Sunday, September 30, 2012

Of Course Women Can Hurt Women

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times today, wrote a commentary,"Women Hurting Women."He was referring to Seikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, who is dismantling in no short order, the pioneering efforts of Muhammad Yunus. A Nobel Peace prize winner, Yunus championed the economic empowerment of women across the  globe.

How topsy turvy, notes Kristof, that a woman leader who has benefited from reforms that have made it possible for women to have power, would now use her position to destroy a man's life work of empowering  women.

Topsy turvy yet true, that women are no better than men  in succumbing to the inflation of patriarchal power. It is  dangerous to think  simply in terms of gender.  We see Yunus as a feminine principled man and  Hasina as  a negative animus woman here. Perhaps that is not so topsy turvy after all. Both men and women  need to nurture a compassionate heart and need to be  aware that  power's corruptive  influence is gender blind.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Suffering, the Pieta, and the Feminine Principle

Life and death , death and life stories merge... Recently, I attended the memorial service of a friend who died at the age of 104. He was a Renaissance man who  lived life fully and who admired women dearly. I believe he was a feminine principled man who honored his anima within.

He was fortunate to have  a caring family of adult children--who are also getting on in years themselves. His death, even with its attendant grief, could be a celebration of  an enormous life lived with gusto. He was a chemist, gemologist, astronomer, musician, mountain climber whose life would make Zorba the Greek  dance: the full catastrophe.

It is difficult to write linearly- and  in linear time- when everything appears to be happening at once.Of course, hasn't that always been true? Our lives collide with other lives. We are interbeings as
Thich Nhat  Hanh, the Buddhist monk reminds us.

My daughter and her fiance are planning their wedding while I also listen to news of  death and dying. My friend of over 40 years wants to help with the wedding  planning. Meanwhile her sister-in-law  is in the throes of  debilitating cancer treatment; this is in the wake of having lost her husband, my friend's brother, to brain cancer.

We are beings lurching toward death as soon as we are born. Heidegger bluntly stated we are" sein und der tod" beings towards death.Perhaps we are all metaphors of the Equinox/Solstice: you know, Darkness increases until December 21 ( of course, the Southern Hemisphere is our enantiomorph) , then in the in the midst of the Darkness, December 22nd until June 21st we gather more Light each day.So, in the darkness there is light and in the lightness there is the dark. Our darkest days of winter are the harbingers  leading us to June, and  our brightest days of June portend the coming of darkness.

Except  there is predictability with the earth's constant journey around the sun. There is no predictability to our own personal story of the light and dark. Nevertheless, there is a sense that  when we  humans experience life, there is the undercurrent of dark mortality and in the encounter with death there is the counterpoint of life.

In my work, I facilitate a grief group, Survivors of Accident and Murder.Here the members are grieving  the loss of children or spouses, or brothers or sisters, who have died  violently. No one can shore up the hole in the heart created by such immense losses but in the compassionate connection among the "members"of that "community" there is the building of  hope  to find meaning  in life again.To me, this is an examlpe of the Feminine Principle at work. Wherever care and empathy are the priority, there resides the Feminine Principle.

Sometimes, I imagine the Feminine Principle as the Divine Feminine aspect of God.

There at least two visual images that come to mind for me when I think of the feminine principle and compassion. One image is of a Pieta, but not just the most famous  one. For in addition to Michelangelo's  rendering of  Mother Mary holding the Body of  Christ, there is also the depiction by Kaethe Kollwitz of  a mother holding her dead son/soldier. And there are others.

Ironically, a poster of Kollwitz's  sculpture is presented with the columns of the Brandenburg Gate in the background.Recently, a young man attended a presentation I was giving where I had this poster on display.He astutely noted  how the pillars  may be a symbol of crumbling patriarchy.

Beyond this background, the Pieta is a profound image of love and compassion confronting, no, not confronting, but embracing, suffering and death.

I bow deeply to the artists who can find the love and light in stone to make visible for us that which is, so often, invisible.That is, they uncover suffering and the love that caresses it.

The Pieta, then, is the visualization of the Feminine Principle's beholding suffering with a loving heart.

There is another image of the Feminine Principle  which is quite individual to me. It is a drawing  that hangs at the top of our stairs, done by a  local artist, Maria de los  Angeles Morales. In  it, a wondrous dark woman-- Native American or Latin American--enfolds a mammoth bowl of maize in her large lap. Here is abundant earth--life at its fullest being protected by the  Feminine Principle--or Presence.

So there is an interweave of the  pattern of Pieta and Corn Woman: the Feminine Principle facing suffering, the Feminine Principle  celebrating life. There is no either-or. We cannot have the one image without the other. And so death intertwines with life-- and weddings. We hope for new life--grandchildren--even when darkness envelops us.