Looking for Valentinaville….

So far, my number one, all-time most popular blog post on Transition Times has been my 2012 Valentine’s Day post, “There’s More to Love than Cupid and His Arrows,” which was read by nearly 30,000 people worldwide in the past year.

In that post, I reflected on how the Valentine’s Day celebration of love could and should extend to more than just romantic love—we should celebrate family love, I said, the kind of love that runs “like molten gold at the core of a happy family like mine.”

A year later, and still without a romantic attachment this Valentine’s Day, I feel no different—but my thoughts on this issue are more defined.

marilyn-monroe-diamonds-gentlemen-prefer-blondes-blonde-movieIn American culture, and I am sure in many other cultures around the world, it is viewed as a shortcoming to be without a romantic partner.

To be alone, without a significant other on Valentine’s Day, is a source of shame.

Well to hell with that, especially for mature women!

I see so many women my age, midlife or older, without partners.

Is this just an American phenomenon?  I wish my non-American friends would chime in and let me know.

Here in the States, the divorce rate is astronomical, and we seem to have a surfeit of single women—either the 30- to 40-something put-career-first-and-never-married cohort, or the 40- to 50-something just-couldn’t-take-it-anymore divorced group.

And then at the upper edge of the age scale, there are the 70-something widows, too.

For men in all of these age groups, there are plenty of women to choose from.

After all, it’s not unusual for a man of 60 to take up with a woman 20 years his junior.

But when was the last time you heard of a woman of 60 partnering with a 40-year-old man?

For heterosexual women, the field narrows considerably as we age.

And the risks grow.  Why would I, as a 50-year-old, really want to take up with a man twenty years my senior?

If I were to enter the dating market now, I’d be lucky to find a guy my age to partner with.  Most guys my age are looking for younger women, and they don’t seem to have any trouble finding a match.

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, I’d like to affirm the fact that women don’t need romantic love to be happy.

I’d like to suggest that women be more appreciative of the love and support we get from each other, and from all kinds of non-romantic attachments.

In the old days, women who sought to avoid marriage ensconced themselves in nunneries, and had a pretty good life there (check out the life of Sor Juana for an example).

I am wondering if today we need a modern form of the nunnery, a place where women of a certain age could go to live full, empowered, mutually supportive lives free from the pressure of romantic attachments.

Maybe we should found such an institution, and call it Valentinaville.  Just for us.

Why waste away in Margaritaville when we can be happy in Valentinaville?

Women in Combat: Honoring the Androgynous in Human Nature

U.S. Marine Corps soldier

U.S. Marine Corps soldier

Hearing that the U.S. military is finally going to allow women in combat is something akin to hearing that the Berlin Wall came down.  Something that had seemed so fixed and immovable is all of a sudden just…not…there.

The military led the way in racial integration back in the 1970s, and it is finally showing its willingness to get with the times and become a leader on gender equality as well.

That’s good!

So why don’t I feel like celebrating?

It’s true that women were already on the frontlines, doing dangerous work without the training or the equipment, and, importantly, without earning the credit.

And it’s no secret that the quickest way to advance in the military is to be recognized as a brilliant combat veteran.

Women who never officially saw combat were always held back at promotion time.

So in that regard, this is going to be very positive change that will help put many more fine women soldiers into the promotion pipeline.

In terms of wanting to do everything possible to generally increase women’s equality of opportunity and compensation, the broad example of the military, with its huge payroll, will make a difference.

So why am I feeling ambivalent?

I guess this just feels like one more example of women joining the male-dominated status quo and living up to patriarchal models and expectations, rather than women being able to bring our own different-but-equal perspectives to bear on the playing field.

Does “equality” mean that women have to conform to the social structures into which we were born and bred, which have always been, at least as far as any of us can remember, male-dominated?

This question has been the subject of extensive, impassioned debate among feminists over the past 20 years or so, ever since I entered the fray in the late 1980s.

Are women “essentially” different from men, or are we all humans, the same inside, just with different bodily accessories?

It is dangerous, assert many feminists, to argue that there is something essentially different about men and women, especially if you want to argue that men are essentially more aggressive and competitive, while women are essentially more nurturing and collaborative.

To assert this puts us just one step away from saying that women make better teachers and nurses and mothers, while men make better soldiers and stockbrokers and lawyers.

