Archive for the 'gender' Category

Chthonic faith

November 16, 2012

This relates back to my previous post — it’s some of my ponderings.

It occurred to me that one of the distinctions between the oracles and folks we might call prophets is that oracles commune(d), I think, with sort of subterranean spirits or forces, and prophets commune with a God out there and up there sort of in the heavens.

In fact, the subterranean spirits came to have a really negative reputation.  Do we have a male figure who communed with subterranean forces in an amicable interaction?  One without anger at or fear of such a force?

What I’m wondering is that a person can’t have a balanced view of the spiritual realm without having plugged in to both sets of forces, and that men find plugging into chthonic forces more difficult.  Maybe this difficulty became transformed into rejection of such forces as “evil.”  They’re not, I don’t think; I think they are just more reactive to our own small imperfections.  I think they just require the person to engage in a certain kind of surrender that is better supported for women in Western culture.

So, I think, to develop a connection such as the oracles of old had, it takes a certain style of surrender (sincere and complete, no element of playing at it at all — “no holding back,” as Jackson Browne writes about something else in “Sky Blue and Black”) and it also takes addressing the surrender inwards and downwards.  I’m not sure lots of Western religious practices encourage that.

What I get when I engage in it includes a connection with the earth.

We have Earth Day, but nevertheless I think she’d like it if more people “called home,” to her.  Like my sons’ kindergarten teacher who wondered whether my older son didn’t like her because he didn’t smile at her, the earth, I think, could use the explicit expression of our affection.

It’s Friday evening, and while I’m not going to Friday Night Shabbat Services tonight, I am reminded of the image of Shabbat as a bride, I think it goes.  Mother Earth, Father Sky, Adonai and a female companion, God’s light side and God’s dark side, yin and yang, Shiva and Kali (do I have the right pairing?) — I think we need wholeness in divinity, or balance in the forces of the universe (for those who prefer the impersonal version of what I’m trying to get at).

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The moral equivalent

November 15, 2012

I think by this Willy meant the thing equivalent to the point of reference in terms of some essence of the point of reference — Willy used the phrase a lot, to find an analogy that would explain a problem at hand.

Someone once explained to me that in Judaism men find their spiritual lives through prayer, women through applying the rules of kashrut in their daily lives.  These could be seen as moral equivalents, at least according to the perspective of the speaker.

I’m looking for the moral equivalent of the female “oracle” of ancient times.  We have Moses the guy who brings his community the Ten Commandments; is he the moral equivalent of someone like the Delphic Oracle?  And if not, what should a man be doing if he takes up the role of being a mouthpiece for God, for expression of Platonic forms, for understanding of the forces of the universe?  Maybe he’s a physicist or mathematician like Albert Einstein.

Any way, this is a question I’m pondering.

Boys and men and emotions

April 7, 2012

I was reading about a smaller percentage of teenage boys reporting they’ve had sex and about men’s attitude towards sex and intimacy in some entertainment, after just having had a discussion of related issues over the fence with a neighbor.  She has two sons, too, and we were talking about what happens when boy-likes-girl and girl-likes-boy but girl is ready for a closer relationship sooner (whether that closeness is physical or emotional).  An older friend of mine with older children once warned me that it happens, and that helped me support one of my son’s need to disentangle himself from relationships that became too overwhelming for him, and helped me listen to a girlfriend of my other son when she told me how “young” he is.  My neighbor’s story had elements of both these patterns, with her son not being ready but in his case then the girl finding someone else instead, to his dismay.  It’s so hard.  The story of Romeo and Juliet is about a different kind of timing issue, but still, it is a reminder that timing in romance is a factor.  Maybe the image shouldn’t be Cupid shooting an arrow into one heart but of his lining up the openings in two hearts and somehow finding the moment when they are aligned enough with each other to slip a link through both of them and join them together.  Maybe it doesn’t always happen on the first try.

Marrying

February 11, 2012

I linked to the Train video “Marry Me” in a previous post, and as I re-watched it a number of times, I got to thinking that it doesn’t include gay and lesbian couples, while it does seem to try to be inclusive in other ways.  As someone who was raised by parents who listened to Wagner (on the principle that there is a distinction between the art and the artist) but forbade “The Sound of Music” and “Fiddler on the Roof” (for the perception that they trivialize the horror of the Holocaust and pogroms, respectively), I found myself wondering what do make of the fact that I like a video that isn’t as inclusive as would make me comfortable.

