Friday, November 11, 2011

We all have work to do, not just Joe and Herman.

Caveat: It took less than an hour for me to begin arguing against my own argument below. I realize that I have approached a complex bio-socio-cultural issue simplistically, and I have genderized the issue of patriarchy, which is a genderless phenomena. These arguments below also neglect the presence of the two-spirited ones among us. I ask for tolerance as you read and welcome constructive dialogue.

It's already the middle of November. Ballots are in, and there is some good news on the horizon with some of the results. Madness has not completely taken over the country, I'm relieved to report. Though there are definite pockets of it that baffle the mind. Two names come to mind that say it all: Herman Cain and Joe Paterno. Ugh.

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about when I started this. I just knew something was bubbling in me, waiting to be articulated. As I type these two names, I realize this thing bubbling inside of me has to do with men, with women, power, blindness, woundedness, and fear. It's all right there, isn't it?

There was another full moon yesterday. I stood at the French doors of my bedroom and looked at the moon rising in the east. The light and the darkness were at that precipice where it seemed there were equal amounts of each pouring through the air. The moon, bright and clear, with clouds wisping across it, created striations of light and dark. It sat just above the tiptop of a towering Douglas fir tree that was at least a half a mile away. Yet I could see the silhouettes of branches and clusters of needles. Behind the tree, far far far off to the east, perhaps 150 miles away, if not more, is the graceful, ever present Glacier Peak in the Cascade Mountains. The mountain was a deep shadowy white etched against a dusky blue sky. And that moon, oh that moon!

So what does this scene I describe here have to do with JoePa and Good Ole Herman? I don't know either of these men personally. I'd never heard of Joe Paterno until about a week ago. He seems like a decent enough man. Herman Cain I wouldn't trust with a 10 foot pole. But I can give him the benefit of a doubt and say that perhaps, a tiny tiny doubtful perhaps, he truly has good intentions and truly believes that what he's doing is "right" and that he's "forgotten" ever knowing the women who have accused him of sexual harassment. Let's assume for the sake of argument that this is so. As much of a stretch as that is. So I ask again, what does the full moon in all her glory over mountain and tree have to do with a college football coach and a Republican candidate?

It comes down to this - the Feminine, the Goddess, Wisdom, Sophia, Ancient Woman energy, yin, the Bride - whatever you want to call this amazing, timeless, rhythmic process that happens month in month out. The waxing and waning, the tidal waters of the world responding to the gravity of the Moon's* push and pull, and women's wombs the world over also responding. We are tied to the Moon - our blood, our bodies. Did you know that the heart and the uterus share the same muscle tissue? That no other two organs in the body do so? What does this say about who we are as women? About how our hearts, also, then respond to the Moontime? These are miracles we are talking about here. These places within the woman's body that connect her to the earth, the oceans, and the Moon in ways that men can never, ever in a million years understand. And there's the rub.

Men don't understand. And women have no idea what this is like. Whether we are aware of it or not, as women we still experience the rhythms of the Moon. Our bodies know, even if our minds do not. We cannot know what it is to not know. It is like trying to imagine the absence of touch or to un-remember the faces of our children, lover, or mother. It is an impossibility. We have no idea what men can't experience because they do not have a Moontime. They do not have a uterus that feels the pull of the Moon and so bleeds. They do not have wombs that are universes within universes. And the men, bless their hearts, can't know what it's like to experience such fullness to the point of pain.

I cannot presume to know what it is that men feel, what they experience in that part of their bodies where my uterus sits. I cannot presume to know what the heart of a man pines for without the muscled heart of the uterus to call to. It is possible that there is something else that takes its place, something else that connects him to the ground, the trees, the mountains, the oceans, and the Moon. It seems to me that there has to be something. I just don't know what it is. And, I suspect, they don't either.

(Please forgive me for speaking in generalities here. I know there are many, many men who are very connected. I'm referring to the many more that aren't and specifically to a culture of patriarchy.)