No feminist would want to say that, at least not while we live in a patriarchal society that puts a much greater value on soldiers, stockbrokers and lawyers than on people in the caretaking, nurturing professions.

Having pondered this long and hard over many years, I am convinced that gender identity is not an either/or proposition, but rather a spectrum.

That is, we are not 100% women or 100% men, but have some of the characteristics of both, to differing degrees. Depending on our social context, we move ourselves along the spectrum, seeking approval and rewards.

We all have it in us to call on whichever side of our nature, the masculine or the feminine, is most needed in the moment.

Women can be socialized to become tough soldiers, just as men can be socialized to become tender, loving fathers.

It’s no accident that mama bears have the reputation of being the most fearsome creature on earth if their cubs are endangered; I know as a mother I have felt an incredible level of aggression rising in me when I’ve felt my little ones threatened.

Yes, women can fight.

We can kill.

We can take orders, and we can dish them out, too.

But I hope that by fully integrating the military, from top to bottom, we will begin to have a subtle effect on the culture.

I hope that just as women in the military are encouraged to cultivate their masculine sides, they may also begin to allow and encourage men to let their feminine sides show up for duty a little more often.

We are learning slowly that winning wars is not just about overwhelming force, shock and awe; it’s more importantly about winning hearts and minds, about making a lasting positive impact in a territory that we are forced to occupy militarily.

Without this crucial component to war-making, the peace will never last.

As someone who is deeply non-violent, I believe that the purpose of war should  always be to create the conditions for long-lasting and productive peace.

Women and men in military service who honor the full spectrum of their gendered natures, from masculine warrior to feminine peacemaker, will best be able to make this vision a reality.

Work-life balance is not just a women’s issue

Anne Marie Slaughter

I decided to bite my tongue and wait to see the reaction to the recent Atlantic Monthly cover story by Anne Marie Slaughter on women and the work-life balance—I knew as soon as I started reading it that it would set off a firestorm of commentary, and I have not been disappointed.

Slaughter, in case you have not been following this story, is a Princeton University professor and dean, who was drafted into the State Department by Hillary Clinton and worked there for two stressful years.  She wrote the article after returning to the snug harbor of Princeton, where, thanks to the flex time allowed by the higher ranks of academia, she is far better able to manage her professional and family commitments.

Slaughter’s main point in writing seems to be that our society needs to adapt itself better to the needs of working women. She calls for more women to get into leadership positions in business and government, and make workplace and policy changes that will make parenting and working outside the home more manageable.

Lori Gottleib, in a blog post on the Atlantic site, has little patience for Slaughter’s hand-wringing over the travails of long hours outside the home.

“The real problem here isn’t about women and their options,” she says. “The real problem is that technology has made it possible to work 24/7, so that the boundary between work and our personal lives has disappeared. Our cubicles are in our pockets, at the dinner table, next to our beds and even next to our children’s beds as we’re tucking them in. In many households, one income isn’t enough, and both men and women have to work long hours — longer hours than ever before — to make ends meet…. The problem here is that many people work too much — not just women, and not just parents.”

Hallelujah and amen to that, Lori!

For myself, I know the only way I can give myself some true down time is to get myself to a place where there is no wireless and no way to plug in my computer—ie, camping, hiking or at the beach—although even there I’ve caught myself using my iPhone to check messages or text people on the fly.  It’s been years—YEARS—since I’ve been unplugged for more than a day.

I can imagine a scenario where our society benevolently decides to use technology to allow more people to work from home, which will make things easier for parents in some ways, but will result in all of us becoming wired-in cogs in the capitalist machine, never really getting any time to ourselves unless we are able to set our own firm boundaries, something that most of us have trouble doing.

I agree with Professor Slaughter that family-friendly workplace policies are needed. I especially appreciated her anecdote about how when she was Dean at Princeton she always made a point of announcing at faculty meetings that she had to go home to have dinner with her family, to give other women permission to do the same without guilt or embarrassment.

But I share Lori Gottlieb’s sense that for most of us parents, the pressures of making a living are simply getting to be inhuman.

At the Strategies for a New Economy conference I attended a few weeks ago, several sessions dealt with the possibility of transitioning to a shorter work week.  This was the focus of a 2010 report by the New Economics Foundation, which argues for a 21-hour work week.  “There is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered ‘normal’” working hours today,” the authors write. “Time, like work, has become commodified – a recent legacy of industrial capitalism. Yet the logic of industrial time is out of step with today’s conditions, where instant communications and mobile technologies bring new risks and pressures, as well as opportunities. The challenge is to break the power of the old industrial clock without adding new pressures, and to free up time to live sustainable lives.”

