Why Do Men Objectify Women – Part III

How two famous erections are partly to blame.

Play with Me

Welcome back.

 

Since I began this series, at least forty men, in entertainment, media, and politics, have faced allegations ranging from inappropriate behavior to forced sexual misconduct to rape. The list continues to grow and has caused the downfall of many powerful “men”. It has sparked an entire movement (#metoo), and led Time Magazine to name ‘The Silence Breakers’ as 2017’s Person of the Year.

 

It’s encouraging to hear young people such as comedian Sarah Silverman say we need to understand what’s behind all this, or watch actor Justin Baldoni give a poignant TED talk on why he’s done trying to be “man enough”.

 

Both are choosing the hard and long road of empathy, rather than the easy one of judgment and condemnation.

 

While my exploration of this issue has revolved around Millennial Men, it is not a stretch to imagine that they could well be on the road of being the Harry Weinsteins, Al Frankens, Roy Moores, or Matt Lauers of the near future.

 

In my mind, they all share one thing in common: they are uninitiated men, or more precisely, wrongly initiated into what it means to be a man.

 

Former NFL defensive lineman and coach, Joe Ehrmann, had this to say in the documentary ‘The Mask You Live In’:

 

“My earliest memory is my father bringing me down to my mother’s basement, putting up his hands and teaching me how to throw jabs and punches. It was there that he gave me those words: “Be a Man”. Stop with the tears. Stop with the emotions. If you are going to be a man in this world you have to learn how to dominate and control people and circumstances. I left the room in tears, feeling I wasn’t man enough. Football became a tremendous place to hide. You can hide inside the helmet. You can hide behind the roar of the crowd. You get to project this façade, this persona of what it means to be a man in this culture. I thought if I could manifest this hyper-masculinity, somehow, it would validate who I was. Certainly, my father would respect me; see how powerful…how strong I was. Then he’d give me the love and attention that I desperately wanted. I ask every man to think about what age they were, what was the context, when somebody told you to Be a Man. That’s one of the most destructive phrases in this culture, I believe.”

 

This issue not only impacts gender relations, but spills over into our politics and the sustainability of our future on this planet. It is why I am investing so much time on it. If my words – my voice – can be heard by more and more men (women too), and through them, I manage to prevent but one instance of sexual assault, I will have done my share.

 

In Part I and Part II of this series, we’ve listened to several young men explain why they often objectify women. We’ve talked about the holes in their psyches, and explored ways in which they can begin to heal. We’ve listened to their fears of rejection, intimacy and vulnerability.

They have shared their sadness stemming from a sense of being split from their right-brained essence.

 

We’ll now deal with Ethan’s answer to why he sometimes objectifies women through pornography. We can as well substitute the word ‘objectify’, with harass, exploit, or rape.

 

ETHAN: “When I use porn semi-frequently, I do so whenever I am disconnected from myself. Because I feel disconnected, less present, less in my heart, and less in my body.

 

This has everything to do with two very famous erections.

 

 

 

Meet Priapus, the John Holmes of ancient mythology

The God of Lust and Fertility, Priapus was the son of Aphrodite, which means that every hard-on is mothered by love and beauty. So far, so good.

 

Until Hera came along.

 

Hera is the queen and mistress of heaven. Brought up in a domesticated and orderly household, she is also the goddess of marriage and the family. Suspecting her philandering husband, Zeus, of being Priapus’ father, Hera deceptively offered to help Aphrodite’s delivery of Priapus. With just one touch of her finger on Aphrodite’s belly, Hera caused Priapus’s ‘deformity’ and unshapeliness. Horrified, his mother rejected her son, and banished him to a mountainside on Earth.

 

What does the myth point to?

 

We’re back to that eons-old, tug-of-war I talked about in my post on why monogamy is so damn difficult: between our desires and conventions.

 

As Goddess of Marriage, Hera likes only one kind of erection: the procreating kind within the bounds of conjugal love. To her, Priapus is living testimony of philandering. Therefore, indirectly, she made sexual imagination ugly and shameful, and banished it to the mountainside – our modern day Red Light District, Pornhub, Las Vegas, etc. In his lecture, ‘Pink Madness’, James Hillman said that the Hera archetype is what causes us to see Priapus as deformed and distorted.

 

Then came this guy, St. Augustine.

 

 

I wonder why he doesn’t look as happy as Priapus.

 

When he was sixteen, back in 370 C.E., he went with his father to a public bath, and there, had an involuntary boner. He called it inquieta adulescentia, or restless young manhood.

 

Imagining himself a soon-to-be grandfather, Dad was pleased.

 

Mom, a pious Christian, and the Hera in this story, wasn’t.

 

“She made a considerable bustle,” Augustine wrote in his ‘Confessions’, “to ensure that you, my God, were my father rather than him.”

 

A year later, when Augustine was sent to study to Carthage, his father died. Commenting on Sarah Ruden’s translation of ‘Confessions’, Stephen Greenblatt wrote in The New Yorker:

 

“If the grieving widow also felt some relief at his death—given that he was a dangerous influence on her beloved son—any hopes she might have had that Augustine would embark at once on the path of chastity were quickly dashed.”

 

“I came to Carthage,” Augustine wrote, “to the center of a skillet where outrageous love affairs hissed all around me.” (Sounds like Vegas)

Within a year or two of what appears to have been a period of feverish promiscuity, Augustine settled down with the woman with whom he lived.

 

But his mother was still not satisfied. When Augustine was getting ready to leave Carthage to take a teaching position in Milan, his mother, Augustine writes, “was hanging

onto me coercively, trying to either stop my journey or come along with me on it.” Lying, he told her that he was only seeing off a friend, and persuaded her to spend the night at a shrine near the harbor. “I got away, and got away with it.” A few years later, his mother sailed from North Africa to join him, and once settled in his household, sought to change her son’s life by getting rid of his mistress and finding him a suitable Catholic girl for him to marry.

 

In little more than a year’s time, Augustine had converted to the Catholic faith.

 

Then something really weird happened…

 

In the Roman port of Ostia, a few days before setting sail for Africa, Augustine and his mother were standing by a window that looked out onto an enclosed garden, and talking intimately. Their conversation, serene and joyful, led them to the conclusion that no bodily pleasure, no matter how great, could ever match the happiness of the saints. And then, Augustine recounts, “stretching upward with a more fiery emotion,” he and his mother experienced something remarkable: they felt themselves climbing higher and higher, through all the degrees of matter and through the heavenly spheres and, higher still, to the region of their own souls and up toward the eternity that lies beyond time itself. (Here comes the creepy part) “While we were speaking and panting for it, with a thrust that required all the heart’s strength, we brushed against it slightly.” It is difficult to convey in translation the power of the account, Greenblatt writes, and of what it meant for the thirty-two-year-old son and the fifty-five-year-old mother to reach this climax together. Then it was over: “Suspiravimus,” Augustine writes. “We sighed, and returned to the sound of our speech.”

 

Fast forward forty years or so, and Augustine still can’t get over his inquieta adulescentia, or unruly adolescent boner:

 

“But when it must come to man’s great function of the procreation of children the members which were expressly created for this purpose will not obey the direction of the will, but lust has to be waited for to set these members in motion, as if it had legal right over them.”

 

And this ardor, Greenblatt adds, to which Augustine gives the technical name “concupiscence,” was not simply a natural endowment or a divine blessing; it was a touch of evil. What a married man and woman who intend to beget a child do together is not evil, Augustine insisted; it is good. “But the action is not performed without evil.” True, sexual intercourse—as Augustine knew from long experience with his mistress and others—is the greatest bodily pleasure. But the surpassing intensity of pleasure is precisely its dangerous allure, its sweet poison: “Surely, any friend of wisdom and holy joys . . . would prefer, if possible, to beget children without lust.”

 

(Surely, if you say so)

Augustine’s tortured recognition that involuntary arousal (or hard-on) was an inescapable presence—not only in conjugal lovemaking but also in what he calls the “very movements which it causes, to our sorrow, even in sleep, and even in the bodies of chaste men”—shaped his most influential idea, one that transformed the story of Adam and Eve and weighed down the centuries that followed: originale peccatum = original sin.

 

This idea became one of the cornerstones of Christian orthodoxy.

 

Augustine went on to shape Christian theology for both Roman Catholics and Protestants, and to bequeath to all of us the conviction that there is something fundamentally damaged about the entire human species. There has probably been no more important Western thinker in the past fifteen hundred years. [Greenblatt].

 

He also shaped the beliefs of Puritans.

 

And that, Dear Ethan, is our legacy, in two erections.

 

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” – H.L. Mencken

 

What happens when our natural lust and sexual imagination are banished by the touch of Hera’s finger, or by Augustine’s touch of evil?

 

We repress, and become ashamed and exiled from our sensuality; “disconnected” as you said: less in our hearts, and less in our bodies.

 

And then we look for substitutes, ‘toxic mimics’, as Barry Spector calls them in ‘Madness at the Gates of the City’.

 

Is anyone surprised then that the states with the highest viewership of pornography are located in the Bible Belt? Or – as if pointing the finger back at Hera and Augustine’s mother – by the fact that the two most popular porn terms searched for by men include the word “Mother”?

 

“The insistence to obscure the true nature of our species’ sexuality leaves half our marriages collapsing under a tide of swirling sexual frustrations, libido-killing boredom, dysfunction, confusion, and shame.” – Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá: ‘Sex at Dawn’

 

Our insistence on opposing spirit and mind to both nature and sexuality, makes us become split (disconnected, in Ethan’s terms), and at war with ourselves and our instinctual appetites. Christianity, Nietzsche proclaimed, gave Eros poison to drink.

 

Pornography is now an industry worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide. According to Pornhub, in 2016, the human race consumed enough hours of porn to last 5,246 centuries! Porn, says James Hillman, is the return of the repressed.

 

“Our sexual tastes are much more psychologically deep, even tender and sensitive than is currently imagined. Crucially – in all cases of addiction, it’s never that we are simply greedy or lusty or depraved. The real reason is always more poignant and more worthy of sympathy: we get addicted because we’re sad.” – Alan de Botton

 

Sad, because, like Priapus, we have been exiled from our natural sensuality, so we now look for it through fantasy.

