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Posts Tagged ‘femininity’

First I was out of town. Then I was out of sorts. As a result of these conditions I was out of words for several days. It goes that way sometimes.

Today I heard a delightful conversation on NPR regarding the opening of Sex and the City, the movie.  A blogger at the Chicago Tribune has taken it upon himself to stand in solidarity with his gender and resist the pressure men may be getting from the significant women in their lives. He offers a “get out of seeing the sex and the city movie” coupon here, invoking the manhood of William Wallace, Rocky Balboa, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, and several other manly characters in his quest to resist. It’s cute.

Personally I’m not a sex in the city kind of gal. Neither bows the size of Texas on a dress, nor $700 Jimmy Choo stilettos make it onto my feminine radar. So it’s a bit hard to relate.

I’m curious though, about you. How about it? Sex and the City, anyone?

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I’ve spent the better part of four days observing the phenomenon of beauty, wondering whether to start a thoughtful series on the subject. Then I turn to Karen over at Cheerio Road and she’s already there with an encouraging word and a couple of great videos to share. It must be a sign, I think. So here goes.

I’ve become a rabid fan of Stephen White, writer of some pretty great psychological/crime fiction. His main character is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder. This is a treat because I get to peek at the therapeutic challenges of another practitioner, as well as follow his adventures in one of my favorite places in the world, the People’s Republic of Boulder. I’ve now read my library’s entire collection of Stephen White, which is sadly short of what’s required.

It’s Stephen White that got me started thinking about beauty, while reading his 2004 bestseller, Blinded. Here’s how one of his characters describes another character named Gibbs Storey, in several passages:

Gibbs Storey was gorgeous, okay? I mean make-me-nervous, shift-my-weight, avert-my-eyes kind of gorgeous. The girls-guys-like-me-don’t-even-get-to-talk-to kind of gorgeous.

Not pretty.

Gibbs was movie-star stuff.

If she hadn’t been so pretty, or maybe if I had just been constitutionally more adept at being around someone so pretty, I might not have blurted out what I blurted out next. But she was, and I wasn’t.

then later:

What I didn’t say was, “My God, woman, your options are limitless. I know twenty men who would bow down and lick clean the ground you walk on.”

I took a moment to look away from her and give myself a pep talk. I told myself that I could look her in the eye and not be weakened by her beauty. That my resolve wouldn’t dissolve in her loveliness.

When I looked back up at her, I was pretty sure that I’d been wrong.

White weaves the theme of female beauty throughout this novel in a way that rubs the sore spot on the psyche of many an unresolved high school wannabe. It made me cranky, I admit.

The sheer power of a certain kind of feminine beauty, as described here, is stunning to me. What can it mean, I wonder? Beyond the obvious factors: our sex-infused culture, the media, inadequately socialized boys, improperly socialized girls?

What does it mean? What does it represent?

I’ll be wondering this all week. Stay tuned.

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I’m pretty done with the whole healing gig. Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the value of it, and when I was in need of healing I was all about it. Therapy, recovery groups, self-help books, retreats, journaling, healing prayer – you name it I’ve been into it. But I’m worn out with the likelihood that I have an endless list of wounds and issues from which I could be healed. When does one ever get well?

In many ways motherlessness is just another wound on a list of ailments that only gets longer the longer I work at it. What’s a motherless child to do?

However, I think this one could be somehow different. It feels like more than an individual woman’s heartbreak.

So much could be said about self-parenting, recovering the art of nurturing the soul, etc., but today I’m thinking even bigger. More universal. What if this aching motherlessness is a symptom of our civilization in a modernistic world? What if something about the way our modern minds have viewed the world has left us with this ache for mothering in our souls? What if we motherless children carry a prophetic ache for a kind of motherlessness in our civilization?

You’ve heard of post-modernism, right? The end of modernity? The waiting for a new shift in consciousness? Well some people are seeing it happen. One of them is Richard Tarnas. Here are some greatly abbreviated (believe it or not) thoughts from the epilogue to his book, The Passion of the Western Mind.

Many generalizations could be made about the history of the Western mind, but today perhaps the most immediately obvious is that it has been from start to finish an overwhelmingly masculine phenomenon…The Western intellectual tradition has been produced and canonized almost entirely by men, and informed mainly by male perspectives. This masculine dominance in Western intellectual history has certainly not occurred because women are any less intelligent than men. But can it be attributed solely to social restriction? I think not. I believe something more profound is going on here: something archetypal…

…the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine– on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman–of all that which the masculine has projectively identified as “other.”

(In other words – MOTHER)

But this separation necessarily calls forth a longing for a reunion with that which has been lost…

(the phenomenon of motherlessness)

The crisis of modern man is an essentially masculine crisis, and I believe that its resolution is already now occurring in the tremendous emergence of the feminine in our culture…

For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being.

(MOTHER again)

The driving impulse of the West’s masculine consciousness has been its dialectical quest not only to realize itself, to forge its own autonomy, but also, finally, to recover its connection with the whole, to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life: to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul.

Today we are experiencing something that looks very much like the death of modern man, indeed that looks very much like the death of Western man. Perhaps the end of “man” himself is at hand. But man is not a goal. Man is something that must be overcome–and fulfilled, in the embrace of the feminine.

I’d rather carry around a prophetic desire for the future of humanity than just another wound in my individual soul, wouldn’t you?

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I am well past the stage of mothering small children. However, I have the privilege of being witness to the mothering talents of my two dear friends, DeeAnn and Jen. I’ve often wondered how I managed to become heart friends with these two women who were raised in the generation behind my own, but speculation about this phenomenon is beside the point. Among the treasures of their friendships with me has been the front row seat I occupy in observance of their exquisite mothering. They are exquisite mothers, both of them.

From my front row seat at these mothering performances, the first thing I notice is that the stage is quite small. The essence of the story happens in, what? a maximum of 27 cubic feet of space, I’d say. An invisible chamber of creative power.

Because mothering is all about the lap. A mother’s lap is the source of all goodness in the universe, don’t you think? If you could tap into your deepest need, isn’t it a lap you long for most? I mean, if you weren’t embarrassed to admit it, don’t you sometimes crave a warm soft place to just plop down and lean?

Their laps are magical, as I am awed to observe. The emotional sustenance that emanates from this place is palpable, substantive. The simple act of holding a child, meeting him or her with a full mother’s presence, creates an invisible bubble of the best stuff in the universe – an ambiance of safety, nurture, warmth, connection, and peaceful being. I’ve watched all five of these little children – Grace, Abby, Liam, Amelia and Lucy – consume that stuff like a 757 consumes jet fuel. They’re gluttons for it. It runs the universe, this stuff.

Watching them makes me wistful, taps into my longing. From my front row seat I often wonder, who would I be if I had been loved that well?

But that is my empty, as Karen wisely wrote. That is my empty. That is my full.

Yours too, no doubt.

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