The report’s authors suggest that “to meet the challenge, we must change the way we value paid and unpaid work. For example, if the average time devoted to unpaid housework and childcare in Britain in 2005 were valued in terms of the minimum wage, it would be worth the equivalent of 21 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product.”

Imagine if we could invent a society where housework and childcare actually “counted” for something in real economic terms?

Imagine if parents were actually rewarded for spending quality time with their children, for doing all the time-intensive work it takes to raise healthy, productive, happy kids who will become healthy, productive, happy adults?

What if we spent less money on anti-depressants, stimulants and treadmills, and instead gave ourselves room to breathe, and time to relax?

No society can hope to survive without the good work being done by mothers and fathers, unpaid and unsung, day and after day and year after year.

This should not be just a women’s issue.  If more fathers got involved in the day-to-day nitty-gritty of parenting—unglamorous and tedious as it sometimes can be—there would be twice as much impetus to make the changes Slaughter is calling for.

How about it, Dads?

Starving women, American chic style

Barely have the baubles of the Oscars faded into Hollywood history, when the bleak news of the real world comes flooding back in.

School shooting in a high school cafeteria in Ohio.

Keystone XL pipeline permit back on the table.

Rick Santorum is arguing against the separation of church and state, and thumbing his nose at the idea that young people should go to college.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the snowdrops are blooming now in New England–about a month ahead of schedule.

But you know what I found most truly disturbing in my cursory glance at the NY Times homepage today?

The prominent Giorgio Armani ad campaign, depicting two different women, each one more pitifully emaciated than the other.

Look at those protruding collar bones!  The jutting cheek and jawbones!  The stick-thin arms and legs!

If this young woman was in Darfur or Ethiopia, we’d be wondering, with compassion, when she last had a meal.

But because she’s a highly paid model, we relax that compassionate muscle and not only don’t worry about her, but actively admire her beauty.

What kind of beauty standard is it when a young woman has to be literally wasting away to make the grade of approbation?

It would be one thing if the male models were similarly emaciated.

But no.  Look at the male Armani models and you find something else entirely.

These guys are solid, well-muscled, athletic hunks.  Nothing underfed or waiflike about them.

In fact, they’re star athletes!  That’s David Beckham on the left, and a couple of tennis stars below.

The point is that attractive men are strong, athletic and powerful, while attractive women are starvation-thin, and even if they’ve got some attitude, their jutting collarbones give them away.

You know they go and gag themselves to throw up their breakfasts every day.

When they eat breakfast, that is.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Armani himself looks quite hale and hearty.

Does he have a clue of the kinds of destructive stereotypes he is reinforcing by presenting his models the way he does?

There is nothing beautiful about skin and bones. Ask any concentration camp or famine victim.

It would be one thing if our society projected its thin beauty fetish equally on both men and women.

By presenting women as vanishingly thin, weak, waiflike creatures, while men are robust and muscular, the fashion industry sends an unmistakeable message: beautiful women are weak, admirable men are strong.

Don’t like it?  Who cares, you’re ugly anyway!

Well, Mr. Bones and Sixpacks Armani, since when are you the arbiter of beauty and strength on this planet?  I’ll take a strong woman over a waif any day, and I hope those hunky athletes would do the same.

Coming to Voice, Saving the Planet

Yesterday acclaimed psychologist Carol Gilligan paid a visit to the class I am currently co-teaching at Bard College at Simon’s Rock with theater professor Karen Beaumont, “Human Rights, Activism and the Arts.”

Gilligan’s ground-breaking book, In A Different Voice, was the first to examine the psychological development of girls.

Yes, you read that right.  Before Carol Gilligan, American psychologists who studied child development based their model of the stages of human psychological development on their studies of boys.  Not until Carol came along in the early 1980s did anyone think to point out that girls and boys develop differently.

In her new book, Joining the Resistance, Gilligan explains that while girls start to silence their own voices in their early teen years, in conformity with social dictates about proper behavior for “good girls,” boys go through this self-regulation much earlier, around 5 or 6, when they learn that “crying is for sissies.”