 

The problem is that the fantasy starts becoming more lifelike than the real, and we end up, as Alan Watts cautioned, “bestowing more metaphysical and aesthetic value to what is lifelike to what is life”.

 

Reality begins to disappoint us. (e.g. the movie ‘Her’)

 

In 2016, an all-new term shot into the top searches on Pornhub: ‘Overwatch’, in reference to the popular video game released earlier that year, known for its fast action and overtly sexualized characters. It appears that the trend is moving more toward fantasy than reality. ‘Generic’ porn is being replaced with fantasy specific, or scenario specific scenes.[1]

Losing our Senses

My friend Theo, who I’m currently helping navigate across his own love and existential tumult, wrote this to me as he entered the wilderness after many days sitting in front of his computer:

“Ninety percent of our human story as hunter-gatherers, forgotten. We’ve retained all the fears of the Savannah, but none of the skills. Instead of stars, we now can’t find our way without a GPS. The world’s shrill cacophony roaring in our ears makes it impossible to listen to silence. The bark’s rugosity, the moss’ padding, the lichen’s scuff, the silk of a leaf…unfamiliar. Our sense of smell and taste blunted by exposure to the corrosive wear of artificiality. We now rely on labels to tell us what will nourish us. Our sight, bleared by glaring and flickering blue light, misses the forest’s secret clues and diminishes its rich depth…diminishes us. And our entire being, jarred daily by a lightning storm of histrionic images and voices that incite us to extremes of lust, greed, envy, outrage, and fear – soon losing their effect, requiring more potent doses to keep us hooked – have made it impossible for us to know what exactly it is we are to do with ourselves in stillness. No wonder we’re always bored. Like a violin, discarded in the dusty attic of our past – strings slack, tuning pegs broken, and cracked bout – we no longer resonate, vibrate, thrum, or harmonize, so can’t play our once rightful part in the concert hall of Earth. In that state of alienation, rather than attuning ourselves to her symphony and harnessing her power, we now are bent on her domination and destruction.”

Exacerbating our state of exile, our increasingly virtual world is pushing us deeper into Plato’s Cave.

In the allegory, Plato likens people to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets – the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are only the shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. The prisoners mistake appearance for reality. They think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) are real; they know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.

 

In its truest sense, Alan Watts suggested, American culture is the most ‘immaterialist’.

 

In his blog for ‘The Stone’, Richard Kearney asks if today’s virtual dater and mater is not more like an updated version of Plato’s Gyges, who can see everything at a distance, but is touched by nothing. “Are we perhaps entering an age of excarnation,” Kearney asks, “where we obsess about the body in increasingly disembodied ways? For if incarnation is the image become flesh, excarnation is flesh become image.”

 

Pornography, he adds, is paradoxically a twin of Puritanism. Both display an alienation from flesh – one replacing it with the virtuous, the other with the virtual. Each is out of touch with the body.

 

In his book ‘De Anima’ Aristotle pronounced that touch is the most intelligent sense, because it is the most sensitive. As such, it is the most universal of the senses. In this pronouncement, he not only was challenging his own previous conceptions, but the dominant prejudice of the Platonic doctrine of his time, which held that sight was the highest sense. Aristotle did not win. The Platonists prevailed, and the Western universe – our universe – became a system governed by the ‘soul’s eye’. Western philosophy (our ideas) thus sprang from a dualism between the intellectual senses, crowned by sight, and the lower animal senses, stigmatized by touch [Kearney].

 

We’re back to the battle between spirit/mind vs flesh/nature; Psyche vs Eros; between the ideas of the Myce and the Minos I talked about in Part II.

 

Enter the weeping, pre-Platonist philosopher, Heraclitus.

 

 

This guy is best known for his aphorism that one cannot step into the same river twice. But his more important doctrine, in my mind, is his commitment to the unity of opposites, whereby no entity, or person, can occupy a single state at a single time. While Heraclitus did not coin it, the concept of ‘enantiodromia’ has been attributed to him.

 

Enantiodromia (Ancient Greek: enantios­ – opposite, and dromos – running course), basically means that the superabundance of any force, inevitably produces its opposite. It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme, is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. When things get to their extreme, they turn into their opposite.[2] (For an example of this dynamic, between the interplay of male and female energies, read the excerpt of Elizabeth Zioga’s blog, included in Part II).

 

In analytical psychology, enantiodromia means that something that is repressed (a man’s natural sensuality, or instinctual appetites, for example), shapeshifts in the unconscious into something powerful and threatening. To wit: St. Augustine’s natural erection turning into the touch of evil.

 

Carl Jung had this to say about it:

 

Enantiodromia. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time, an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.”

 

How do we heal this split caused by Hera and St. Augustine?

 

Enantiodromia also refers to the process whereby one seeks out and embraces an opposing quality, internalizing it in a way that results in individual wholeness. This process is the crux of Jung’s notion, called the “path of individuation”. One must incorporate an opposing archetype (or essence) into their psyche to reach a state of internal completion.[3]

 

“Mental or physical symptoms appear when we have forgotten something essential. They arise from the underworld – or the body – where they have been exiled by the mind. We convert neurosis (stress, depression, anxiety, or obsessive behavior) into authentic suffering, through active participation or soul-making. Illness indicates the need to establish a relationship with a particular deity” says Barry Spector, in ‘Madness at the Gates of the City’.

 

Enter Hedone, Goddess of Sensual Pleasure, Enjoyment, and Delight.

 

 

Hedone was the daughter of Psyche (spirit or soul) and Eros (god of love and sexual attraction).

 

Sensual pleasure, enjoyment, and delight, are therefore, the products of the union and healthy balance between spirituality and sexuality, between mind and body.

 

Hedone is the deity with whom you, Ethan, must establish a relationship.

 

Full humanity, Richard Kearney says, requires the ability to sense and be sensed in turn: the power, as Shakespeare said, to “feel what wretches feel” — or, one might also add, what artists, cooks, musicians and lovers feel. We need to find our way in a tactile world again. We need to return from head to foot, from brain to fingertip, from iCloud to earth. To close the distance, so that Eros is more about proximity than proxy. So that soul becomes flesh, where it belongs. Such a move, I submit, would radically alter our “sense” of sex in our digital civilization. It would enhance the role of empathy, vulnerability and sensitivity in the art of carnal love, and ideally, in all of human relations. Because to love or be loved truly, is to be able to say, “I have been touched”.

 

The Road Back to our Hearts and Bodies

 

If you’ve been paying attention, Ethan, you’ll know right away that I am not going to suggest that we return to the sexual liberation of the 1960’s; to an unbalanced plunge into carnal pleasures. Enantiodromia, remember?

Though I am suggesting that we all flip St. Augustine the bird once and for all.

 

Meet Apollo, representative of logos, mind, reason, and intellect.

 

 

I know…not as impressive as Priapus’, but that’s not the point.

 

The point, as Alan de Botton said, is that the statue of Apollo gives greater prestige to a very important ideal. It pictures someone very successful, very admirable and competent – who is also highly sensuous. This ideal was meant to be in people’s minds as they grew up, as they judged themselves and others. The Greeks were presenting Apollo as someone who could combine being sexual with being clever and accomplished.

 

So, how do we find our way back to our natural sensuality?

 

I asked Theo this question and this was his prescription:

 

  1. Learn to Tango, the most erotic dance in the world. You will shed, as the female poet Kapka Kassabova said, the crippling binary neurosis of Western modernity whereby in matters of body and mind we are either intellecting, or having sex.

“Never give a sword to a man than cannot dance.”

Just take a look at our current political mess, and you’ll understand what Confucius meant by that.

Or, if you prefer the French, here’s playwright Moliere:

“There is nothing so necessary to man as the dance. Without dancing a man can do nothing. All the disasters of men, all the fatal misfortunes of which history is full, the blunders of politicians…all this comes from not knowing how to dance.”

  1. Read poetry every single day. Start with this selection. Then move on to Rumi, or Neruda, or Mirabai. Heck! Even the Bible’s ‘Song of Songs’.
  2. Learn to cook, and when you do, use your hands to mix, blend, and knead, as if you were caressing a woman’s or man’s body. As often as you can, cook by an open fire.
  3. Play music and sculpt.
  4. Go out often into the wild, but go alone, and without your electronic appendages. See everything…smell everything…touch everything.

 

  1. Give yourself permission to be who you are. Authenticity is a powerful aphrodisiac. Switch your existence from a mode of ‘having’ to one of ‘being’, and do not squander all your erotic and sensual energies in feverish pursuit of money, career, fame, and power. In Chapter 6 of my journey, I recount a personal, blissful experience of this kind.

 

  1. Have the courage to be vulnerable. One of the reasons why eroticism is dead in our world, as Alan Watts suggested, is because of our culturally-ingrained discomfort with vulnerability which we try to overcome by perfect self-control which is tantamount to a state of total paralysis. Control is a degree of inhibition, and a system, or person, that is perfectly inhibited, is completely frozen.

 

  1. Fall in love with your body, no matter the shape it’s in. Fall in love with your lover’s body, and in its presence, assume it’s virgin territory, and you, a daring, sensual explorer. Discover it with your five senses, every time, for the first time. You’ll always find a new, adorable freckle.

 

  1. Before lovemaking, do as Napoleon did, who once wrote to his wife, saying: “I’ll be home in three days. Don’t bathe.” Our natural scent is intoxicating.

 

  1. And, finally, when you and your partner meet, in love, recite this to each other:

 

 

 

 

In the 4th installment of this series, we will wrestle with Arturo’s response to why he often objectifies women:

 

“The women I typically objectify are the hardest ones for me to understand completely. The thing I notice, is how easily such a mysterious woman can [match] the ideal partner that I subconsciously created as a child.”

 

Don’t miss, it by FOLLOWING THIS BLOG.

 

Please SHARE THIS SERIES with every man in your orbit, and, if you’ve enjoyed this, and my other writings; if you’ve been challenged, informed, provoked, confounded, amused, or in any other way, stirred by my work, please consider supporting it by JOINING MY GENEROUS PATRONS. This will permit me to keep writing for you full time.

