My motivation for starting this blog is my observation that people around me seem to be seeking happiness, or a sense of purpose for their lives in the wrong places. Being human involves a lot a suffering, and suffering is necessary for growth. Growth means maturity – taking responsibility for who we are as a person. This means that each of us accepts personal responsibility for how we respond to what happens to us, even if we cannot control many of the events that occur in our lives. I lived in France for nearly 18 years, after growing up in the U.S. Then I moved back to the United States. Comparing and contrasting lifestyles and values in two very different cultures has added to my insights about the choices we make for ourselves and how culture and family life influence how we live our lives.
I was trained as a visual artist, and in Paris, I spent a lot of time alone, walking those streets, by night and day, pondering the meaning of my own life. There, I discovered synchronicity, and how everything that exists – even inert matter – has intelligence. My family rejected me for wanting to break out of their fold and follow my personal star. Being my own person and learning to listen to my inner voice was an expensive choice for me. Whenever I would pursue my dreams, I would feel anxious, as if transgressing some rule. I guess I am trying to say that there is a price to be paid for each choice that we make that goes against the grains of our families and of society. For our cultures to evolve and to evolve as individuals, we must have some courage and take action despite the fairly strong possibility of rejection, or at the very least, indifference and lack of support.
To me, art and imagination are the voice of the soul, which speaks in symbolic language. Modern art and contemporary society have rejected traditional religions and spiritual languages as the primary form of authority in our lives. Instead, science and popular culture reign. After at least two thousand years of patriarchal law in most western countries and some eastern, where monotheistic religions are prominent, we don’t have any strong feminine images that clearly guide our way and balance the masculine ideal. The women’s movement was a start, but the direction was misguided. Women in the 70’s were brave and lead a movement to create a voice for women that had been stifled for millenia. But equality of rights does not mean that women need and want to be as men are. It is the desire to be fully recognized and rewarded both personally and culturally for our gifts, personal characteristics, for what we uniquely bring to the world. Men have, without their realizing it, been deprived of happiness as well, while living in cultures that deprive women and feminine values of their full status.
The balance of masculine and feminine to me, means not being equal to men, but to be given the opportunity (for both men and women) to express the qualities of masculinity and femininity in our lives and receive active support from society. For example, art should once again be incorporated into the rituals of daily life. Rites of passage need to be clearly part of people’s lives for major transitions in life, so that each of us feels recognized and important to ourselves and to the group. Children should be taught about archetypes and encouraged to develop their innate recognition of art, imagination, and symbols. The symbols have not disappeared – they are visible in movies, books, and other places. But they are not given a rightful place in our daily lives.
The inner life and developing it is a feminine value. Taking the time to rest, to cultivate a garden, to listen, take care of children, to take care of oneself are all feminine values. To build a business, create a network of relationships , take risks, act on an idea are more masculine values. We need both to have balance in our world. In ancient times, Kings and leaders had philosophers and advisers at their side to inform their decisions. That is balance.
When I compare my life in France to my life in the United States, I see a country with more feminine values (France) and a country dominated by masculine values (the United States). Neither place is perfect, but it is interesting to observe, compare, and learn. In France, to be able to express oneself well using language and reason are very important. Those are masculine values. In contrast, the social system and government value community and social justice and people everywhere demonstrate and work to protect those laws and values. Workers have many rights and labor unions are a powerful voice that interacts and dialogues with government to protect those rights. Those are feminine values. There are blind spots, such as domestic violence, where the police and legal system do nothing to help primarily women that are victims. Like I said, no system is perfect. In the United States, in many states, workers have few or no rights. Corporations and lobbies dominate the legal system, influencing legislation. As a citizen, I do not feel that government holds my or my fellow citizens best interests at heart and that there are no social forces counteracting that system to bring social justice. The power of just a few wealthy individuals seem to have more rights because they have more power than those with less money and influence. Those are masculine features: might over right.
I would like to contribute to finding a just balance between masculine and feminine values. This is a never-ending process, as life is about change, about learning, about growth. Our global societies are in crisis because there is a lack of balance. Growing awareness of our environment and the effects of unchecked greed demonstrate an increase of awareness of feminine values. May they continue to grow so that future generations may live a happier and more balanced life.