Boys learn to suppress their caring, nurturing side because it’s too “feminine,” while girls learn to suppress their active, aggressive side because it’s too “masculine.”  In the process, both genders lose something crucial to their humanity, and our society as a whole is impoverished as a result.

Lately, Gilligan has been relating boys’ and girls’ resistance to the suppression of their natural androgynous voices to adults’ resistance to what she sees as a very destructive patriarchal culture.

She defines patriarchy as “those attitudes and values, moral codes and institutions, that separate men from men as well as from women and divide women into the good and the bad,” and argues that “as long as human qualities are divided into masculine and feminine, we will be alienated from one another and from ourselves.  The aspirations we hold in common, for love and for freedom, will continue to elude us.”

So much depends on whether we can come to voice.  And how we do so.  In the context of my human rights seminar, coming to voice may mean being able to speak out in an informed, passionate way about justice and injustice in specific circumstances, both here in the U.S. and abroad.

In the personal sphere too, we need to learn to express our needs clearly, without apology.  We women need to learn to value ourselves and insist on being treated fairly and with respect whether in the home or in the workplace.  Men need to demand that their emotional, nurturing sides be honored.

If it is hard for men to express emotions, it is hard for women to speak with authority.  As sociologist Michael Kimmel has shown, boys and men tend to over-estimate their own abilities while girls and women tend to have less self-confidence than their skills and talents warrant.

Boys and men need to learn to listen, to others and to their own innermost voices, the voices of compassion that were shut down when they were just little guys and learned that boys don’t cry.

Girls need to learn to speak up, to let their innermost voices out, to share freely what they know and what they imagine with the world.

My mother reminded me recently that when I was a young girl of 9 or 10, she considered me a “know-it-all.”  I used to read Ranger Rick and the National Wildlife magazines with voracious attention, and apparently I had a lot to say about the natural world and human beings’ role in it.

As I shared with my class yesterday, sometime around age 14, just as Carol Gilligan saw with her research subjects, I lost my voice.  I became the quiet girl in class.  I earned A’s on every literature paper I wrote, straight through grad school; but it was so hard for me to say out loud what I knew.  It’s taken me years to overcome that self-silencing and begin to recover the spunky, feisty voice that came pouring out of me naturally when I was a child.

As adults, knowing what we now know about the importance of voice to healthy psychological development, we should be working hard to encourage the boys in our lives to stay in touch with their emotional, caring, listening side; and the girls in our lives to continue to speak their truths even when they enter the maelstrom of puberty.

As Audre Lorde wrote long ago, “My silences had not protected me.  Your silence will not protect you…. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid….

“We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.  For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

You got that right, Audre.  If anything, the dangers that you perceived back then–before you, like so many others, succumbed to cancer–have gotten worse.

If we care about our children, if we care about our Earth, we cannot afford to stay silent.  Indeed, there is more risk to staying quiet than to speaking out, with all the passion, emotion and authority we can muster as men and as women.

Cat got your tongue? Not mine.  Not any longer.

Who’s Afraid of Women’s Writing?

Last night I participated in a panel discussion on Virginia Woolf and Margaret Mead called “Who’s Afraid of Women(‘s) Writing,” with Bard College of Simon’s Rock colleagues Maryann Tebben and Asma Abbas.

We were talking about how women’s writing is often oppositional, representing an outsider’s point of view to male-dominated mainstream discourse, whatever the discipline.

One of the students in the audience asked whether women’s writing would therefore always be reactionary, simply responding to the dominant rather than staking new ground.

I have been thinking about that question all day, off and on.

What I answered at the time was that while women’s writing is often a response to the dominant discourse, it also goes off in its own directions, which are not simply reactions to the mainstream, but rather true departures.

Of course, all writing occurs in dialogue with other writers, so even a departure is part of a larger conversation.  But I do believe that women, as outsiders, have something unique to contribute to any conversation.

Indeed, it is staggering to think of how impoverished literature, philosophy, history and all the other disciplines have been (and still are) in cultures where women have not been allowed to add our voices to the chorus.

Worst of all is that so few people (read: men) even noticed our absence.

I can recall so many times when have I had to fight for the inclusion of texts by women in our General Education curriculum at Simon’s Rock, arguing with colleagues who could say, with a sad shake of the head, that it was just too bad that women had never written any great, canonical literature.  For the past 20 years, out of the 16 required texts in our Gen Ed canon, which stretches from Gilgamesh to Achebe, only three are by women–though as of this year, after much lobbying, the ratio has finally improved slightly.