 

With gratitude.

[1] In his essay, ‘Big Red Son’ written in the late 90’s by David Foster Wallace, he added this footnote to his coverage of the Annual Adult Video Awards:

“Dark’s and Black’s movies are vile. They are meant to be. And the truth is that in-your-face-vileness is part of the schizoid direction porn’s been moving in all decade. For available, more acceptable, more lucrative, more chic – it has become also more “extreme”. In nearly all hetero porn now there is a new emphasis on anal sex, painful penetrations, degrading tableaux, and the psychological abuse of women. In certain respects, this extremism may simply be porn’s tracing Hollywood entertainment’s own arc. It’s hardly news that TV and legit film have also gotten more violent and explicit and raw in the last decade.”

[2] Enantiodromia. (2017, August 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:52, December 10, 2017.

 

[3] Ibid

 

Magic Realm of Shattered Illusions

A Perspective on Mass Shootings in America

Magic Kingdom of Blood

“My life didn’t start dark and twisted. I started out as a happy and blissful child, living my life to the fullest in a world I thought was good and pure…Ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires.”

Elliot Rodger (22) wrote this in his Manifesto before stabbing three men to death in his apartment. Afterwards, he drove to the sorority house in which my elder daughter lived and shot three female students, killing two. Next, he drove to a nearby deli and shot a male student to death, and then sped through Isla Vista, shooting pedestrians and striking others with his car. Rodger exchanged gunfire with police during the attack, receiving a gunshot to the hip. The rampage ended when his car crashed into a parked vehicle. Police found him dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” – Parker Palmer

What turned Elliot from a “happy, blissful boy”, into a rejected, angry young man, tormented by unfulfilled desires?

Who manufactured his desires and illusions?

On average, American children watch 20,000 commercials per year, 92% of teens are online daily, and eight out of ten men between 18 and 30 view pornography at least monthly.

This is the Magic Realm in which many young men now receive their initiation. It is their distorted window to the world.

As a young boy, Elliot was told by the Realm to be polite and kind; girls like that, they said. But Elliot would soon find out that: “In a decent world, that would be ideal. But the polite, kind gentleman doesn’t win in the real world. The girls don’t flock to the gentlemen. They flock to the alpha male. They flock to the boys who appear to have the most power and status. And it was a ruthless struggle to reach such a height. It was too much for me to handle. I was still a little boy with a fragile mind.

The Realm creates the illusion that no matter your background you will be accepted. Again, Elliot’s illusions shattered: “I was a bit hesitant to invite anyone from Pinecrest to my mother’s house, because it was located in Canoga Park, a bad area, and most of the kids at Pinecrest were upper-middle class who would look down on me for living there. But I couldn’t back out of this once my mother invited Connor. He came over and all went well, we played a few video games for a couple of hours. But after that playdate, he would always rip on me for living in a “poor” house. He would also tell other kids at Pinecrest about it. This infuriated me to no end.

The Realm tells us things will be just fine if you work hard, stay out of trouble, and play by the rules. My father did all those things, and now – at age 86, suffering from bladder cancer – he lies in bed wearing a ski-jacket and mittens because he cannot afford to run his furnace, having lost close to three-quarters of his life savings courtesy of the reckless greed and irresponsibility of those that contributed to the stock market crash of 2008.

In this Fairytale World, good always triumphs over evil, heroes never cheat, liars see their noses grow, princesses fall for street urchins, happiness comes in a bottle, you join the army and “become all you can be”, girls enjoy being denigrated and abused (porn), everyone around you seems to be having the time of their life and getting everything they desire (Social Media), and conspicuous consumption – and a funny cat video – earns you the admiration of thousands of fans …it really is a wonderful place.

So, what happens when the light of reality is turned on, when the magic fails and the pixie dust dims?

How do we make sense of a world where good doesn’t always triumph over evil?

Where cads become presidents and heroes cycle on steroids.

When we witness, not the growing noses, but the swelling bank accounts of those who lie, cheat, and deceive.

When princesses don’t normally fall for polite paupers like in Disney’s Aladdin.

When girlfriends refuse to perform like porn stars, or when the cheerleader of your dreams refuses to kiss you because you actually look like a frog so your only choice is to settle for Audrey, your portly classmate with the wide hips and sensible shoes.

When the happiness promised by Coca Cola’s™ slogan doesn’t bubble up when you open the bottle, or that instead of [Being] all You Can Be©, joining the Army lands you on a hospital bed with PTSD.

When the challenges inherent in every relationship pop our pink bubble of “happily ever after”.

What if the glass slipper won’t fit, but shatters?

When we don’t meet our expectations of success, when that gap gets too wide, violence often becomes the only option – the expression of a fantasy of ultimate individualism and control. – Barry Spector, ‘Madness at the Gates of the City’

Disgruntled and Wronged

Puberty is a bitch.

It’s a fragile time.

A time when young men are struggling to arrive at a sense of self; to think about what is possible, instead of what is real.

Humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers, said that we all own a real self and an ideal self. The real self of course is what we are intrinsically. The ideal self is the self that we think we want to be, that we strive to be, and that we feel we are expected to be.

The problem arises when our ideal selves are too far removed from what we really are. When the discrepancy is huge, the resulting incongruence can lead us to become disgruntled and discouraged because the real self never seems good enough and the ideal self seems impossible to attain.

The typical personality attribute in mass murderers is one of paranoid traits plus massive disgruntlement, concluded Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York after completing a study of 228 mass killers.

Dr. J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who consults on threat assessment for universities and corporations, said the most salient feature of mass killers was their belief that they had been wronged.

What wronged them?

The illusions propagated by the Magic Realm.

This feeling of being a failure implies that in the depth of our being we have accepted some objective, if not some worldly, standard of success. – Alain de Botton

Assuming unlimited opportunity makes us believe we can be anything we want to be. This is a characteristically American misinterpretation of the indigenous teaching that we are born to be one thing, and the task of soul-making is to discover it. (Spector)

15 Minutes of Fame

“Boys’ old sense of purpose—being a warrior, a leader, or a sole breadwinner—is fading. Many bright young men are experiencing a ‘purpose void,’ feeling alienated, withdrawn, and addicted to immediate gratification,” write Warren Farrell PhD, and‎ John Gray PhD in ‘The Boy Crisis’.

Absent meaningful purpose, young men are desperate to find something larger than their small lives, and in the Magic Realm, one way to find it is by achieving instant gratification through notoriety.

“I’m going to be famous.” – Robert Hawkins (19), Omaha mass shooter.

“Just look at how many fans you can find for all different types of mass murderers.”  – Adam Lanza (20), Sandy Hook.

“Seems the more people you kill, the more you are in the limelight.” – Christopher Harper-Mercer (26), Oregon mass shooter.

“Directors will be fighting for this story.” – Dylan Klebold (17), Columbine

50 people perished for their 15 Minutes of Fame.

Boys will be Boys

They are masculinized in the womb by a bath of testosterone, wrote Chip Brown in ‘How Rites of Passage Shape Masculinity’ for National Geographic.

As boys come of age, Brown says, they are in the midst of a momentous transition, morphing under a fresh influx of the powerful hormone into physically mature men: body hair, defined muscles, bigger shoulders, burgeoning sexuality, an appetite for risk, and potentially elevated levels of aggression. They are coming to grips with behavioral tendencies and patterns programmed by millions of years of evolution.

Boys will play with dolls, but chances are the dolls will be getting into a fight.” – Joe Herbert, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Cambridge

To ignore or deny this in the name of a gender-neutral society is to neutralize the constructive – often lifesaving – force males can bring to the world.

Masculinity, challenged well, is the reason assistant football coach Aaron Feis died in Parkland shielding students from bullets as he pushed them inside a classroom. The same instinctual response occurred at the Aurora movie theatre in 2012, when three young men died protecting their girlfriends.” – Jason Farrell, author at The Federalist.

The World Doesn’t Count to Three

Is what my father used to tell us when we pleaded him to count to three before ripping off the Band-Aids covering our wounds.

Like other mammals, humans begin life in a maternal womb. This space, bathed in amniotic fluid and kept warm by the surrounding body of the mother, is the archetypal nurturing environment.

After birth, the household – the realm of the Mother – symbolizes the psychological environment needed during the first stage of a boy’s life. It is a protected space, an enclosure in which he can grow relatively undisturbed by toxic intrusions from the surrounding world until his body and mind are prepared to cope with the physical and social worlds into which he has been delivered.

While the mother occupies the symbolic center of the first stage of individuation or selfhood, the father assumes this position in the second stage. The father is needed by the growing ego to gain freedom from the nurturing containment offered by the mother and to instill the rigor of functioning and performance demanded for adaptation to the world.

“Fathers don’t mother,” Yale Psychiatrist Kyle Pruett wrote in Salon Magazine, and a growing body of research demonstrates how important fathers are in a child’s life.

Where the first stage of individuation is characterized by containment and nurturance (the Garden of Eden), the second stage is governed by the law of consequences for actions taken (the reality principle). A person who is living fully in this type of environment has entered the “father world”. This is not the world as ideal but the world as real. Not the Magic Realm, but the world we live in.

Seven of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history were committed by young males. Of the seven, only one was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.

Who fills the void?

The Magic Realm.

Male Initiation in Traditional Cultures

initiation

As bridging institutions, schools in the U.S. increasingly play the archetypal role of the paternal parent to a growing boy, whose job it is to help him leave the family container when the years appropriate for nurturing are over and adapt to the demands of adult life in the larger world.

But 80% of teachers are women according on the 2016 survey by the U.S. Department of Education.

Manhood, in other words, is something many American boys must now figure out for themselves.

If we don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat. – African Proverb

Globally, traditional societies have observed rites of passage signifying the emergence of young men from childhood to adulthood – no concept of adolescence intervened between stages.

In an earlier blog, I wrote:

Absent meaningful and transformative initiation rituals, young men in America are basically herded into one of three fiefdoms of the Magic Realm:

  1. For the well-off: into competitive consumers.
  2. For those in the middle: the army or the Union.
  3. At the lower rung: the gangs.

