Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Priest and professor unite in spirit

Attendees at the Spiritual Film Festival, Dr. Fox and Professor Pitt plan to revamp education

Dr. Matthew Fox, left, and Professor Pitt are collaborating to bring their spiritual philosophies to the ghettos of California. Photo by Tony Evans

For the Express

In a charismatic address entitled "The Film Maker as Spiritual Warrior," Dr. Matthew Fox drew cheers of inspiration from a crowd of Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival attendees last Monday at the Sun Valley Opera House. His exhortation was aimed at filmmakers and artists everywhere whom he described as "intellectuals with a weapon."

Working with rap artist Professor Pitt, Fox intends to bring spirituality and the arts together to revitalize education in the inner city.

"Filmmaking is a powerful means of inviting people into the love of life," he said. "There is only one thing wrong with us. We have forgotten the sacred. The number one moral problem facing mankind today is ecological devastation." For Fox, who was a member of the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church for 34 years, this problem is also a profoundly spiritual one, with solutions that may lie deep in church history.

Since leaving the Dominicans, Fox has written extensively on the mystical origins of Christianity, from the Apostle Paul and St. John of the Cross, to medieval scholars Hildegard of Bingen and Miester Eckhart. His translations of the mystical writings of St. Thomas Aquinas were the first to be completed in 700 years.

"The mystics were held up to ridicule by the scientific enlightenment," he said, pointing out that Jesus Christ was a "nature mystic" whose example has been obscured by theology. Fox describes a mystic as "someone who has learned not to take for granted the sacred." Fox's 28 books include "A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the New Christianity" and "The AWE Project: Re-inventing Education, Re-inventing the Human."

"The post-modern scientist Albert Einstein used mystical language all the time, saying 'everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle'. In the post-modern world we have to travel light because we have a lot of work to do. And we cannot be fearful about this. Aquinas said that fear is a mortal sin which can kill the soul because it kills compassion."

Fox encourages an approach to spirituality that balances traditional prophecy with spiritual practices that allow for an immediate experience of the sacred, including Tai Chi and meditation. He will bring this approach to Oakland, Calif., after-school programs in collaboration with rap artist and filmmaker Professor Pitt. Their partnership is part of the Ancestral Wisdom Education project (A.W.E) beginning this year.

Pitt's hip-hop-inspired film "Meditation/Contemplation" was screened at the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival. As a youngster in Milwaukee, Pitt discovered martial arts training as a way to avoid the pitfalls of drugs and violence in the ghetto, eventually producing hip-hop videos in the United States and overseas.

"Matthew Fox and I connect," said Pitt. "But we come from different places. I don't come from the book. People on the bottom have no power to do what they need to do, to uplift themselves. The purpose of the A.W.E project is to get inner peace, love power and strength. All they see growing up is chaos instead of structure."

Pitt understands the power of rap and encourages his 13-year-old son to look critically at the messages he is getting from its lyrics. He instills spiritual messages into his own videos in collaboration with the writings of Fox. Their hope is to franchise the A.W.E project after-school program and spread ancient spiritual traditions through contemporary music videos.

"We have to target the ghettos first because that is where the music is made," said Pitt. "Wherever hip-hop is, that is what the hood becomes. And the hood becomes the world."

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