Thus, we have Joe and Herman, two men who live in very different ways, yet they perceive the world through similar lenses. A perception of the world that says that power over is important, that somehow it's okay or excusable or, in Joe's case, "slightly confusing" when someone gets hurt who is more vulnerable than they. That somehow there's some kind of justification for rationalizing sexual violence. That somehow the body is not connected to the soul. It seems unfathomable to me that someone can feel a deep connection to the natural world around them and still find a way to put the blinders on when a child is raped or to lie when women have been sexually harassed. (And, just to note, I hate that phrase "sexually harassed." The connotation is that she's been pushed around a little bit, and she'll get over it. No. It's being sexually bullied often to the point of trauma.)

Maybe I am being idealistic and naive (it wouldn't be the first time) to think that a man simply needs to "get in touch with the earth" and he'll find a way to understand that power-over is not power at all, not authentic power.

However, here's why it might actually not be a pie-in-the-sky thought: For someone to truly get in touch with the earth, to feel it, to be in proper awe of it, to engage in stewardship of it, to feel to the very core of their physical body how they, too, are the earth, requires a deep inward journey into shadow and fear and the dark Feminine soul. If someone has done this, then, yes, I think he would understand that power-over is not power at all. And he would never again be able to rationalize or justify harm to another human being, especially children.

Men have work to do. Big work. In some ways, I think it's much harder work than women have to do and have had to do. For women, we must return to something that we knew once upon a time quite intimately. Men, however, must seek something that is foreign and, I would assume, quite terrifying for them. I'm not sure if men, as a general rule, have ever come into deep relationship with the Feminine. I don't know my history well enough to say this is true, and I'm sure someone can argue with me. But I think you get my point. It's tough work that men have to do. There is not much in our culture that encourages this work. And for some men, it's dangerous work - coming into relationship with the Inner Feminine leaves men extremely vulnerable to abuse in some situations. I'm not sure what the answer is. But I do know that sitting down and being quiet isn't the answer.

I think we who are awake, aware, and have claimed the powerful Feminine self (or are working on doing so) are being called to continue to hold up the mirror to Joe and Herman, to clamor, bang the drum, ring the bell, and shout the clarion call that being blind, deaf, dumb, in denial, and rationalizing abusive behavior is not acceptable. At all. Ever. Period.

I also think that we who are able and strong enough, who are awake, need to speak up for those men who are struggling to live into a new paradigm. We need to support their tears, their tenderness, and their quiet authentic strength. A Masculine strength that is made even stronger because it is rooted in the Bride, the Earth, the Moon. When we recognize it, we need to honor it. We owe it to the fathers who are trying to raise their sons to claim a deeply Feminine rooted, authentic authority. We owe it to our own fathers who have suffered because they have not experienced it and had no one to teach them. We owe it to the Moon.

We all have work to do, not just Joe and Herman. I would suggest, for a first step, that we go outside, sit a spell, and gaze at the Moon.

*I chose to begin capitalizing the word Moon from this point on because I am now referring to more than just the physical moon. It is a metaphysical Moon to which I refer from this point on.


  1. This is so beautifully written. I don't know what I could add or how to say what I would add.

  2. What a great way to start my day, and some beautiful thoughts I have to admit I had never considered. I have always been drawn to the beauty of nature, in every capacity. Just yesterday, as my mom and I walked through the village in Whistler, in a downpour of rain and big snow, I felt a sense of peace that I have not felt in awhile. I welcomed the cold wetness on my face, didn't exactly avoid puddles (if you know what I mean), and wasn't annoyed that my jeans were wet and I didn't have gloves. My hands were cold, but it felt good. It also felt good to walk among others, namely the women who fashioned plastic Gap shopping bags as hats. Some people had umbrellas, but ironically the men carried their golf umbrellas, or stood "protected from the elements under cover". Is it even ironic? As I reflect on this walk, I only remember seeing a few men who actually seemed to enjoy their walk as well (one man didn't have a jacket, yet smiled incessantly as he bounced from shop to shop, not under cover, and with no umbrella - clearly enjoying his moment). Another man among us was my oldest son who I feel is the kind of man you spoke of, who is becoming more comfortable in his masculine skin, yet somehow (at 18) magically in tune with the Feminine. Since birth he has been drawn to nature and exudes a quite calm excitement while in the midst of it. :)