None of which makes room for the wider community, Nature, the Feminine, or any other concerns of the ideal, mature masculine.

Led by the elders of the clan, traditional initiation rites of passage seek to prepare young boys to become men in service to their community.

“Discovering your place in the greater web of things, you offer thanks for your gift and return to share it with your people. You take up your new place as an adult in your clan.”  – Bill Moyers.

What Can We Do?

I support universal background checks despite Nikolas Cruz (the Parkland shooter), having passed his with flying colors. I support a ban on assault weapons and overhauling our mental health system, but do not believe these measures go far enough, just as the $1.5 trillion this country has spent on drug control since 1971 has done nothing to lower the rate of addiction. Because addiction is not a “drug problem”, but the habitual avoidance of reality. It is the manifestation of despair.

We can go as far as confiscating the 270 million guns owned by Americans, but we will not see an end to the slaughter. The despair will still be there. The Magic Realm’s empty promises will continue disappointing and angering young men like Elliot Rodger, who, I remind you, also used a knife and his car to maim and kill.

And, NO, Mr. President, we don’t need teachers carrying guns. I worked with teachers for ten years. They seem congenitally incapable of operating anything with moving parts: copiers, laminators, etc. They are educators, not vigilantes. We cannot teach them to shoot, as we can’t teach you to empathize.

A Call to the Elders of our Tribe

initiation
Where are the Uncles, The Elders, The Wise Men?

In Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus), good and evil do not correspond to what we typically think of as morally right or wrong but have an agricultural meaning and refer to fruit that is ripe (good) and unripe (evil).

America waits for its elders to ripen our young men by guiding them towards their own definitions of Self, worth, and individual and transpersonal purpose; remind them that it’s not their desires but their struggles that define them; to teach them to become the best original version of themselves, rather than an inferior copy of someone else; to shepherd them away from the Magic Realm and teach them to cope with the realities of loneliness, rejection, disappointment, and loss.

I say this half-heartedly. A quick inspection of the “men” leading our tribe will make anyone realize we’re in deep shit.

Our Schools

The Overprotected Kid
Boys will be Boys
  • Schools need more male teachers;
  • More male mentors pairing-up with troubled teens;
  • Not a single student eating alone at recess;
  • Not more Tablets, but more recess and counselors;
  • Equal emphasis on social-emotional development as placed on academics, and
  • Playgrounds that foster independence, risk-taking, and discovery. (Here’s a video of a fine example).

Safe Outlets for Testosterone

Vanuatu Land Diving
Vanuatu Land Diving

The goal of the jump is to land close enough to the ground that the diver’s shoulders touch the ground. Any miscalculation on the length of the vine means either serious injury or death. Land diving among the men of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Island, goes back nearly fifteen centuries. The purpose of the ritual is twofold: first, it’s performed as a sacrifice to their gods to ensure a bountiful yam crop, and second, it serves as a rite of passage to initiate the tribe’s boys into manhood.

Ok, maybe not that extreme, but American boys need ritualized outlets for the fresh influx of the powerful hormone: testosterone. Anything but lying on a couch in the Magic Realm, playing at gunning, stabbing, mauling, and dismembering on a video screen.

Pop-up Calls to Kindness

Sesame Street.jpg
Message for Cyberbullies

I recently purchased socks online.

Ever since, ads for socks keep popping-up on my screen.

Ingenious!

If the Tech Overlords in the Magic Realm can figure out how to do this, why don’t we put their genius and wizardry to better use by having them flood the screens of cyberbullies with pop-up calls to kindness?

And while we are at it, let’s require kids who bully classmates on social media to perform 180 random acts of kindness – one for each day at school.

half mast

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

Until we have the boldness to tackle the deeper issues that our young men confront, the flags will continue flying at half-mast.


If you are one of our tribal elders, consider mentoring a teenage boy, or play a more active, influential role in the life of a nephew or grandchild.

If, on the other hand, you are a young man entering adulthood and feel lost or disoriented, seek guidance from the older men in your orbit whom you trust and respect, Or find a mentor – your personal Yoda, Obi Wan, Dumbledore, Gandalf. Or drop me a line. Perhaps I can help.


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The Woman in Theo’s Head

“It is the Woman in our heads, more than the women in our beds that causes most of our problems.” – Sam Keen

Anima

In Chapter 10 of his ongoing journey, Theo circles back to a quandary that had troubled him for many years: the haunting presence of a powerful female archetype.

He describes her as:

The Ideal, the Eidolon, a woman in the league of Mary Magdalene, Cleopatra, Bathsheba, and Helen of Troy, driving Kings, Emperors, Prophets and Poets mad, chewing them alive, then spitting out their bones with regal indifference. Women, as poet Robert Bly noted, who throw a spark into dry wood, pull energy from a stagnant psyche, and are capable of stirring the sea with a single hair.

Often incorporeal – in fantasies, books, and dreams – Theo has also projected this mysterious energy onto flesh-and-blood women whose features matched the blueprint in his imagination: black eyes (avid, plaintive, and supplicant), raven-black hair, and olive skin. Beyond the physical, such blueprint also contained intangible traits, that, upon projection, endowed these women with a fascinating and irresistible allure: exoticness, seemingly-innocent seductive cunning, primitive sensuality, graceful femininity, and maddening elusiveness.

Jungians call her The Anima: the unconscious image of ‘woman’ in the minds of men.

In her two-part essay, ‘The Archetypal Female in Mythology and Religion’, Dr. Joan Relke says that the “anima manifests as an inconsistent creature: appearing positive one moment and negative the next; now young, now old; now mother, now maiden; now a good fairy, now a witch; now a saint, now a whore. She can be cruelly provocative, taunting, seductive, and terrifying on the one hand, and gentle, solicitous, and wise on the other. She is an active protagonist in dreams and fantasies, and male projections.

Think Marilyn Monroe.

Marylin Monroe

“Thousands, even millions of men projected their internal feminine onto Marilyn Monroe. In the economy of Monroe’s psyche, her death was inevitable [because] no single human being can carry so many projections.” – Robert Bly, ‘A Little Book on the Human Shadow’.

For years, Theo considered these apparitions to be the manifestation of his “ideal mate” and pursued each one with impulsive avidity only to pay a heavy price every time the fantasy failed to match reality. The final blow came a few months before he decided to walk-out of his previous life and embark on a new journey.

He recounts:

Fed up with the turmoil, the sleepless nights, the dizzying fevers, the maddening arousals and ensuing disillusions; desperate to rid myself from the chthonic allure of the myth that had caused me so much trouble in life – like Melville’s Captain Ahab, but accompanied and aided, not by Ishmael, but by the psychoanalytic theories and case studies of Jung and Freud, I sailed across my dream-logs, journals, books – harpoon in hand – searching for the archetype, and for clues of where and when it had first infected me with the psychic parasite that feeds on dangerous infatuations, and that makes some men prefer to endlessly pursue a chimera, rather than tussle with a woman of flesh and blood, fury and tears, scars and wrinkles, and a fragile, fractured, but ultimately endearing humanity.

What Theo discovered was shattering but ultimately enlightening.

Pouring through his dream-logs he found this one of August 26, 2001:

She visited me again last night, in a long white cotton wrap-skirt like those worn by peasant girls or gypsies. I was sleeping in the dream, while she sat on the bed with my head nestled in the warmth of her crossed, bare legs, and caressed my hair. I began to dream-up stories, the words forming above us in wraithlike filigrees of smoke, which she rapidly copied inside a small, black leather notebook as her face looked forwards and backwards.

Like a powerful search beam, the last phrase illumed in his memory something he had recently read in Robert Bly’s book ‘Iron John’:

“When a man is ready to make a decisive move toward ‘The Legends,’ a feminine figure whose face looks both ways may appear in his dreams. It is as if she has two faces: one looks toward the world of rule and laws, and the other toward the world of dragonish desire, moistness, wildness, adult manhood. This dream figure is not a flesh-and-blood woman but a luminous eternal figure. The Mysterious Hidden Woman loves privacy, overhanging trees, long skirts, the shadowy places underneath bridges, rooms with low lighting…she wants passion and purpose in a man, and carries a weighty desire in her, a passion somewhere between erotic feeling and religious intensity.

Mysterious Beauty

Again, Dr. Joan Relke:

“They are temptresses, using sexuality to drag one into the depths of the unconscious, to the destruction of the conscious will and ego, and into the wider world of the ‘Self’. The anima lurks in the unconscious, wielding her supernatural power to drive our lives either towards mystical knowledge, consciousness and individuation, or towards oblivion in sensual urges.”

All along, what Theo, time and again, had been searching for in vain, driven blindly by sensual urges with disastrous consequences, was not something, or someone outside himself, but an integral part of his psyche. More than simply “anima”, this luminous figure constellated the intuitive, non-rational and creative energies Theo had repressed for far too long, living one-sidedly in the world of reason, rules, and laws (I wrote about the dangers of such one-sided existence in Part III on my Series on female objectification).

Theo came close to oblivion.

Now, with growing knowledge, passion, and purpose, he journeys towards wholeness, looking to arrive at a synthesis of the World of Legends and the World of Rules; to achieve a harmonious balance between his duties and his dragonish desires.

CLICK HERE to keep up with Theo’s Love and Existential Tumult across the Fourth Saros.

man in forest spooky halloween mood

 

WHY DO MEN OBJECTIFY WOMEN? (PART II)

Cake ass

Welcome back to the jungle.

Two weeks ago, in Part I of this series, we imagined ourselves by an open fire, listening to Joe, Nick, Tyrone, Mike, and Alex, explain why they often objectify women.

They said they did to bond with other men, to avoid rejection, intimacy and vulnerability, to fill the holes in their psyches, and as a way to reject or deny their innermost feelings.

We will now listen to Charlie answer the same question.

CHARLIE: “I’m stuck in the belief that the feminine essence is outside of myself. I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being.”

