On Truth and Beauty

True beauty is ageless, timeless, intangible. It is evident at every age and stage of life and inherent in every human being, male or female, young or old. Deep within ourselves we hold this knowledge and yet we forget. We struggle with exquisitely painful feelings of inadequacy, failure and abandonment because we do not live up to the ideal of a mere physical beauty imposed upon us from the external world.

 

Women in particular, who are valued almost solely for their looks, suffer immeasurably, becoming consumed by the attainment of this one thing, beauty. Yet, the hierarchy that has been created in our material world is an illusion. In reality, there is no objective measure of beauty, no better or best, no gradation of beauty from plain to pretty to perfect. We are beautiful according to our uniqueness, because there is no other human exactly like we are, no soul whose journey and purpose is quite like ours. No one is more valuable or worthy of love and respect because of the nuances of bone structure, skin tone or physical measurements of any kind.

 

These illusions are built on shifting sands; our culture raises the bar, changing the criteria of desirability so that ultimately, no one can win. The trick is to understand that there is no competition.

 

I have spoken with many women who, like me, are trying to integrate their inner and outer experiences. We need to somehow survive, emotionally and spiritually intact, in a world that relentlessly throws poison darts at our self esteem. We need to shed a little light on this dark aspect of femininity. We need to do what women have done throughout history – worked alongside one another to stitch together a rich tapestry of truth and experience to reveal something far more beautiful and powerful than any individual icon of our time.

 

I’m an idealist and in my own quiet way, a warrior. If I could find a way to open the eyes of the world to the illusion, to reveal the truth that is truly beautiful, I would do it. I would remove the pain from our sisters, daughters and mothers  – if I was able to change the world.

 

Instead, I drop my pebbles into the pond, hoping the ripples will span out and make a difference.

 

Recently, I heard a radio talk-back program in which the Buddha was discussed. Scratchy reception meant that I missed most of what was said but I did manage to catch a pearl of wisdom that is particularly significant for me. After living as an ascetic in the wilderness for many, many years, the Buddha reached a point of true enlightenment. The story goes that at this point, he had a conversation with the devil, who said something like, ‘Well, you made it. You’ve reached the point of true enlightenment. And now no-one will understand what you’re talking about.’ The Buddha responded that ‘someone will understand.’ His point was that all his effort and pain were worth it if only one human being understood the message he came to bring to the world.

 

I am no Buddha and my path to enlightenment is yet in its early stages. Yet if only one other person understands and benefits from the insights I bring to this blog, and to my life in general, then my job is done.

 

This thing called ‘beauty’ is a burden, a two-edged sword that must be handled carefully until the illusion is lifted and truth becomes our reality. I don’t expect this to happen in my lifetime, or in my daughters’ lifetime, or even in my daughters’ daughters’ – but I do intend to be instrumental in the process. When enough people understand, change will take place.

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Sexual Violation – When Good Men (and Women) Do Nothing

As I was reading a lengthy article from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it became immediately clear that while virtually every crime ‘genre’ outlined in the survey is in decline in our current Australian society, sexual assault is on the increase. This is despite the media-generated smokescreen that women today are in a more empowered position than at any other period in history.

I’m well aware that I enter murky waters here, and there will be many who, with the strength of their objections, would drag me under and have me drowned into silence. So while I don’t exactly fear the subject, I’ll first be tackling it from a feminine, intuitive perspective, a perspective which is not just devalued but wholly rejected in today’s far-from-enlightened world. (But rejecting its validity is no evidence that intuitive information is not, in fact, valid!) I will then go on to examine the data from the relevant research and back up my position with facts that can be denied only by those determined to keep their heads in the proverbial sand. Deductive arguments can and do exist, regardless of the difficulties in assigning causality.

And, despite the aspersions cast on Asian and Middle Eastern nations, particularly in the wake of the recent defilement, rape and death of 23 year old Jyoti Singh Pandey, I am set to argue that the situation is little better here in the west. I also contend that the proliferation of rape and other forms of sexual assault, as well as domestic violence perpetrated upon women, are allowed to flourish because the world population has been ‘shaped’, via simple conditioning, to normalise harmful practices that lead to further and further humiliation and degradation of the female of the species. And when a group is humiliated and degraded, they are dis-empowered; they expect less from life, from themselves and from their partners. They settle for poor treatment because this treatment has been presented to them from the day of their birth as ‘normal’. A lowered self esteem also leads to a group of people who settle for lower paid positions, less pay for the same work, acceptance of the unjustness of being passed over for promotions they know are well deserved, and an under-reporting of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual and physical violation. A people lacking in self worth are essentially voiceless.

