By hook or by crook: The restricted feminine and its effect on society

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The Yin Yang symbol represents among other things  the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang personality aspects in balance.

Unexamined events in our childhood lives have left indelible marks on our unconscious landscape. These marks, or shall I say wounds, have effected how we relate to the world and to ourselves throughout our lives.

I always wondered why I related to people the way that I have and in some ways still do. Why do the actions of some people upset me and others don’t? As I’ve grown older I’ve also become interested in what motivated and motivates my actions and have become convinced that much, if not most, of my behaviors were automatic responses to patterns laid down and built into my unconscious mind during those formative years.

Sometimes those patterns, a template for perception, will reactivate during some modern day events. It’s as though the event reaches deep into my unconscious mind and “hooks” a pattern, a feeling, and/or an early similar event and I find myself feeling and acting in a way alien to my current emotional state. In fact, psychologists label these motivating elements “hooks”.

For example, a person might have experienced a mother who was for some reason, (from the perspective of the child the reason is irrelevant) cold and indifferent to them as a child and out of that learned to do whatever was necessary to gain acceptance and acknowledgment, trying also to be loved and cared for. Of course this would never produce the desired result though over time may become the primary motivator, or hook, behind their material success– a material success with little feeling of love or personal attainment i.e. there’s a lot of very successful people out there who don’t think they’ve really “made it” or feel unfulfilled despite their achievements.

When the fear of disapproval, or failure or the potential for shame comes up many people are hooked into certain response patterns such as denial, withdrawal, and/or rage making it difficult for them to respond effectively.

There are also materially successful people who are self-critical and mildly depressed and full of fear. There are many marginally successful and those that might be considered unsuccessful by the current patriarchal society whose early critical upbringing has added a poisonous aspect to their world view e.g. hooks such as insecurities and powerlessness and who have great difficulty overcoming the negative affects of a less than optimal childhood.

Many males experience a stunted masculinity due to their inability to employ their emotional selves, as do females who have opted to put theirs on the back burner while trying to make it in a patriarchal environment.

What may have caused this damage to our individual and societal potential for happiness and fulfillment has been a depreciated feminine aspect of compassion, intuitiveness and self-forgiveness. Our patriarchal drive toward rationality, high productivity and material success has quite literally cut us off from the feminine side of ourselves and that of our society.

Far too many women have subverted their feminine side in order to compete in a patriarchal system and far too many men have rejected their less dominant feminine side to their personalities due to an unconscious fear of a women’s disapproval engendered from the early mothering of their childhood.

It is said by some psychologists, most notably Carl Jung, that within each of us an archetype, a human race image, of the ideal mother, The Great Mother. Unconsciously everything in our waking world is compared to this image buried within our subconscious. Clearly this affects what we perceive regarding our conscious world mothers both positively and negatively.

Now I’m not mother-bashing here, most mothers do a herculean job of raising their children, but they are human and do make mistakes and on occasion do things that are more in their best interest than the child’s, but what the child does with those instances of not being the best mother are what leads to the negative affects I’ve detailed above. In a society where the father is supportive of the feminine these minor effects would be mitigated but many of these fathers have had their own inner feminine stunted and demeaned if not outright buried. In a society that pays no premium toward looking at its emotional self the feminine aspect cannot bring balance to an overly masculinized environment.

The consequences of restricting the feminine aspect in all of us has profound and long lasting effects on each of us to achieve our potential and ultimately to live in an environment of fulfilled happiness. Sure, we are the most militarily, economically, and productively powerful nation on Earth, but at what cost? We certainly aren’t the happiest, contented, the best cared for, or loved and loving people on Earth and the fear of possible failure haunts nearly every activity. Both males and females in this society seem to feel inadequate and diminished or are running from the possibility of these feelings.

We need to bring greater parity to the sexes not only in the economic realm but in the psychological and emotional realms as well.

What’s the sound of one hand clapping? Think on that for the next 30 seconds before continuing to read. No cheating, now!

 

 

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By Karl Kempton

If you have the answer, then don’t bother to read on, because it’s not about finding an answer. It’s about the paradox and about unsticking the mind by grasping the unknowing, because it is only in the unknowing that something new can enter. This is a type of Zen Koan and is designed to put the mind into a double-bind and thus paralyze the ego-self, that which thinks it needs all the answers.

 

There’s another Zen story about the professor who comes to a Zen master for the purpose of learning something about Zen. The master offers him a cup and asks if he would like some tea. “Yes, of course!” Replied the professor and the master began to pour and pour until the cup ran over and filled the saucer then ran across the table. “But the cup is full!” Cried the professor. “And so are your ideas about Zen!” Suggested the master. Again, it is with your mind full, when you think you already know something, that there is no room for anything new.