Before we attempt to understand and tackle these two issues, this is key:

Humans are hardwired to worry. One of the main functions of our primal brain is to protect us from threats to our survival, so our thoughts naturally go there first. In their book, ‘Words Can Change Your Brain’, Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, wrote that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress. Positive words can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. They propel the motivational centers of the brain into action. Using the right words can transform our reality.”[1]

Therefore, Charlie, let’s rephrase your answers to properly frame the narrative:

Instead of saying [I’m stuck in the belief] use [I’m stuck with the belief]. Rather than [I’m alienated] try [I’ve been alienated].

You’ll notice that by changing just one word, you have turned yourself from victim, to potential hero, and the motivational centers of your brain have now externalized a ‘Dragon’ with which we can all battle.

Feeling something ‘out there’ that was once inside us, or feeling alienated, signals loss. And when we lose something (think car keys), it is always best to retrace our steps.

WHO was it that stuck men with the belief that the female essence is outside them? And WHEN and HOW were men exiled from their state of wholeness?

It appears the initial blame falls on climate change, the horse, and a volcano eruption.

The Origin of Our Stories

Ancient Greece was the cradle of Western Civilization. It is from where most of us get our ideas…our stories. And it was on the island of Crete where the first European civilization, the Minoans, emerged around 3000 years ago.

A bit earlier, in the Eurasian steppes, a nomadic, cattle-herding culture was on the move. Its expansion coincided with the taming of the horse, and climatic changes that made the steppes cooler and drier. A large group of these Indo-Europeans settled in the acropolis site of Mycenae, two hundred miles from Crete.

These two groups, the Minoans and the Mycenaeans, had very different ways of looking at the world, so a clash was inevitable.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Minoan society was especially prosperous, peaceful, and happy. The prominence of women in palace frescoes and the numerous figurines of goddesses found on Cretan sites, have even prompted speculation that Minoan society continued to be a female-dominated culture of the kind that has sometimes been postulated as the indigenous society of prehistoric Europe.[2]

Hunter-gatherers first showed up in this area near the southeastern Greek seacoast about twenty thousand years before the present. Over the next twelve thousand years, the sea level gradually rose, and large game animals were no longer available, so hunter-gatherer populations came to depend increasingly on plants for their survival, and the problem became to develop a reliable supply. Whatever the ways through which knowledge of agriculture spread, Neolithic women had probably played the major role in inventing the technology and the tools needed to practice it, such as digging sticks and grinding stones. After all, women in hunter-gatherer societies had developed the greatest knowledge of plants because they were the principal gatherers of this food. In the earliest history of farming, women did most of the agricultural labor, while men continued to hunt.[3]

Meanwhile, over at Mycenae…

Inspired by the Greek poet Homer’s tale of the Trojan War, during the 1870’s archaeologists uncovered the Bronze Age site of Mycenae in the Peloponnese. The discovery of treasure-filled graves pointed to a warrior culture organized in independent settlements ruled by powerful commanders, who enriched themselves by conducting raiding expeditions near and far, as well as by dominating local farmers.[4]

Of Myce and Minos

What were the main differences between Mycenaeans (‘Myce’) and Minoans (‘Minos’)?

  1. They spoke different languages.
  2. Minos were by far more artistic.
  3. The Myce made burnt offerings to the gods; the Minos did not.
  4. Palaces in Myce were heavily fortified. Minoan were not.
  5. Weapons were prevalent in Myce, hardly any on Mino.
  6. Mino society granted women higher status (although it was not a matriarchy as some suggest). Myce, by contrast, were patriarchal.
  7. Goddesses played a greater role in Minoa as evidenced by the large number of female figurines. In contrast, the Indo-Europeans that settled in Mycenae, had brought with them their most powerful deity: Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, literally Sky Father (Zeus in Greek mythology).[5]

Then, a massive volcano eruption and tsunami, one that may have inspired the myth of Atlantis, spelled the end of the Minoan Civilization.

The Myce and their stories took over.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Perseus and Medusa.jpg

One common myth found in nearly all Indo-European mythologies is a battle ending with a hero or god (masculine) slaying a serpent or dragon (feminine).

The stories woven from these beings, as gods, goddesses, semi-mortals, heroes, and demons, constitute the myths and religious stories of humankind. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, postulated that myths about such archetypal entities constitute the ‘dreams’ of cultures, and that the stories and archetypes originate in the dreams and fantasies of individuals.[6]

Of all the Greek myths, the one that is most relevant to Charlie’s dilemma, is the Myth of Athena, Perseus, and Medusa.

If any Greek goddess conforms to the classical anima – or archetype for the feminine side of man present in the male unconscious – it is Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare.

Athena was born of the Sky Father’s (Zeus) head. As such, she is the anima of the high god, who is born directly from the male psyche without having to go through the intermediary and polluting experience of birth from a female body. She is spared the indignities of dependency, and emerges into myth as an adult: powerful, wise, and masculine. She protects all heroes without undermining their masculine power through sexual attraction. She is most certainly a male fantasy – no sidelong glance from her feminine eyes can drag a man into the murky, uncontrolled depths of his unconscious libido. Rather she protects men when at their most threatened – in battle.

However cerebral, Athena is deeply disturbed by Medusa, a beautiful mortal woman with lovely hair, who is seduced in Athena’s temple by Poseidon, Athena’s rival. Outraged, Athena curses Medusa, turning her beautiful hair into snakes. Thus, she turns Medusa into an underworld figure, and thereafter, should a man glance at Medusa, he turns to stone. Not satisfied with turning beautiful Medusa into a feared and ugly monster, Athena then sends Perseus to behead this Gorgon and bring back her head. To avoid looking at Medusa, Perseus sights her in Athena’s polished bronze shield, using it as a mirror.

Athena is consciousness (the mind, thought); Medusa is the unconscious (instinct, feeling, body). ‘Medusa’ means female wisdom, and traditionally, female wisdom means the wisdom of the body, instincts, emotions: the anima’s chaotic urge to life, and wisdom of a hidden purpose which seems to reflect a superior knowledge of life’s laws.

In teasing out multiple meanings of the Athena vs. Medusa myth, Medusa seems to be a maiden, demonized by the intellect’s rejection of feminine beauty and sexuality, and persecuted by the conscious intellect, with its a-sexual, non-instinctive ideals – the Apollonian, as opposed to the Dionysian principle. In the ancient world, Apollo represented the pagan logos, Dionysus the instincts.

Athena, therefore, is a female version of the Apollo principle – logos, mind, reason, intellect. These are the qualities of the sky, divorced from the world of instinct and non-rational human nature – without soul, hence Athena’s struggle with and ambivalent relationship to her own anima, Medusa.[7]

There you have it Charlie, the answer to your predicament:

Q: Who made you believe the female essence is outside you?

A: The Myce.

Q: How and when were you exiled from your state of wholeness?

A: By changing the story, about 3000 years ago.

The Path Back to Wholeness

The most relevant part of the Athena/Medusa story is not the ascendancy of the masculine (Myce) over the feminine principle (Mino), but the symbolism of Athena’s shield.

Using Athena’s bronze shield as a mirror turns Medusa into a mirror image of Athena – the looking glass image, or the opposite. The configuration of Athena with Medusa’s head on her shield suggests the combination, or reconciliation of the conscious with the unconscious, of intellect (or ego), with the feeling, intuitive, instinctive, hidden aspect of the psyche – of male essence with female essence.

Athena is the ultra-conscious, intellectual, rational sky goddess; her unconscious counterpart is the snaky-haired, sexually-charged goddess of the underworld – Athena’s thwarted, wounded anima, or soul.

If we accept that the sky gods of the nomadic Indo-European herders (the ‘Myce’), usurped and subjugated the pre-Indo European agricultural deities of Greece which were predominantly female (the ‘Minos’), then we might see Medusa as an agricultural goddess of fertility, and Athena’s appropriation of her head as an attempt to integrate and liberate her own unconscious, pre-patriarchal femininity. Athena, identified with her patriarchal, Indo-European father, tries to recapture what Zeus (the masculine principle) in her has denied and destroyed.[8]

Athena was looking for the same thing Charlie is.

Before we look for the path back to wholeness, I believe it is important that we realize the consequences of failing to do so. As Jesus warned in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

In ‘Madness at the Gates of the City’, author Barry Spector said that with the rise of patriarchy (the Myce worldview) our creative imagination polarized into the paranoid imagination and the predatory imagination. The first is based on irrational fear, the second on an insatiable drive for control. Both express a narcissism that objectifies and negates other perspectives.

British philosopher Alan Watts suggested that one of the most important tasks facing Westerners as individuals and Western culture as a whole, is to overcome the dualistic view that spirit (the Sky, Athena, Apollo, reason, ego) is opposed to matter (the Earth, Medusa, Dionysus, intuition, feeling, body). These ideas, Watts said, concern the interrelations of (a) nature and gender, (b) men and women, and (c) sexuality and spirituality.[9]

Watts directly addressed Charlie’s sense of alienation from the larger truth of his completeness as a human being:

“Man’s feeling that he is an isolated being in an alien environment is a basic illusion that leads to other illusions. The West, victim of this illusion, looks down on all things associated with nature, including all things feminine. This, has moral consequences in terms of how we treat or mistreat that which we mistakenly consider to be apart from us.”

The ecological price we are paying for this split is self-evident.

The problem is not men’s alone. As more and more women enter the workforce, and compete in the arena of corporate capitalism, they find that they must surrender – or become separated from – their natural feminine essence, and embody more masculine energy.

In her insightful blog, ‘The Dance of the Masculine & Feminine: How to Harmonize the Polarity of our Relationships’, Elizabeth Ziogas writes:

“Every human being is comprised of both masculine and feminine energies, although we have one dominant energy that is more our true essence. [However], many women have developed masculine shells in order to build their careers, generate income and manage their families and households. A relationship functions like its own organism: It will strive to create balance and homeostasis to ensure its survival. If one partner is embodying their masculine essence, the other partner will subconsciously begin to embody feminine energy to create polarity, attraction, ease, and balance within the relationship. Like batteries, a relationship needs both a positive (masculine) and negative (feminine) pole to generate electricity and create attraction. So when we, as women, are embodying more masculine energy, we will notice our men begin to embody more feminine energy and vice versa. As we choose to express our femininity fully, our partners will naturally exhibit more masculinity to maintain the polarity of the relationship. Our nurturing and empowering feminine presence will actually inspire our men to rise into their true masculine essence; catalyze the evolution of their purpose and leadership.”

