Monday, January 16, 2017

The Sacred Feminine

The emphasis on the feminine as I experienced it growing up, was in appearance.  Looking gentle not hard. Being dressed well. Ornamenting my appearance with make-up and jewellery. Being soft and yielding.  I internalized these values, admired the beauty of women and strove to be that myself.

My sense of the sacred feminine was uncomfortable with this self-absorption and vanity. My obsession with appearance meant I was creating tension for my growing children. 

Because of the sacrifices my mother and father made,  I grew up believing I had a responsibility to be successful, whatever that meant.

I looked for examples of women who I thought were successful, and questioned what made them successes? Were they honest about their own feelings? Did they listen to others?  Did they emphasize the  value of the group above their own ego?

How is the sacred feminine different from the sacred masculine?  Women and men have different expectations imposed on them, and therefore different challenges. But every individual needs to examine their innate nature too. What do they value? How will we move to the next decade in beauty and strength? How can we support the development of a nurturing community and protect nature from our baser instincts?

This is more complex than laying out rules of right and wrong. Feminine and masculine natures are evolving. Social responsibility for a woman and for a man is built on our individual conscience arising out of our social conscience and our relationship to nature.

The sacred feminine appears in the work and character of women who contributed to our world, such as those listed below:

 Julian of Norwich (14th century) a Christian mystic, and theologian. Her Revelations of Divine Love was the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman.

Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) was a German-born Jewish American political theorist whose phrase 'the banality of evil' has influenced our thinking on power and its abuses. 

Naomi Klein  an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism has inspired movements of resistance against neoliberal capitalism. 

Shelagh RogersOC, is the host, and a producer, of CBC Radio One's The Next Chapter and Chancellor of the University of Victoria. Her dedication to Canadian literature has given our country insight into our often overlooked culture, including our First Nations.

Leah Hokanson is a pianist, choir director and teacher emphasizing the spiritual container for creative expression and health. She has developed choirs, accepting singers of all capabilities, and encouraged us to get in touch with the music within us for the sake of our own peace and happiness.

These women are warriors that enable rather than conquer and they embody what the sacred feminine means to our culture and the worth of women and men everywhere.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Sacred Masculine

Back in November I posted this quote from Christopher von Rueden. This View of Life: If Trump Wins the Presidency the Evolution of Men's Political Psychology Will be to Blame.

"We are more likely to hear “Be a man!” than “Be a woman!” in our daily conversations, in literature and in film, or in the news media. This is because manhood tends to be treated as more precarious than womanhood. It is typical of human societies that men are not granted the status of manhood simply by being male. Rather, manhood is achieved or lost, depending on display of competitive ability, skill, generosity, or other traits that signal value to others."

Since then I keep thinking about the sacred masculine as a contrast to misogynist thugs promoting hate on social media and right wing rallies. If gang rape, beating your wife, spewing epithets, humiliating others, comes to represent masculinity then we, as a species, are truly lost.

So I look for examples of masculinity which values rather than exploits life.

I think of David Suzuki who has never given up on the environment. His program The Nature of Things has helped to take an issue that was mainly in the realm of scientists and get us to care about it. That tenacity is a sign of sacred masculinity.

I think of Jack Layton who brought politics back to the essential struggle: "love is better than hate, hope is better than fear" at a time when cynicism seemed the only option.

I think of the 14th Dalai Lama who travelled around the world talking to people about power, community and survival, using simple words that everyone could understand. He was criticized for saying things that we supposedly all learned in kindergarten, as though corruption had made us sophisticated.

There are times when we do give up on basic principles of civil society and where we plummet to nihilism.  War is that which demands men fall into robotic campaigns. Rather than make Germany great, the Nazi's destroyed it and Europe by turning humanity into boots. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is another example of sacred masculinity as he, without weapons, stood up to the Nazi's and was tortured and executed.

Locally I think of Jeff Molloy, an artist, who said things like "Not on my watch" in response to news of bullies targetting visible minorities (particularly an incident of passengers on a bus attacking a woman for wearing a headscarf).  His manner was always on guard for justice. His work portrayed the brutality of the church towards indigenous people. He stood on his watch at all times. He died, too young,  after a long battle with cancer.

Men who speak truth to power, who live within nature rather than exploit it, who refuse to become mechanical parts of an almighty system, who maintain their humanity, integrity and sensitivity in support of the sacred feminine.

Remember the Monty Python song "Every sperm is sacred" that offended Roman Catholics? I think that song was a critique of misogyny embedded in man-made religions which turned  the teachings of  young prophets into movements of hate.  It goes on today. Rewriting anything that is life-affirming into a doctrine which promotes and elevates  a ruling hierarchy, giving it a stolen divinity.

It has been going on since the human brain developed into an instrument capable of strategic planning. This is the challenge. That although we are capable of manipulating masses, we can only survive if we care for all life on this planet. This is the work of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Suzuki: humanity's collision course - a warning

Why Hate is Not a Way Out

Antony Gormley was quoted in an article (by Hannah Ellis-Petersen, printed in the Guardian July 6 ) with a warning - we live in dangerous times. “Yet we are all sleepwalking through it...aware the centre cannot hold, that 250 years of industrial activity has undermined and fundamentally disturbed our world – yet we feel somehow not responsible.” 

Worse is the seeming efficiency with which movements are able to destroy civil society all across the globe with very little analysis among comrades or from the mainstream media.