I forget how it came up, but I got to discussing it with a friend of mine who is a lesbian (and spends a fair amount of effort, I think, on forwarding the issues of her community in the community at large), and, not that our opinion holds particular weight, we came to the idea that the video could be enjoyed for its art and for whatever inclusiveness it contained, and we could hope that there would be in the future other videos that would be even more inclusive.

I do feel concern over things that make some people feel left out.  And somehow, thinking about that led me to the issue of the relationship among detachment, detachment with love, and compassionate detachment.  I think the wording of “detachment with love” leads to misunderstandings, and so I tend to prefer thinking in terms of “compassionate detachment,” but I’m guessing that both have something to do with a core concept of maintaining a loving connection while maintaining a boundary regarding some other aspect of the relationship.  I think “detachment with love” too easily turns into “detachment with what I want the other person to perceive as love even if I’m not demonstrating love” — I think the modifier “compassionate” makes it clearer what sort of attitude is involved, and suggests, at least to me, how intertwined that feeling must be with the detachment.

I started thinking about a relationship in which the notion of “detachment with love” is taken literally, and what that would mean: physical separation but a relationship as intimate as possible?  What would the significance of that be?  Would it be a healthy relationship or would it be escapism of some sort?  Romeo and Juliet and Abelard and Heloise certainly don’t make the idea of physical separation seem like something positive, but maybe I am not being open-minded enough, maybe there is a love relationship with another human being in which separation is a positive thing, maybe, analogous to the way blind people seem to develop heightened other senses, separation and a lack of a physical relationship allows the energy in the relationship to be amplified in its other aspects.  Or maybe it’s just an accommodation for people who are shy or who are more comfortable with other forms of communication — after all, we can have a very intimate relationship with God without a bodily one.

Which brings me to one of my current favorite topics for contemplation: how to understand the notion of divinity housed in a physical body.  I disagree with the direction in which Christianity takes this, or at least its emphasis, because I don’t think it’s about one person, I think it’s about everyone, and I would refer to the notion of the Holy Spirit in all of us as evidence of this.  I think it’s the ultimate question, really, how to integrate body and soul, and in the context of relationships, I think it’s about all the variations of a relationship with another in terms of how the two bodies and two souls can relate.  Maybe a relationship involving physical detachment (a literal “detachment with love”) is the variation in which the souls merge without the bodies doing so.  I’m not sure, but it would be nice to have a fully satisfying such relationship, without a sense of that it was a poor cousin to a relationship involving a corporeal aspect, too, without, that is, involving a sense of loss.

A spiritual story from a consumerist source

July 28, 2011

I sometimes think we’ve gone so far with consumerism in our society that somehow the pendulum will start to swing back.  When I read the following blurb in the context of a solicitation to buy a piece of furniture, I thought, “Well, maybe we’re on our way:”

The story goes as this: It’s set in the Eastern Jin Dynasty era. Zhu Yingtai is the daughter of a wealthy family. She strongly desires to attend school (although women attending school was discouraged in that era), so she disguises herself as a boy. There she falls in love with her best friend and classmate Liang Shanbo. After he discovers her true identity, they vow to marry. Later, Zhu finds out her parents have arranged for her to marry a wealthy man. Liang is so heartbroken he becomes very sick and eventually dies. During Zhu’s wedding processional, she passes Liang’s grave and begs for it to open. It does open, and Zhu throws herself in the grace. Their spirits turn into beautiful butterflies and they fly off together, never to be separated again.

It’s from a company called Wisteria.

Gender changes

July 28, 2011

My son recently wrote a paper on the effect of changing the gender of Hildy Johnson from a male in the play The Front Page to a female in the movie “His Girl Friday,” which was based on it.  My son found understanding the nature of the relationships well enough to follow the writer’s points was easier with a romance than with old fashioned male workplace relationships (the entire first act of the play was somewhat impenetrable to him).  I felt somewhere in the middle, being able to imagine how men like my grandfather (born in 1889) and someone (born 1907) I was close friends with when I was in my twenties and he was in his seventies, might have behaved.  This then got me wondering how long the interplay of the sex roles in “His Girl Friday” would actually itself be comprehensible — just how timeless is our current concept of romance actually?  Made me wonder further what kind of relationship will be used as the next vehicle in a remake of the story.