninitiated masculine in modern times and encourage us to accept the “bright sadness” of spiritual deepening. One of our favorite interviews all around.
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan writer, teacher, and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His many books include Falling Upward, Divine Dance, and most recently, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe.
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