First deny women literacy and keep those few who do manage to become literate tightly locked in the private realm.  Then look back over history and note complacently that, as Woolf has the “odious Mr. Tansley” tell the artist Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse, “women can’t write, women can’t paint.”

In our time and place, young women now outnumber young men in higher education, and no one would dare to argue that women are innately less intelligent and talented than men.

But still, women in the U.S. earn 78 cents on the male dollar, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we still shoulder more responsibility for housework and child care even when we work fulltime.

Women are still valued more highly as ornaments and service workers than as autonomous creative agents, and we still have to struggle harder to make our voices heard, especially if what we have to say is not what the mainstream wants to hear.

In To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe worries that her painting will be rolled up and thrown under a couch to gather dust.  Today, women still seem to have less self-confidence than men, perhaps because we’ve absorbed the prevailing ethos that considers a strong woman to be a “ball-breaker” or a “bitch on wheels.”

As MaryAnn Baenninger, President of the College of St. Benedict, wrote in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, studies continue to show thatwomen underestimate their abilities and express lower levels of self-confidence than their abilities suggest. Men overestimate their abilities and express higher levels of confidence than their abilities warrant. This difference arrives with them as first-year students and leaves with them as seniors. When I talk about this, or I hear researchers describe this finding, the audience always chuckles (boys will be boys, after all).”

Baenninger concludes that while American women “have access to just about every educational opportunity and every career…access doesn’t guarantee outcomes. A gendered culture, mostly in unconscious ways, limits women’s expectations for themselves and our expectations for them.”

In other words, our gender role conditioning as women too often tends to silence us, while amplifying the voices of our brothers.

Soon after the great poet Audre Lorde was diagnosed with the cancer than would eventually kill her, she gave an address at the 1977 Modern Language Association annual convention in Chicago, called “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” later published in the collection Sister Outsider.

In thinking back over her life, she said, “what I most regretted were my silences.”

“In the cause of silence,” she continued, “each of us draws the face of her own fear–fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment….But most of all we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live….That visibility which makes us most vulnerable…is also the source of our greatest strength.

“Because the machine will try to grind us into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.  We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.”

What we need to do, she said, is to “learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.  For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

So many women today are still feeling the same fear and insecurity Lorde wrote about in 1977.  So many of us will go through our entire lives not daring to utter the truths we can hardly bring ourselves to acknowledge even in our most private thoughts.

In the same way that the richness of the Earth is diminished every time a species is lost, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant to the bigger ecological tapestry, the great canvases of literature, philosophy, science and all the other disciplines are impoverished and dulled when 50% of the population is not enthusiastically welcomed into the conversation.

Yes, we women can have our own conversations, outside the male-dominated mainstream.  There’s always “women’s writing.”  But what we should really be striving for is what Virginia Woolf called “androgynous writing,” where the masculine and feminine energies are brought together in a fecund explosion of cross-pollinating difference.

As Lorde put it so memorably in another of her important essays, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” “Difference must not be merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.  Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening.”

Maybe there will come a time when interdependency and androgyny will be the accepted standard of gender relations.  Until then, we still need to meet periodically and consider questions like “Who’s Afraid of Women’s Writing?” and why? and at what cost?


Paradigm Shift: From Competition and Destruction to Nurturance & Collaboration

I am almost 50 years old, and in my current lifetime I have lived through one of the most intense, rapidly changing periods of human civilization on this planet.  The technological discoveries of the 19th and 20th centuries were steadily gaining steam when I was born in the early 1960s; “progress” seemed infinite, and infinitely exciting.  Advances in medical understanding and treatment, the speed of computing, the mechanization of every aspect of our economic systems, and the explosion in information technologies, all made our civilization seem powerful—even invincible.  The blip of failure that registered when we “lost” the Vietnam War was quickly swallowed up in a huge wave of optimism as the economy surged in the 1980s, and the collapse of Soviet Communism, as well as the softening of Chinese Communism, made Euramerican Capitalism seem like a global Manifest Destiny.