So while hatred has been whipped up towards immigrants, or more likely people who are not white, and while hatred has done so much damage to struggling countries everywhere - we seem to have learned nothing.

But there are recurring elements we must remember before we slip into civil wars, terrorism or xenophobic attacks.

1. The white race has for centuries invaded all continents and brutally destroyed the social systems of aboriginal people they encountered.

2. Outrage at the "problems" caused by immigrants usually comes from the white race who felt entitled to invade, rape and pillage wherever they landed without question. The harm done by colonialism has yet to be fully examined by Europeans who now feel threatened by mass migrations. 

3. The military-industrial complex has been very effective in flaming hatred where they stand to profit from the wars that result from it. However we don't remember the interests who help to fund campaigns such as the Nazis in WWII, military coups in Central America, or the Middle East.

4. We don't pay attention to the really powerful lobbies and their ideologies. It's as though we accept their reptilian appetites as business-as-usual without blame.

5. We forget that the front line hooligans, thugs and suicide bombers are often the poorest most desperate groups who have very little choice, and who are hungry for a future that includes dignity and meaning.  We readily turn away from their condition and their despair when it is obvious they are in need, and then are shocked when they become radicalized.

6. We forget that the masses are dismissed until they are exploited and manipulated to cause the conditions for a profitable invasion from a foreign elite so powerful, their presence is rarely reported in the mainstream.

7. We forget that every generation experiences the disregard for humanity, until their suffering becomes a useful means for profit for the very few. 

In spite of all this, we quickly blame without reflection, those who have the least power to change things. There seems to be an inability to see our part in this recurring drama which ultimately harms us all. 

But also we need to realize that it is the system that breeds contempt for life with its surgical strategies that further divide us and make life miserable.

If we don't wake up soon, our beloved will suffer the torture and violence that spreads like a deadly virus as though it is the only solution, when in reality, it simply breeds the trauma that keep us fearful and afraid of one another. And therefore powerless cannon fodder for the strategists planning their next windfall.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Class Background, Unitarian Universalism's Hidden Diversity

Doug Muder (contributing editor and columnist for UU World

What I really want is dignity, to be respected as a whole yet flawed individual who is trying with all she has to make life kinder to those she meets, and I suspect that others also feel like this. That we get scared, get angry, get defeated, and tired at times, and say things we regret, is part of our nature.

However we also have the capacity to bring back to the fold, our compassionate reason, and to acknowledge those who do difficult work. Fire fighters, police officers, ministers, parents, sons, daughters, social workers and teachers are tested every minute of every day - to do the best they can under the circumstances.

Going forward we anticipate that mistakes will be made. As the organism we know as society, we can appreciate the trained and innate skills of others and learn from their experiences.

At times when this society is in crisis I can look to those learned skills for some answers along with my own awareness and observations.  This is where much of our wealth lies. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How a Poet Laureate Deepens the World

Wakan in front of sculpture by Nancy Crozier
Naomi Beth Wakan became the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Nanaimo three years ago. Wise, educated and with undeniable charm she won over the cold hard politics of city folk in a neoliberal economy. She has managed to unite the practical with the arts, offering a deeper expression of humanity.

Among Naomi's achievements are a high school poetry competition, a Nanaimo Poetry Map and Poetry in Transit. “So many people have told me how they have enjoyed reading the poetry while on the buses, and that involved a new bunch of poets too,” said Wakan. “I love to see people coming out who weren’t actually part of the poetry scene before, having the confidence to join the poetry gang and see themselves published.” (reported by Rachel Stern, Nanaimo News Bulletin, December 28)

A hundred people attended the December celebration honouring Wakan’s contribution. Many supporters of the arts listened, wrote and read testimonials that day. 

The arts are rarely given a million dollars whereas wars are purchased with trillions. Might this spell danger for life on this planet? Big questions like this can only be answered by fools and prophets.

Poetry is more than an important art form in today’s society. It is a renewable source of energy. To the point, economical and metaphorical, it begs us to think about the lives we live and what it means to be human in an age besotted with technology and money.

Poetry also offers ideals and reality within the same conversation by recording the unremarkable observations that many have been led to believe, are not important.

“For it can condense matter, / distill the essence, / purify the messy, / congeal the scattered. / Each word of a poem / can carry the weight, /of the universe within it” writes Wakan in her latest book, Bent Arm for a Pillow.

This brief observation gives me great comfort when against all the news of the day,  I need to be reminded of what I can do that will have meaning.

Wakan holds no grandiose conceit about her work. She may be exhausted before the end of the day in her 85th year, but understands that what we give is made up of what we get. In a poem from the same book she reflects on the power of words “It’s on their coattails that I ride, / and the journey fills my own pages / with a voice barely my own, / a poetry mid-wifed and nourished, / by a line of ghosts.”

The poet, like the wind or the click of a humming bird, becomes the voice of nature, as one among many voices. She came, she saw, she wrote! Surely we need more poets than conquerors.

The poet doesn’t want to manipulate organic forms for profit - she just wants nature to be itself. “We read to remind ourselves / that we already know / how life should best be lived, / but that we have,  for a moment, / forgotten.”

Of course, this kind of philosophy won’t sell pharmaceuticals or bombs, and could be seen as dangerous to a ruling ideologue. But hugely inspirational for the harried mind of humans in their rush to get through their days.