Tao.jpg
Inseparable Opposites

Watts emphasized the ways in which, in the Daoist yin–yang model, masculine and feminine gender traits are two poles of the same reality. Seen this way, they can be integrated in a harmonious and balanced relationship. To say that opposites are polar is to say much more than that they are far apart; it is to say that they are related and joined—that they are the terms, ends, or extremities of a single whole. Polar opposites are therefore inseparable opposites.[10]

Here, I want to remind Charlie of the term he used in the second part of his answer: “I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being.” You did not say “completeness as a man”.

When old narratives no longer make sense, we need to re-awaken our creative imagination to write new stories, or remember forgotten ones.

“Soul-making”, Spector says, “involves re-dreaming and re-framing our lives as healing fictions. Facts can’t change, but we can change their meaning through artful telling, so that we live not from our wounds, but with them. Cultures with living myths encourage infinite expressions of creativity. In a world that devalues the spiritual, many forget how to think mythologically and are drawn to its toxic mimic, addiction. By ritually enacting our myths, we may be able to keep ourselves from acting them out literally.”

In your case, Charlie, objectifying women is a literal acting-out of the Athena/Medusa myth. You are sending your Perseus, or your male archetype of the slaying hero, to cut-off Medusa’s head, instead of ritually and symbolically re-integrating her female wisdom and skills you feel you have lost. You are having your Myce overpower your Mino, thereby perpetuating an old, destructive story.

A Modern-Day Argument for Integration

robot army.jpg
No Men Required

Let’s go back about twelve thousand years to the time when climatic changes in Neolithic Greece were seriously impacting the availability of large game animals to hunt, and calling forth the gathering, ‘Earth’ wisdom of women. This scenario – in which drastic changes in the environment call for adaptation and new survival skills – is very much like the one we are experiencing today. In its 2016 report, ‘The Future of Jobs and Skills’, the World Economic Forum warned:

“Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labor productivity to widening skills gaps.”

There are overarching shifts poised to change the nature of work itself over the next decade,” says Devin Fidler, research director at Institute for the Future. “They include a demand for new skills and strategies that could help people thrive in future work environments. It’s going to take a long time for robots to be good at soft skills, like social and emotional intelligence, and cross-cultural competency, which are hugely valuable in a world where you or I could go and be working with somebody in the Philippines within an hour. Virtual collaboration itself is really useful in that environment as well.

Social and Emotional Intelligence, Cross-cultural competency, Collaboration: all preponderantly feminine, or right-brained skills.

Therefore, Charlie, if my psycho-spiritual argument for balance doesn’t convince you, consider that the only way you’ll survive in the 21st Century, will be to recover and activate the right-brained power and wisdom you think you have lost.


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[1] Borchard, Therese J. ‘Words Can Change Your Brain’ 11.30.13 https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/30/words-can-change-your-brain/

[2] Martin, Thomas. Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Second Edition. Yale University Press 2013.

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Amemiya, Takeshi. Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece. Routledge, Mar 12, 2007.

[6] Relke, Joan. (2007) The Archetypal Female in Mythology and Religion: The Anima and the Mother. Retrieved from https://ejop.psychopen.eu/article/view/389.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] Levering, Miriam. ‘Alan Watts on Nature, Gender, and Sexuality: A Contemporary View. 2012 State University of New York.

[10] ibid.

Why Do Men Objectify Women? (Part I)

Objectification

BECAUSE THEY’RE PIGS!

I could leave it here, effortlessly accepting this dismissive (even if sometimes deserved) verdict by the extremes of Feminism; a movement whose once rightful outrage has been co-opted by a brittle ideology thundered by a new tribe of shrill Amazons who seem bent on nothing less than the extermination of the male gender.

Or,

I could heed the words of Tim Kreider who said that:

“One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfaction of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.”

I choose to understand, no matter how hard, messy, and time-consuming.

Which reminds me…if you’re impatiently looking around this article to figure out how many minutes this post will take to read, or furtively looking at the tyrant clock (there, at the bottom-right of your screen) let me save you precious time, politely escort you out the door, and point you towards the many ‘How-to’s’ and ‘Listicles’ out there; the ones that keep promising – in 1-2-3 easy steps – to make you instantly wiser, happier, sexier, brawnier, or brainier.

I don’t do ‘instant’ anything, be it coffee, oatmeal, sex, or wisdom.

To understand (from Old English understandan: “to stand in the midst of”), we must listen. But prior, we must have the boldness and humility to unburden ourselves from our presuppositions and prejudices.

We also need time: ‘Heart-full’ time.

Ready?

I’m standing by an open fire, somewhere deep in a jungle, in the midst of a group of young men we call ‘Millennials’, between the ages of 20-35.

I ask them: Why Do Men Objectify Women?”

Sit by my side now, and listen carefully to what they have to say. These are, by the way, the voices of real individuals whom I’ve listened to in cyberspace. Only their names are made-up:

JOE: “Men bond around it.”

NICK: “I’m avoiding something…an avoidance of rejection. Intimacy takes work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an “easy” road out of the potential of rejections.”

TYRONE: “It keeps me safe from [the] treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability.”

MIKE: “Because I feel a hole in me and I want to fill that hole.”

ALEX: “It happens almost always when I have stuff to feel, deep down, that I simply don’t want to feel. If I am feeling some sort of unrest, I will seek to get something from ‘Her’: to ‘suck her beauty’ in some way, and that will somehow feed me/nourish me.”

CHARLIE: “I’m stuck in the belief that the feminine essence is outside of myself. I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being.”

ETHAN: “When I used porn semi-frequently, I was doing so whenever I was disconnected from myself. Because I feel disconnected, less present, less in my heart, and less in my body.”

ADAM: “To avoid the terror of annihilation…of being reabsorbed back into the feminine.

HENRY: “For guys who have very little ability to self-reflect, or limited self-awareness, [we] live seeing the entire world as object.”

ARTURO: “The women I typically objectify are the hardest ones for me to understand completely. The thing I notice, is how easily such a mysterious woman can [match] the ideal partner that I subconsciously created as a child.

Silence…crickets…frogs…

Now look deeply into their eyes, and dare to call them ‘Pigs’.

They are disoriented, that’s all, which is something I touched on in an earlier blog post.

In summary:

1. Men objectify women to bond with other men.

2. They do it to avoid rejection, intimacy, and vulnerability.

3. To fill psychic holes.

4. As a way to reject, or deny, their innermost feelings.

5. It often occurs when they are disconnected from their sensuous selves.

6. Or because they’re afraid of being absorbed by – and are out of touch with – the feminine.

7. Because they lack self-awareness.

8. And because the objectified female reflects an imprinted, mysterious archetype in their beings.

How true, what Sam Keen said:

“The greatest underdeveloped nation in the world lies within the psyches of men.”

Grab your machete, strap on your headlamp, and follow me. We’ll attempt to slash our way through the jungle thicket of these young men’s muddle and darkest yearnings.

For the record, let me state that my last name is not followed by acronyms, such as MD., PhD, PsyaD, PsyD. Like most of you, I’m simply an ordinary human being – confused, contradictory, conflicted, flawed, failed, sometimes, I’ve been told, lovable – who just happens to have the time, curiosity, and inclination to grapple with what I consider some of the most fundamental questions that define us as human beings.

“If during the next million generations there is but one human being who will not cease to inquire into the nature of his fate, even while it strips and bludgeons him, some day we shall read the riddle of the universe.” – Rebecca West

I’m striving to read the riddle.

I’m also doing this for a friend, called Theo. He’s troubled, and has asked me to help him grapple with his own love and existential tumult.

One last thing before we head-in: I take issue with the insistence of defining Masculinity solely in terms of how men should relate to women. Not only is it condescending, but doesn’t advance anyone’s cause. It’s as narrow-minded as men defining Femininity on the shallow ground of physical attractiveness or sexual allure.

So…

Male Bonding

JOE: Men bond around it.” 

Our human genus led a nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence during ninety-nine percent of the time we’ve been on Earth. Such life, I imagine, offered men the needed space to let-off steam, prove their worth and mettle, and refine their cooperation and communication skills. Plenty of Bromance in the Wild.

All that has changed.

Spaces for men to bond with each other (I’ll simplify here for the sake of time) seem now limited to either (a) huddling around a screen to vicariously live out their fantasies through sports, or through reality shows in which tough guys get to do the ‘wild’ things men yearn, but most can no longer do themselves, (b) crowding around a beer keg, or (c) joining a gang, or the armed forces. Not particularly conducive to sincere, expressive, and meaningful conversations, nor to establish deep connections between men. What ends up happening is that they become emotional stutterers, as Sam Keen wrote in Fire in the Belly, using sexual or [violent] language to express their desire for communion.

“Friendship among men is the most modest and rugged of the modes of love,” Keen added. “Many American men, afraid of close friendships with other men, will become overdependent on women to fulfill their need for intimacy. But every single relationship that is expected to fulfill every need will become claustrophobic, cloying, and swampy.”

I don’t yet have a clear solution for more meaningful ways for men to bond, other than calling for more communal life and less individualism – more male drum circles, fire pits, wilderness retreats, and, most critically, to call for the return of our Wise Old Men, who can teach Joe how to truly bond with his mates, not by objectifying women, but by ‘subjectifying’ himself.

Rejection

NICK: “I’m avoiding something…an avoidance of rejection. Intimacy takes work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an ‘easy’ road out of the potential of rejections.” 

I came of age during a time when, at parties, boys stood pressed against one wall of the dance floor, while girls sat – primly on the opposite side – yawning and checking their nails, completely ignoring our jitters. There were no ‘loose girls’ crossing that seemingly endless floor to ask any of us out to dance (or grind). Most often, we struck-out. Boy, it hurt. I was stung by every painful and embarrassing rejection, but now realize how fortunate I was. Because, if I really wanted to get the girl, I had to keep crossing that scary floor, keep getting rejected, gaining more and more courage with every attempt, perfecting my courtship skills until I finally got it right. Which I did.