  3. Robin, coincidentally (or not) I dreamed about you last night. In the dream, you asked me to name the trees in the front yard and I scrambled around trying to find the tags they came with because I could no longer remember their names. Now that I’m awake, more or less, I can tell you that the Douglas Fir you describe so lovingly in your blog is a monoecious plant – it has separate male and female cones, but both reside on the same tree.
    I also read a book last night (this is something I can claim with truth almost every morning.) The book discussed pride and sin. The author, Terry Cooper, holds the view that pride and self-effacement both reside on the same tree. People who present with a puffed-up sort of pride are covering up their self-doubt and anxiety, of which they hate to be reminded. They tend to be men. People who present with self-effacement are covering up a pride that they deserve to be surrounded by a world that supports them with all the love and attention they want, when the truth is none of us have access to such a world. These people tend to be women. (Obviously, a lot of gender cross-over occurs between the two types of prideful people.) And the cure for both is a life centered in trust of God, the opposite of a life centered in ways to avoid feeling anxious. Avoiding anxiety and messing myself up in the process is something I do just as well as Mr. Cain and Mr. Paterno; I think the main victory I can claim is that unlike them, I have not also messed up hundreds of other people. Maybe I’ve given pause to the lives of a few others, but so far I haven’t had a whole nation worrying about my pride.
    “A life centered in God” is a phrase that sets a lot of teeth on edge, including mine. The way a lot of the political candidates talk about God, you’d want to run as far from Him as you possibly can. For example, I’m appalled that the members of Congress who claim to love God recently spent so much time passing a resolution that the US motto is “In God We Trust” (in response to a comment from Pres. Obama that the motto is "E pluribus unum") when honestly the nation has more pressing problems to solve than our motto. I don’t like the Lutheran dogma about God being an unshakeable bulwark. It seems to me that God is more mysterious and immediate than that.
    I think that when you write about Moon, you are describing God in a fresh way. A Moon-centered life. A Goddess-centered life. A Creator-centered life. You infuse God with freshness. Thank you.

  4. Robin, I agree that most women are more in touch (sympathetic, empathetic, etc.) because of biological/physiological realities, and men and women do look at the world from different perspectives. Many of these are culturally assigned, but physiology is hard to ignore.

    However, there is a common thread with both Paterno and Cain, and that is POWER (or, rather, the abuse of it). That is not exclusively a male problem, certainly; I have known women in positions of power who abused it (and the people under them) horribly. The simple fact is, though, that most power still rests with men, and many of them have not learned or been willing to learn how to deal with it. Nor do they want to. What they have works fine for them -- until it all comes crashing down.

    I've known and worked with too many Cains. They love who they are and see no reason to change. The only thing that reins them in is women who stand up to them.

    As for Paterno, the Penn State situation is not all about him, although he is the figurehead/lightning rod for it. The situation is more about one man getting power, other men getting power because of their association with him, and NO ONE being willing to risk losing his power by confronting an obviously horrendous situation.

    Life IS yin and yang. We wouldn't want all of one or the other. In my lifetime, women have stepped up, taken on new roles, pushed themselves to try new things. Many men have, as well, but giving up or at least sharing that power is very, very difficult because it goes directly against our cultural norms.

    Rather than dividing us into male vs. female camps, I would love to see us try to raise our children to be who they are and want to be. That's what we've tried to do with your younger siblings. One is a girly-girl, but do NOT cross her, or she will put you right in your place. The other is a manly-man, but he is sap for little kids and wants to work with them full-time. Put a baby in his arms and watch him turn into a big goofball.

    Your father is still a work in progress. . . :)

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that perhaps this isn't so much about male/female as it is about ethics and morality. I'm not at all religious, but I think the Bible says it well: "Train a child up in the way that he should go, and he will not depart from it."

    If Stephen had witnessed that nightmare in the locker room, before he reported it to his superiors, he would have stopped it. Then he would have asked his parents what his next step should be. I have no doubts about this.

    Males AND females can be loving and moral and ethical. It's our responsibility as parents to see to that.

    Love from your Sixties (in more ways than one. . . ) stepmother. :)