Everyone would agree that the relationship between men and women is all-important, not just in daily life but to the well-being of a society. In my first post I raised the troubling wedge that is being driven between the two sexes. My focus was on scientific fads — almost totally unsupported by experimental data — for assigning gender differences to genes and brain activity. On the technical side we are led to believe that behavior is determined by automatic processes, largely unconscious, that make us who we are. This kind of determinism is very bad thinking. It robs us of free choice, but just as importantly, it leads to the belief that men are very different from women, with some kind of deterministic mechanism as the cause.
In pop culture the belief in women being from Venus and men from Mars seemed harmless enough. It was even a little beneficial, because the two sexes were advised to start looking at how each viewed life: men needed to see that women want to express their feelings, while women needed to be patient with men’s desire to fix a problem rather than feeling what it was about. Yet I detect that the beneficial side isn’t making much headway, while the notion that “they think differently from us” has become a staple kind of bias. What bothers me is that the real goal of relationship is being undermined, and that goal is a bond that makes a man and woman much more than two people who happen to connect. On the feminine side, timeless values of nurturing, inspiration, beauty, eroticism, and intuition exist not just as aspects of a woman’s psyche — I would even say her soul — but as the lessons that men are here to learn from them.
Regretfully, feminine role models today focus on empowerment, which comes down to playing a man’s game in a man’s world. We seem to be abandoning femininity in its deepest spiritual sense. Yet the timeless values cannot be evaded or hidden for long. They will find a way to emerge once more and then to evolve. It isn’t viable to ask a woman to step back into old roles that required subjugation. Equality is the ideal, but an equality where the spiritual side of women (often known as the eternal feminine, but in India called Shakti, after the consort of Shiva) fully blossoms. Shakti comes through in everyone’s life. It is the force that takes abstract possibilities and turns them into living, breathing reality. The reason we have a special, inviolate love for our mothers is that they embody the side of Shakti that makes nurturing love real. The reason that the female nude has dominated art for centuries is that it embodies beauty and eroticism.
This isn’t an issue that needs a soapbox or even more poetic praise. Instead, men need to become wise about women, and that can only happen when women value themselves. The spiritual goal of both sexes is to discover their true self, which blends Shiva and Shakti, the deep potential that gives rise to all the qualities of masculinity and femininity. So what kind of man has become wise about women?
- Someone who values making love, not just reaching orgasm.
- Someone who has learned to care for others, not simply take care of them as a provider.
- Someone whose masculine strength is kept in quiet reserve, not broadcast as boasting, dominating, and showing aggression.
- Someone who makes decisions based on intuition.
- Someone who realizes that reason is made stronger by emotions, not weaker.
It’s probably the last point that could best serve to start the needed changes between the sexes. It has turned into a coarse social stereotype that emotions are not a “guy thing.” This constricted view of masculinity is false to begin with. The most revered spiritual figures, from Buddha and Jesus to Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi, all had strong feminine sides marked by compassion and other tender emotions such as mercy and love of humanity. Is it really surprising that our past leaders rode recklessly to war and in the aftermath of the disaster they created showed no compassion for the innocent victims, killed by the tens of thousands in Iraq and now with mounting deaths in Afghanistan? Winston Churchill, a model of doughty courage and total refusal to surrender, went among the common people in world War II openly weeping when he saw dreadful sights during the Blitz, and observers tell us he was unashamed by his tears.
Social conditioning is hard to change, I know. Peer pressure is a dominant force in creating the sexual stereotypes we live with. To evolve beyond them takes one thing: self-awareness. When you as a man realize the profound value of the feminine, only then can you awaken it in your relationships and in yourself. It’s humbling for the average man to look upon his wife or partner as his spiritual teacher, but in the most honest relationships, both are teachers. I’d like to say more about how this works on an everyday basis in the next post.
(To be cont.)
This is a three part series published by The San Francisco Chronicle