Here’s the thing Nick: The ‘easy road’ is really a path to degradation – the degradation of your nobility as a man. Yes, intimacy takes work (of the good kind, mind you), and courage, and commitment, but consider their opposites: sloth, cowardice, and indecisiveness = not attractive.

I’ve written about this before, so won’t dwell.

Vulnerability

TYRONE: “It keeps me safe from [the] treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability.”

From both Nick’s and Tyrone’s ‘easy vs treacherous road’ comments, it appears to me we’ve done a grave disservice to Millennials by insisting on paving for them a safe and frictionless road to the land of plenty and perpetual happiness; a road on which we protectively run by their sides (with sunscreen, trophies, and water of course) drip-feeding them constant recognition and reaffirmation of their personality and worth.

Memorize this, Tyrone.

“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” – Martha Graham

And what of ‘Vulnerability’?

To be invulnerable requires that we create a ‘safe’ distance between ourselves and the world, so it can’t touch us. But wouldn’t this so-called, safe distance, just exacerbate the disconnect Ethan blames for his occasional forays into pornography?

I agree with Todd May, philosophy professor at Clemson University, who suspects that most of us want to feel caught up in the world. “We want to feel gripped by what we do and those we care about. The price of this involvement is our vulnerability. We must stand prepared to feel the loss of what we care about, because that is part of what it means to care. Caring requires desiring for the sake of others, which in an uncertain world entails that that desiring can be frustrated.”

No pain, no gain, I guess is what he’s saying, and, what Zat Rana means by:

“The risk of vulnerability is balanced by the reward of ecstasy.”

Filling Holes

MIKE: “Because I feel a hole in me and I want to fill that hole.” 

We all have them Mike, to one degree or another. I should know; my psyche looks like a block of Swiss Cheese. In fact, I’ve discovered that even those whose last names trail acronyms like tin cans dragged by a newlywed car, are as pockmarked as the Moon. So chill, you’re not alone. But rather than allowing this recognition to cause you despair, you should learn to accept it as the gift of humility and understanding.

A good man does not have empathy, Keen argued. He is emphatic. “Since he has given up the illusion that he is self-contained, he naturally flows out to others. The result of coming to know yourself – to know the wounds of shame and guilt, the disappointments of love, the unfulfilled dreams – is that you recognize the same in others.

The question Mike, is whether you recognize the holes in your psyche.

Have you taken the time to confront your shadows?

“Emotions that have not been properly avowed have a pernicious habit of wreaking havoc across our personalities.” – Alan de Botton, creator of the Book of Life

Botton goes on to say that emotions that remain disavowed and uninterpreted, manifest themselves as powerful, directionless anxiety. “Under their sway, we may feel a compulsive need to remain busy, fear spending any time on our own, or cling to activities that ensure we don’t meet what scares us head on.”

And if you do recognize the holes within you, what are you filling them with: Pornography? Easy-sex? Opioids? Alcohol? Compulsive eating or exercise? Video games? Objectification of women?

These are not of the same material, or essence, that was first dug out, causing the holes in the first place.

Mike, if one of your holes was perhaps caused by your absent father, who maybe never told you what kind of problems he wrestled with as a young man, what he felt, what it meant to him to be a man, leaving it up to you to figure it all out by yourself, that hole, my friend, cannot be filled with any material other than ‘father-stuff’. What do I mean? That you either return to your Father’s Castle to wrestle that guidance from him, or seek a surrogate – a Mentor, Hero, Author, Philosopher – any Man you admire and respect, and spend soulful time with him, scraping the right stuff off his experience and wisdom to fill that hole.

I agree that a big part of the problem today, as Robert Bly suggested, is that we have stripped the poetry away from our suffering, and replaced it with clinical names like anxiety, depression, stress, burnout. Casting our suffering in such sterilized, cold light might make pharmaceutical companies rich, but it leaves us numb and helpless, which might explain why they do it.

I much rather consider my suffering as a great battlefield, full of the material and symbols of mythology, and be like St. George – noble, valiant, fierce – as I too, battle my Demons and Dragons. That – not Prozac or Xanax – lights a fire in my belly, or under my butt, if you prefer.

Avoidance or Denial

ALEX: “[Objectification] happens almost always when I have stuff to feel, deep down, that I simply don’t want to feel. If I am feeling some sort of unrest, I will seek to get something from ‘Her’: to ‘suck her beauty’ in some way, and that will somehow feed me/nourish me.

I’ll repeat Keen’s earlier words (here paraphrased): “Men who are afraid of close friendships with other men will predictably become overdependent on women to fulfill their need for intimacy. But, every single relationship that is expected to fulfill every need, will become claustrophobic, cloying, and swampy.”

Anthropophagy and Vampirism are not sexy either.

Here’s the rub Alex. Your unrest will still be there the morning after you’ve devoured Her beautiful flesh and sucked her blood. The Dragon will keep flaming deep inside you, until you clothe yourself in armor, trade your joystick for a sword, mount your steed, and, either tame it, or vanquish it.

Repressing, or denying our grief, not only is fruitless, but blunts our capacity to experience joy. We might look tough on the outside, but remain empty within.


Let’s rest and camp here. We’ll continue slashing our way through the thicket in two weeks’ time, when we’ll enter even deeper into the jungle.

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Why Is Monogamy So Damn Difficult?

women-your-boyfriend-wants-752x440

In Chapter 4 of Theo’s journey, an opportunity presents itself for a one-night stand. He’s at a beachside bar in Mexico – the music pulses, a warm breeze flows, tequila shots and bared flesh abound. Theo is engulfed by an intoxicating cloud of ‘Opium’ worn by an alluring late twenties noirette sitting next to him. She’s celebrating her upcoming wedding with wild abandon in tropical paradise. Theo’s girlfriend is three-thousand miles away. No one would find out.

So difficult.

Or as G.K. Chesterton pronounced:

“The idea of monogamy hasn’t so much been tried and found wanting, as found difficult and left untried.”

Earth is about 4.5 Billion years old. Sex only emerged 1.2 Billion years ago. If we divide Earth’s current age into twenty-four hours, it was not until six hours before midnight that we stumbled upon sex. No wonder we are still mystified by it. It is of recent “invention”.

To our confusion, let’s add that monogamy is not found in any social, group-living primate. Primates aside, only about three percent of mammals, and one-in-ten thousand invertebrate species can be considered monogamous. Birds are different: ninety percent are monogamous, or so scientists affirmed, until confronted with new, contradictory research results. Okay, whatever, we’re not birds anyway, last I checked. We are, as the authors of ‘Sex at Dawn’ suggest, the randy descendants of hypersexual ancestors.

To put it somewhat more elegantly: We are courtship and desire machines.

Nothing wrong with this, unless we insist on ignoring or repressing it, and so continue witnessing the failure of one-in-two marriages, or the tragic toll on young boys exacted by the mandate of clerical celibacy for those married to the Church.

Sex is one of life’s greatest pleasures

Do men cheat more than women?

Not anymore, according to a recent study by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and confirmed by the National Opinion Research Center. They’re just more discreet and discriminating.

I am convinced that a woman’s libido is as potent, if not more so than men’s. The only difference is that theirs is more like the appetite of a gourmand: they don’t yearn to eat just to stop the hunger, but look instead for unique satisfactions presented in imaginative ways. By this, guys, I do not mean twisting yourself into a pretzel while attempting to impress your wives or girlfriends with the sexual positions you half-memorized from that worn copy of the Kama Sutra. That will only strain your back. She longs not for your acrobatics, but your inventiveness.

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source.” – Anaïs Nin

Let’s be honest: sex is one of life’s greatest pleasures; it is evolution’s most ingenious hat trick. You wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t.

Here, I make no distinction between a full-fledged affair, and, say, a seemingly harmless, yet sexually-charged text-message exchange. Both hurt.

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus proclaimed that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully, has already committed adultery with her in his heart, and yet, he once challenged those that were about to stone an adulterous woman, by saying: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” They all dropped their stones and walked away. So before anyone hurls stones at my inbox, be sure you’re free from all transgression.

If, on the other hand, you are as culpable as the rest of us, drop your stone, and let’s try to figure this out together.

The Origins of Monogamy

“When marriage was an economic enterprise, infidelity threatened our economic security. But now that marriage is a romantic arrangement, infidelity threatens our emotional security. It shatters the grand ambition of love,” writes author and psychotherapist, Esther Perel.

“Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, and so, too, the taboo against it,” she continues. “In fact, infidelity has a tenacity that marriage can only envy, so much so, that this is the only commandment that is repeated twice in the Bible: once for doing it, and once just for thinking about it. So how do we reconcile what is universally forbidden, yet universally practiced?”

We’re back to the eons-old conflict between our desires and conventions; between Nature and Civilization.

Monogamy is a boon for Omega males. “It is a great democratizing institution,” evolutionary biologist David Barash asserts, “enabling men to have a wife and a chance at a family, the great majority of whom would otherwise be left out.  The hypothesis thus goes that Western society (in particular) inculcated monogamy as a trade-off, whereby powerful men essentially agreed to forego polygyny – in which a man has more than one wife – in return for a degree of social peace and harmony. Monogamy is part of our egalitarian ethos.”

The Tenth Commandment does not say “Thou shall not covet another woman.” It is specifically concerned with protecting the rights of one’s neighbor, by keeping gallivanting men away from other men’s wives.” (Barash & Lipton).

Fidelity then, favors “weak” men, property rights, mothers and children. Civilization wins.

In ‘The Myth of Monogamy’, authors Barash and Lipton propose that even if monogamy isn’t necessary for civilization, it is clear that public adherence to monogamous ideals is necessary for success and survival in current Western civilization.

But it still doesn’t fully explain why we cheat (in the broadest sense), nor how, or if, to stop.

So What’s Really Behind Cheating?

In his book, ‘Love in the Western World’, Denis de Rougemont challenges: “If the breakdown of marriage has been simply due to the attractiveness of the forbidden, it still remains to be seen why we hanker for unhappiness, and what notion of love this hankering must hint at.