It’s a tactic that has been used to demoralise minority groups for millennia, to keep them from rising up and taking their place among the more privileged, dominant society. But women are no minority group. We make up half the population of the world. The other half of the population of the world – men – may seem to be the winners, but the sexual insecurity that lurks within the heart of a majority of women, plays havoc within heterosexual relationships, leaving both parties devoid of the deep spiritual, emotional and physical connections that should form the foundations of a fulfilling and abiding love affair for life.

This short post simply sets the scene for a series of posts that will ensue during the coming weeks. If you find the concept thought-provoking, whether you agree with my initial words or even if they make your hackles rise, I invite you back here to follow me into this dark and winding labyrinth. It is a complex issue and I fully expect a complex set of responses and perspectives.

Love and light.

The Transcendent Power of Solitude

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Our current society is a breeding ground for extroverts. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it’s also a bit like a gas chamber for those of us who are introverts; in other words modern society is hard for us to survive in, unless we pretend to be who we are not, so we can be let out of captivity. But an introvert forced to interact constantly with groups of people, forced to ‘speak up’, to take part in all sorts of party mode activities, often feels exhausted to the point of near-death anyway. (Which renders us powerless, by the by.)

And I should know. Not only am I an introvert, but I’m in that even smaller category of introverts defined by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as an INFJ. (If you’re interested in this particular personality profile, you can find more information here). Apparently we INFJs make up only one percent of the population so it’s particularly difficult to find others we really connect with, and have them sit quietly beside us and gently ‘be’. The inner life of an introvert is usually rich enough to not need much outside stimulation; in fact, too much outside stimulation can easily push us over the edge into stimulus overload. (I personally melt down when I reach this point, but that’s a personal facet of myself and not one to judge other introverts by.) The Myers Briggs is, of course, only one of many personality inventories but it seems to have stood the test of time and is still widely used.

However, this post is not about the Myers Briggs or any other personality test for that matter. It’s about the value of introverts in a society that does not currently value us. Introversion is not, by any means, the same thing as shyness. Shyness is derived from a lack of confidence; a fear of interaction, or perhaps a fear of judgement. The real difference between introverts and extroverts however, is that we derive our energy, creative and otherwise, from solitude; not complete solitude, of course, but large tracts of it. We need this time to get inside our own heads, think deep thoughts and as often as not, if allowed this quiet time, to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems. It’s also where our creativity comes from. I suspect that a lot of writers, though certainly not all, tend towards introversion.

Extroverts, on the other hand, derive their energy from interaction with others, preferably with lots of talking and movement. And while few of us would define ourselves as entirely introverted or entirely extroverted, most of us identify ourselves as more one way than the other. These traits, like most personality traits, are on a continuum and add to the richness of life. Our modern problem lies with the imbalance. In truth we need both introverts and extroverts, and everyone in between, but society values extroversion in a somewhat extreme way. Our education systems are set up to encourage our children to be ‘out there’! And a naturally introverted child can end up thinking there’s something wrong with her, much like I did myself as I was growing up. Our jobs require so much ‘teamwork’ that there’s barely a moment for solo thoughts to rise to the surface. The media pushes the display professions and presents for our entertainment a whole lot of loud, over-confident, ‘in-your-face’ characters who are action driven to the point of stupidity.

This problem of imbalance has arisen in our modern world for reasons much better explained by self-confessed introvert Susan Cain, in her enlightening and sometimes funny presentation as a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) expert. Her video can be found here, and is well worth watching. She reminds us that all the great spiritual traditions have at their roots, a basis of introversion. Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha…all had their wilderness experiences and proclaimed their need for solitude. Gandhi too was a quiet, reflective man, who may have been in the limelight but he did so not to put himself on the world stage, but because he was a deep thinker who genuinely believed he needed to share his message with the world. And so he put himself ‘out there’, although he managed to do so in an unassuming, quiet and gentle manner. Another common misconception is that gentleness and strength are mutually exclusive, but the great human beings I’ve mentioned above, along with hundreds of others, stand as outstanding examples of gentle strength.

Susan Cain makes a number of salient points, one of which is that there is no correlation betweenthe best talkers and the best ideas. She also informs us that current research has found that introverts generally get better grades, which makes me wonder why our educational institutions continue to promote extroversion. Before you howl me down, I know a goodly number of extremely clever extroverts but that doesn’t mean the talents of introverts should be subverted. This is particularly true in the field of creativity, where a certain amount of solitude is imperative for the development of creative ideas.

The world needs us all – extroverted souls, introverted souls and those at every point along the bipolar continuum. The world needs harmony and balance, and this skewing in favour of extroversion is just one more way in which the harmony of life is being shaken to its core.