And yet there was always the dark underbelly of the beast, clear to anyone who had the will to see it.  Rachel Carson sounded the first alarm on the dangers of synthetic chemicals, released haphazardly into the environment.  Chernobyl was the first major indicator of the serious dangers of “clean” nuclear power.  The slow epidemic of cancers (in the wealthy countries) and AIDS (in the poorer countries), and a myriad of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, have begun to make clear how we have poisoned our environment even for ourselves.  And now, in the first decade of the 21st century, it has finally become apparent even to the most resolute deniers that climate change is a dangerous reality to which we must adapt or perish.

So these are the transition times we live in.  I don’t think it’s too dramatic to compare our times to the last years of other great human civilizations in the past: the Romans, the Mayans, the Inca, the Ming.  All of these civilizations were based on the possibility of exploiting resources—human and natural—to such a great extent that tremendous wealth could be amassed for the rulers.  This was the same model followed by the English, French and Spanish during their colonial periods (16th-19th centuries, roughly), and the U.S. is playing by the same rules with the rise of corporate capitalism backed by the biggest, most deadly military the world has ever known.  The U.S. has become the political center of a global Empire that any feudal European would recognize, the only difference being the advantages that the contemporary wizards of technology afford our leaders.  King Arthur would have been lost without Merlin, and our leaders today would be lost without the magic of electricity.  Truly, our civilization would entirely grind to a halt were we to lose power for even a short period of time.

This is why the frantic quest for energy sources has turned so ugly in recent years.  To the average household, losing power is an inconvenience—but we know the power company will come out and fix it sooner or later, we don’t get too bent out of shape about it.  As worldwide demand for electric power grows, along with demand for easy, cheap means of moving people and goods through space, the question becomes one of supply.  Our scientists are telling us that the Earth is finite, that she has reached her carrying capacity in terms of sustainable growth.  And yet the human population keeps growing exponentially, and the global reach of corporate capitalism keeps creating more and more demand for modern conveniences: cars, refrigerators, air conditioning, computers.

Clever leaders manipulate the demand of the populace for the luxuries on display through every TV set.  We have become familiar, in the late 20th, early 21st century, with the term “debt bondage,” now not just applying to serfs in feudal Asia, but common in any American suburb, where it takes two adults working more than fulltime to support the average mortgage, car loans and consumer loans, not to mention the school loans and home equity loans.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, when I was a kid, people who opted out of all this, who chose a simpler life, perhaps even living “off the grid,” without running water, were derogatively termed “hippies,” weird fringe folks who spent their time smoking too much dope and having too much sex.  Some joined cults, and some of these cults were headed up by dangerous psychotics who led entire communities into suicide.  The media effectively demonized anyone who tried to resist the prevailing forces of modernity.  The most powerful dissenters were silenced by the oldest method in the book: assassination.  Since the 1960s, there has been an ever-growing list of charismatic leaders, educators and journalists who have been assassinated by the political elites, all over the world.  In the old days, the colonists would come into an indigenous community and immediately pick out the smartest ones, the ones who looked like the leaders.  Those who proved incorruptible would be enslaved or simply killed.

This is still going on, but now, in addition to the old-fashioned methods of violence, there are subtler ways to neutralize dissent and channel resistance.  Antidepressants, anyone?  Addictive media games?  Above all, educational systems that teach obedience to authority from earliest childhood, backed by drug therapy (think Ritalin or Adderall) and indoctrination into an acceptance of inequality and environmental destruction.

There are still pockets of clear thinking and resistance to be found, even in the heart of Empire where I live.  I don’t claim to have answers or to know the “right” way forward.  But I do have a fierce desire to explore our present reality in all its dimensions, even some of those that many people would find too “out there” for comfort—the spiritual realms, the astrological and the psychic.  Nothing should be off limits to inquiry; in many ways I still feel as curious as a young child, open to every nuance the world has to show me.

Just before a baby is born, the laboring mother is said to be “in transition.”  This is what happens when the birth canal is dilating enough to allow the child’s big head to drop down into the free air.  Our world is in transition now.  Something new and different is about to be born.  Whether we humans will still have a role to play remains to be seen.  But it certainly is an interesting time to observe, and I believe there is still time to try to intervene and create a more positive outcome, not just for us but for all the species we will take with us if there is a major environmental cataclysm.

We must be both the midwife and the laboring mother, in this case.  And the baby about to be born.  Our job above all is to nurture, to love, to stroke, to build a deep resilience so that we can survive whatever may be thrown at us.  This is the work of my second half of life.  And this is what I’ll be exploring and documenting in this blog.

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