“Affairs are an act of betrayal, and they are also an expression of longing and loss. At the heart of an affair, you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves, or an attempt to bring back vitality in the face of loss and tragedy.” (Perel).

Infidelity is not about sex. At least not so for humans. It is more about longing and loss.

In his journey, Theo begins to realize what women long for:

“To be listened to, not simply heard; to be held in the gaze of desire. Not just looked at, or checked out, but seen, as with the halting and eager attention of a blind man. They don’t want our “rent”, as the poet Jane Cooper wrote, but the radiance of our attention. Not a roof, but a field of stars.”

It is the longing of any woman to not have her sensuality become invisible under the stack of dishes or mounds of dirty laundry.

For men, especially after our twenties, I believe it is more about loss – the loss of our magnetic power of seduction. We’ll do almost anything to confirm we still have it, and many will go as far as wrecking their/other marriages or relationships – even their lives – in the process.

But are men losing it as they age, or are they squandering it? Might we not simply be expending all our erotic energy, our Eros, which at root means to love and desire ardently, in feverish pursuit of money, career, fame, and power, having little left when we return home from work?

“Our erotic imagination is an exuberant expression of our aliveness” – Esther Perel

But if we feel dead inside – dull, inauthentic, and devoid of purpose – what passion can we possibly bring to our relationships?

What Turns You On?

For her research, Perel traveled across different countries and cultures, asking one question:

“When do you find yourself most drawn to your partner?”

Across cultures, religions, and genders, there was a striking commonality in the answers:

  1. I am most drawn to my partner when she/he is away, when we are apart, when we reunite, basically, when I get back in touch with my ability to imagine myself with my partner. When my imagination comes back in the picture, and can root that imagination in absence and longing.
  2. When he or she is in his element. When she is doing something she is passionate about. When I see him hold court. When she is radiant and confident.
  3. When I look at my partner from a safe distance – not too close or far – that she/he once again becomes somewhat mysterious, somewhat elusive. Between this space – between me and the other – lies the erotic élan (the vital force or impulse of life). Marcel Proust said that the mystery is not about traveling to new places but looking with new eyes. In this distance, there is no neediness. There is no caretaking in desire. Neediness is a powerful anti-aphrodisiac.
  4. When I am surprised, when we laugh together, when there is novelty, but not novelty in the sense of new positions, or places, but in the new aspects of yourself that you bring out, because sex is not something you do but a place to which you go. It is a space you enter.

Note how there’s no mention of “hot body”, “big-rack”, or “six-pack”.

Lovemaking begins long before consummation. It is sensuous, not just physical, and its sublimity is reached only between two vibrant selves; two lovers meeting in the fullness of their being.

Inviting the Shadow Lover

In ‘Civilization and its Discontents’, Freud said that civilization is built on the repression of the instincts. Barash and Lipton suggest that perhaps, we should adjust our ideals of monogamy to accord with human inclinations. That instead of taking monogamy as the norm, and thus being “shocked” by adultery, we should see infidelity as the baseline condition, whereupon we might be free to examine monogamy, dispassionately, for the rarity that it is.

How do we examine it?

In ‘Mating in Captivity’, Perel challenges us to “Invite the Shadow”. Some couples, she reports, choose not to ignore the lure of the forbidden, they subvert its power by inviting it in. They have chosen to acknowledge the possibility of the third: the recognition that our partner has his or her own sexuality, replete with fantasies and desires that are not necessarily about us. When we validate one another’s freedom within the relationship, we’re less inclined to search for it elsewhere.

I think what she is suggesting, is that we have the courage to share our deepest longings and fears of loss with our partners, before a transgression takes place.

Just Say No

Since Monogamy is not natural, it is not easy, the ‘Myth of Monogamy’ concludes.

“But perhaps it is precisely when – and because – the flesh is weak, that the spirit ought to rise to the occasion.

The crowning glory of Homo Sapiens is its huge brain. This remarkable organ gives us the ability to reflect on our inclinations and decide to act contrary to them [as hard as I know it is].

There may be no way to affirm one’s humanity as effectively as by saying ‘no’.

By establishing a durable, long-term relationship with someone who not only cares, but also shares an expanding history, who understands our strengths, weaknesses, joys, and despairs, the successful monogamist assures himself and herself a companion for life, long after the children (if any) have grown, when work is no longer an option, when even sex may be mostly a memory.”

What’s the alternative? To jump from one bed to another; one lover to the next, sating our body’s hunger, perhaps, but starving our souls.

Leave that to the animals.

“Animals have sex; eroticism is exclusively human. It is sexuality transformed by human imagination.” – Octavio Paz


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Advice to Young Men: Try Not to Be This Cute

Axolotl

Meet the Axolotl, a Mexican Salamander.

For a while, I have been searching for the most fitting totemic animal for the group of young men swelling the ranks of a movement, loosely referred to as Men Going their Own Way (MGTOW).

The MGTOW is a pseudonymous online community supported by websites and social media presences cautioning men against romantic relationships with women, especially marriage[1]. The community is part of what is more broadly termed the Manosphere, a place, author Stephen Marche describes as one where mostly feral boys wander the digital ruins of exploded masculinity, craving the tiniest crumb of self-confidence and fellow-feeling.

How appropriate to have found MGTOW’s totemic animal in a Mexican swamp.

The Axolotl is a salamander exhibiting the phenomenon known as neoteny, or retention of juvenile features in the adult animal. Ordinarily, amphibians undergo metamorphosis from egg to larva, and finally to adult form. The Axolotl remains in its larval form throughout its life. It never grows up. It is the Peter Pan of amphibians.

I’m fascinated with Nahualli, which is Aztec for “shadow soul” or  “animal double”.

If you had been born a Mexica during the time of the Aztec empire, a priest would have attended you on the fourth day of your life. The purpose was for the priest to see, bind, and announce your relationship with your animal double – your Nahualli. It was perhaps, the most important ritual in the life of a Mexica. Traditionally, the Nahualli taught the youth its secrets, skills, and abilities. The bravest and most skilled of the young warriors, for instance, were members of the elite Jaguar and Eagle groups. The Jaguar Knights were the Aztec version of the Japanese ninja – shadow warriors who used stealth and the cover of darkness to hunt and overcome their enemies, much like their namesake, the jaguar. The Eagle Knights operated in daylight hours, attacking with swiftness and sheer ferocity, swooping-in to overwhelm and overcome their enemies, as the eagle conquers its prey.[2]

Let me first declare my biases. I have two daughters, and two sisters. As for the former, no young man will ever meet all my expectations. I recognize this as simply irrational and arrogant…a “father-thing”. For the latter, no man has ever met theirs, or even, I’d venture, their own. I’m talking here about the basics: respect, care, attention, commitment.

I am also ambivalent about traditional marriage, having failed on my first – and “last” try. Like the writer Jack London, I much prefer a “Mate-Woman” than a “Mother-Woman” by my side.

Finally, I resonate with, and share the core tenets of the MGTOW: Self-ownership, Sovereignty, and Self-Definition of what it is to be a man. But from reading many of the comments posted on the movement’s forum, it appears most are missing the point. MGTOW’s principles and ideals are now deafened by the angry burps of thousands of Axolotls.

I know relationships are messy, and fraught with risk. They often crack us open, exposing our vulnerabilities, and require that we constantly bring forth our better selves. And I get it. Sex is now cheap and plentiful, and yes, there is bias against men in family courts…extreme feminism is a major turnoff. Safer then to spend your free time in onanistic bouts between the latest installment of ‘Final Fantasy’ or ‘Tetris’.  Or right-swiping Bethany’s photo, who is more than willing to hook-up with you at no cost, and no strings attached.

But here’s the rub. I believe there is a hidden cost, and it comes in the form of your diminished, or deformed nobility as a man (In the Aztec language, the Axolotl is connected to the God of Deformations).

Let me illustrate this cost by paraphrasing an allegory I once heard on a recorded lecture by the evolutionary cosmologist, Brian Swimme:

Imagine a wide, open prairie. A red-tailed hawk circles above, scanning the field in search for his next meal. Natural selection has developed incredible speed in the hawk, and its eyesight is eight times more powerful than the sharpest human eye. A truly magnificent, noble creature! He spots a mouse. Easy lunch, one would think. But the genius of natural selection has caused mice to be extremely agile and elusive. An exciting chase is set to begin.

Now, let’s say we control the levers of nature, and decide to perform our own natural selection experiment by slowing down the mouse a bit and changing its color from camouflage gray-brown, to neon yellow. Naturally, the need for the hawk’s great speed and keen eyesight will concurrently diminish. Let’s drop the mouse’s speed even further so that the hawk no longer needs to fly overhead, but simply give chase to the mouse on solid ground.

What will happen if we continue this experiment for the “benefit” of the hawk; if we slow the mouse’s speed to a bare crawl?

At the end, the once-majestic hawk would probably lose its wings and feathers, be almost blind, and simply lie on the ground waiting for the mouse to crawl into his gaping beak. Of course, the unintended consequences of our experiment, is that the hawk, in its enfeebled state, would itself become easy prey.

What’s the point, and what does it have to do with you, burping Axolotls?

You see, by effortlessly getting what he wants, the hawk enters a path of degradation, where all its beauty and nobility is rendered superfluous. The hawk’s truest desire is for the mouse to live. Deeply embedded in ‘Hawk’ is the desire for the speed and stealth of ‘Mouse’.

Deeply embedded in ‘Woman’ is the desire for your nobility, expressed by your courtship, seductive cunning, romantic ingenuity, erotic imagination, and your gallantry. Whether you realize it or not, deeply embedded in You, is the desire for women’s elusiveness.

Axolotls might be cute, but Hawks are fierce and noble. Let that be your totemic animal instead, and go find yourself a Mate-Woman, just like Suleiman the Magnificent found in Roxelane, despite the many willing ‘Bethanys’ in his harem.


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[1] Wikipedia contributors. “Men Going Their Own Way.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Oct. 2017. Web.

[2] Rainieri, Caelum and Andersen, Ivory. Illustrated by Raphael Montoliu. “The Nahualli Animal Oracle”. Bear and Company, New York, 2003.