Here’s a third story where Chuang Tzu, a Taoist teacher, told of a time when a man traveling in a boat sees another boat heading right toward him. In reaction he yells in anger and shakes his fist at the other boat to come about and change course, but nothing happens and they close the gap getting closer and closer. But now he notes that there’s no one in the other boat and his anger subsides and he himself steers clear. His preconceived notion nearly got him killed.

These stories lead to three more lessons in wielding magic, 1) Embrace the double-bind–the paradoxes of life, but embrace them as mysteries; 2) Give up what you know–actually, give up what you think you know. Until you do, you cannot learn anything; and 3) Learn to respond, not react–don’t operate out of your preconceptions, or your expectations e.g. be appropriate to the moment and action will flow easily.

Actually all three require letting go of the ego-self, the “I” and this leads me to a fourth lesson.

The “I” divides us from the magic that is all around us. It separates us from one another and makes us less than whole. In a men’s group this morning we got to talking about how so often we humans get caught up in dichotomies separating left thinkers from right, conservative from liberal, etc. We talk about diversity being a good thing but rankle when it bumps up against us. Every time a group doesn’t think or act the way we think they should we take our game somewhere else, church denominations split, political parties cut each other off, friends and lovers walk out on each other–separation, separation, separation.

However, I think that the very divisions can point to the whole and we can become more aware of what the whole looks like through the diversity. Each point of view is valid none are superior, or inferior, to the other except through the lens of our egos. And I contend that it’s only when we embrace our opposites that we can feed our souls.

Speaking of opposites, there’s an old Chinese fable that tells the story of the difference between heaven and hell. In both places there is a large banquet table. Each of the people sitting around the table is given 5-foot long chopsticks to eat with. In hell the people try in vain to feed themselves with their 5-foot long chopsticks while in heaven each person just feeds the person across from them. In heaven they surrender their individuality and rid themselves of their self-imposed division.

In church on Sunday we passed the peace of Christ amongst us when I came upon two folks who were deaf. In their signing the peace of Christ I noted that the sign for peace was the clasping of the left and right hands back and forth–how appropriate, peace comes from the inclusion and union of opposites.

Here’s to feeding and clasping your opposite.

Alice in Wonderland revisited or whose rabbit hole are we trapped in, yours or mine?

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A while back my granddaughter and I snuggled up and watched the film Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp. In it Alice tries to pinch herself out of what she assumes to be her dream, but is it a dream? She wanders confused and unable to assert that she is even who she claims to be.

 

“’Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I – I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Like Alice are we in a dream? And like her is it our own unmet fears that keep us there? Is it our unwillingness to assert our true self that keeps us trapped in our own little madness?

Often the whole world seems a confusing place and trying to figure it out is like trying to answer the Mad Hatters oft repeated riddle, “Why is a Raven like a writing desk?” The point is that sometimes there just isn’t an answer, or meaning–sometimes life is just absurd. As one looks closer at the world we’ve made, it all gets “curioser and curioser”.

Falling down the rabbit hole into the dark underworld of our dreams will lead us to a curious and confusing realm. But if you were to imagine falling up the hole and into the daylight might it be the crazy conscious world we’ve all adapted to that is mad and the dark world of the unconscious holding the actual enlightenment we seek? Ah what then?

Trapped in a hole of our own making, preferring to limit ourselves to a very small landscape rather than to open our selves up to the endless view of our real self i.e. to be willing to live in hell for fear of heaven–what madness is that?

 

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Ah, but we all think that it was happenstance that we’re here, that we didn’t choose to be here. Are you sure of that? Maybe that thought is your ego’s way of not having to be responsible for how it all turns out?

But what is madness? Deviating too far from a norm or from what is the standard for common sense? Was it madness to believe that sound and image could be broadcast through the air across great distances? Or that women could ever be the equal of any man and deserved the same rights and privileges? And that there would ever be a willing confederation of traditional enemies as is being witnessed in the European Union? Was it crazy to believe that humans could be made to fly or step foot upon the moon? Or that two young college dropouts could change the way the world communicates? At one time the answer to all of these and more was an unquestioned, “yes, it is madness”!

 

“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

–Lewis Carroll

 

Real madness seems to be a society that fights desperately for its freedom and then votes for someone to restrict and oppress them. Then there’s a society who believes that the answer to personal safety and security against guns is to buy more guns, bigger guns, with more bullets, and more power. Or how about those who believe that if you punish hard enough the transgressor will learn not to do bad things (look how well that works in our penal system) or that if you hit a child for hitting that it will teach him not to hit? And why the human love affair with retribution and revenge, how’s that working?

