... created He them."
Do I have the Biblical quotation right? Genesis, I think. Before the arrival of what Bill Maher refers to as the "talking snake."
Last evening I sat with a group of elders from The ManKind Project, the men's organization with which I have been involved for many years. The purpose of the first hour was to invite other, younger men to bring current issues in their lives and to sit in silent contemplation with an elder--not to find solutions, but simply to become mindful of the mental and emotional attachments involved. The idea was to have them write their issues down on a card and sit in person, or to mail them in and share them out among participating elders for their meditative attention, in a place of serenity and calm. This session was to be followed by a talking circle, to which I unfortunately had time enough only briefly to check in.
I thought the idea of sitting in silence with a man in some kind of distress or turmoil was a wonderful one. There are ways to share compassion other than in words, and I have found that the breath is a great tool for creating inner peace. Since this was the first time such an hour was offered, response from the larger community was limited at best. I sat with one man for about a third of the hour. There is a Tibetan Buddhist practice called tonglen, in which the practitioner breathes in the pain of others, processes it internally, and breathes it out as pure compassion. (This is a much simplified understanding, I'm sure.) It's a hard practice and my attempt yesterday reflected my own limited experience, but the effort I put into it was richly rewarded both from within, and from the response that it received. I spent the other two thirds of the hour in silent contemplation of several other men I knew to be in sickness or in trouble of some kind.
I take great pleasure in sitting in a circle of men. Not that I don't appreciate feminine energy, but it is different in a way that I'd be hard put to describe or even define. We have tried so hard in our modern world to rid ourselves--rightly!--of the old demeaning stereotypes and prejudicial distinctions that we have risked sacrificing some important part of our differences as human beings. I look around the world and see so much evidence of masculine energy gone awry--amok?--in the form of religious extremism and social domination, not to mention the wars that scar the face of our planet. In this context, it is good to experience powerful AND positive masculine energy, directed towards healing rather than competition and destruction.
Which brings me to tonight's much anticipated debate, which pits a woman against a man--each in contention for the vice-presidency of this country. The funny thing about this is that the woman, in this debate, projects more masculine than feminine energy: to date, she has proved herself combative, sarcastic, absolutist, dismissive, self-assured, "tough," and generally pretty much heart-less in her attitudes. I believe that Hillary Clinton might have been more successful had she not felt required to suppress the feminine energy in favor of the masculine. As my wife has on occasion pointed out--and she means this in the best of all possible ways--Barack Obama in fact is more in touch with his feminine energy than either of these two women, and is the more powerful and persuasive for it. I hear others complain that he is not sufficiently in touch with his masculine energy--that he's not sufficiently loud in his opinions or combative. I disagree. As I see it, he projects both strength AND compassion, the ability to listen and hear what others say, as well as to speak out forthrightly. The blend of the two makes him, in my book, more fully human.
I suppose this may all be subjective nonsense, and I suppose that some may find the argument offensive. It's a tricky, touchy area and one that does not lend itself to easy definitions or great clarity. But I'd sure be interested to hear if others share this feeling. It would be reassuring to know that I'm not alone. Meantime, I await this evening's debate with suspense and curiosity.
* image by Fernando Botero