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I’m sure that the readers of this blog could come up with many more bits of curious madness than I’ve detailed here. The point is that perhaps in our madness we’ve reversed what it means to be sane. Maybe we all ought to be a little more mad? In the best sort of way, of course, I mean, all the best people are.

How odd the truth sayers: Most people won’t read this blog because they aren’t interested in truth…real truth

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I Ching on hexagram 61. (The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to the truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they represent.)

 

The gist of this blog came from both John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And a Flannery O’Connor’s quote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.”

We live in an age where truth is whatever you want it to be– that is whatever makes you right (or at least makes you think you are). We also live in an age with unprecedented access to facts. One click of the “return” key on a computer keyboard can give you billions of facts. Never before has the ability to dispel ignorance been so available to so many. And yet…

For the sake of personal need, or greed, or zealous beliefs the truth as it is reflected in facts is ignored at a profound level. It’s as though the world is embracing ignorance at an ever-increasing rate. If you don’t believe this just listen to those who run for political office (or are currently in it), or those who dominate the radio waves with political ranting–twisting and turning truths into macabre representations of reality. Religions no longer represent the truth of the Spirit from whence they were born, but for many have become a form of sanctioned self-delusion.

We wrap these delusions in something we call “conviction” and once settled these strong beliefs need no evidence, or proof to exist. But it is these convictions that are the enemies of truth. Worse than lies, they keep us bound up and unable to fly free. In short, our beliefs are a prison for they don’t allow for truth.

 

“Truth will have no gods before it. The belief in truth begins with the doubt of all truths in which one has previously believed.”

                                                                         –Nietzsche

 

But many are lazy, too lazy to think for their selves, so they leave the truth up to others. When those truths align with what is already thought then they are embraced as truth. The folly of this approach is that we then only perceive what we believe. How much we miss with this approach especially because God does not exist within the small confines of our beliefs. Heck, even you and I aren’t really reflected in the narrow confines of what we believe ourselves to be.

 

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

                                                         ~ Winston Churchill

 

Deep inside us is an unconscious part of ourselves it is full of shadows, bright glowing spirit, joys and fears. It is the home of our instincts, our intuitions, and stimuli for creativity. It can also be the home of truth for us. Truth is not something that is preached from the outside because it only comes from within.

How to tell if it’s truth vs. just another idea? If it nurtures, if it encourages growth, if it enlivens and frees the spirit, if it engenders love and acceptance, and fosters forbearance and gentleness it is said that it is then the truth. Anything else is an ego-self prejudice.

In the I Ching it is said that when the heart is free of prejudices, it is open to the truth. The intractable mind cannot hear the truth. Any form of self-righteousness prevents the discovery of truth.

I suggest that Truth is the essence of immortality. It is in the prisons of belief and conviction that we are mortal, that we are doomed to the dust of the earth. Truth is also something that can be chased after, something like happiness, but never caught as a function of the chase. The pursuit only prepares you for when truth enters the door.

Is there “the” truth, or is it as the Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran suggested, “I have found ‘a’ truth?” And is it forever a truth, or just in the moment? Is it as the physicist Niels Bohr said “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth?“

I suggest that truth is a state of enlightenment, a place where the ego that you think you are becomes silent, when thought itself becomes still. It is here that you can hear the truth. It is here that you awaken and begin to seek. You may look as though you are alone, but in truth there is God all around you and you begin to glow.

A follower of truth, listens to the inner voice, not the one in your head that is talking right now, or the one in the radio, or TV, or even the pulpit (yes, I know, and even this blog). The true follower surrenders their ideas, their thoughts and beliefs. The student of truth accepts their shadow selves as well as the “self” that they imagine them selves to be, or wish that they were. Truth does not tie itself to any illusion, any time or place. Truth is not a judgment, belief or thought, or anything else that one may have attached themselves to. It cannot be held, or given to another. It cannot be pursued, or sought after and only comes to you when released. It cannot be found in efforting and can only be found in the moment. Truth may only come in the letting go of it, or of anything for that matter.

 

“The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are Illusions.”

                                   – Bodhidharma, founder of Zen

 

Truth is not something apart from you, it’s not something you discover and take in. It’s always been there. It is not in your words, but is sometimes hidden between them. And it can only be found at the moment of death. The death of what you think you are.

Indeed, following the truth might make you odd.