Nothing absolute about us

This Women’s day I did not feel like writing about the obvious and have instead gone the route of reflecting upon how we define and experience ourselves/others over the course of a lifetime. Our definition of ourselves is limiting not only for us but also extends to those around us.

In my humble opinion, everyone exists on a spectrum or a continuum. With us human beings there are no absolutes . Absolutes in human beings would perhaps make us boring and too predictable.  We wish with all our might to see things in black/white but if everyone’s black/white is different then there is no one right or wrong barring acts of intentional harm caused to another. The absolutist tendencies also tie you up to be a certain way forever whereas the spectrum/continuum way of thinking leaves room for exploration and growth.

Pause - where am I heading -reflect

Auckland, New Zealand

What led me to write this? Two things come to mind- one is a documentary titled Gender Revolution which I watched on Netflix and an article I was reading this morning about someone being an Introvert vs Extrovert. Psychologist Carl Jung’s work was one of my first introductions almost a decade ago to this line of thinking. He developed a theory of Type Indicators where people could score on a continuum of Introversion/Extraversion, Judging/Perceiving, Intuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling. This MBTI type also allows room for change/growth by saying that people can have different tendencies at different points in time while having one base tendency which may be predominant but not definitive. As much as I liked this idea I found that in real life if I said to someone that I tend towards talking when I am with lesser number of people and am quieter when am in a group, I was called indecisive or unsure of myself. Of course, there were also those who were familiar with this thought and matured to understand that no one really fits into a box at all times and that the boxes we fall into are rather superfluous.

In the documentary on Gender Identity there were some interviewees who mentioned that their experience of their gender isn’t simply either male or female. I find this thought very freeing and one which would develop a lot of tolerance in our society. If you think about it, every person is a mix of masculine and feminine tendencies. Depending on our upbringing and current circumstances we exhibit more of masculine or feminine tendencies. Teenagers are perfect examples of this exploration when the hormones are surging and there’s a creative confusion happening within. The genitalia aren’t the prime indicator of our behaviors and expressions at all times. There could be a pre-dominance but that’s just that- a pre-dominance. It’s mostly the social expectations of a certain ‘normal’ which when challenged lead to extreme measures of ostracism or other such isolating punishments.

If human beings are the only evolved species who are capable of complex thoughts and feelings then why shun someone who is born with male genitalia and expresses mostly feminine tendencies. Why box yourself up by calling yourself a shy/quiet person or someone who is always detail oriented versus a big picture person? I used to think that I wasn’t oriented toward details but the fact is that I didn’t want to accept that part of me because I liked the idea of being a ‘big picture’ person. Today I know that I am both and I love recognizing this in me. I no longer say that I always think/behave a certain way and I must say that some people have trouble with it:) but what matters is that I no longer am troubled with this so-called acceptance of duality that’s present within me. If only we could accept that we all cannot always be the light and that we all have darkness within to deal with, we would judge someone else a little lesser.

The more I think about this, the more I feel like the ‘I AMs’ are nothing but ideas at a certain point in time that we are happy to live by. If we recognize those as ideas of ourselves or about ourselves at a given point in time we would struggle a little less when that idea changes to something else later in life either by internal desire or by external situational factors. Say for example if you are born into a Hindu family but over a course of time you no longer believe in pantheism, this shouldn’t be for someone else to tell you that what you are experiencing is wrong. If we allowed a healthy level of exploration and questioning, perhaps the crimes performed in the name of an overarching right/wrong would also be reduced.

These are just examples to provoke a certain line of thinking. Which ‘I am..’ of yours are you wondering about? I would say, the more I AMs you destroy within you, the more accepting you are of not only yourself but also of others around you.

I shall close with one of Osho’s thoughts here- In order to truly live, we need to keep dying within.

P.S.: The image is courtesy my brother’s travels to New Zealand in 2017.


My take on what it means to be a Feminist

Feminism doesn’t ask you to be a man hater

Feminism doesn’t ask you to use coercion or domination as a means of influence

Feminism doesn’t ask to be expressed in obnoxious and disrespectful ways

Feminism doesn’t ask you to only care about women and women’s rights

Are you a feminist simply by being born a woman? I don’t think so.

‘It’ isn’t literal and narrow. It is about honoring that aspect in and around us which connects us to the feminine. What is feminine you ask?

I hope you do ask because we have had too much information and little knowledge about this idea/concept/construct.

Feminine is the creative force. It is open, vast, receptive , fluid and vulnerable. It is the power of intuition, emotion and nurturing. In humans, we understand the right hemisphere of the brain and the left side of the body to be working on this principle. Being born as a woman definitely gives us a biological advantage to be more in tune with the feminine but it requires awareness and acceptance to be used as a strength.

The construct of the ‘Feminine’ encompasses all creatures on Earth who depend on us human beings to be taken care of, to not be violated. This is a child, a woman, a man, an animal, plants, oceans, environment etc. ‘It’ asks for grace, compassion and empathy for another being. It evokes a power within which cannot be denied. It asks that we transcend our ego and see the world beyond the ‘I, Me, Myself’.

Any being who can be subjected to oppression, injustice deserves to be fought for. Across generations and cultures we have seen this injustice manifest the most around women and hence feminism is synonymous with the experience of being a woman today.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Mother’.  She gives of herself to create, raise and nurture. She can protect her offspring when she senses any threat. She also feels the collective pain of any injustice.

And if we know anything, then we know that the true feminine cannot live in isolation from the true masculine. Both are needed and in balance.

Masculine is the seed force without which creation isn’t possible. It is the power of action, focus, intention. This is the ‘achieving’ energy which is logical, rational and solid/set.  It is externally focused.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Father’. Quite naturally, the masculine force provides the seed and the feminine nurtures it to life. Masculine provides and protects.

In schools, offices, governments, families, we are taught to recognize and bolster the Masculine but seldom talked about is the Feminine power.  I suspect that this is because we only believe what we see with the limitations of our physical eyes and the faculties of our rational mind. I am happy to see an increase in the ‘mindfulness’ trend in schools. Practices like meditation, mindfulness, art connect us with this power which lies within untapped.

As for a man vs woman debate, I have seen many men who are securely in touch with their feminine side and I have seen many women who aren’t. I know the corporate driven achievement oriented culture doesn’t give much of a chance to stay connected with our feminine side and neither does a culture where a girl is not free to exercise her freedom which stems from simply being alive.

In majority of the cases, women leaders and the men who find a way to honor their feminine side do tend to think long term and in terms of a larger balance. Here I would like to draw your attention to the women led Icelandic bank which was the only financial institution to survive the financial crisis in 2007-2008. Auður Capital is a financial services company founded by two women who formed feminine values as the basis of their institution. Halla Tomasdóttir who is one of the founders of this bank said that if we want to see a change anywhere, we must include atleast 3 women on the board because one is token representation and two is a minority.

I was thrilled to learn about several initiatives in European nations and some other countries where as a society, balance, harmony, sense of community are highly prized values and are seen integral to improving performance. These initiatives are in the direction of healthcare, education, child care, environment protection, animal rights, parental leave, vacation time etc. The ‘softer’ side of running a company and a society.

An example of honoring the feminine around us was in 2013 when New Zealand granted legal personhood to Te Urewera National Park and Whanganui River and its tributaries. This speaks volumes in terms of respecting and protecting the intrinsic rights of this earthly body. It is recognizing and protecting the rights of an entity which cannot speak for itself and calls upon us human beings to do so.

So, what does it mean to be a Feminist?

  • Being aware of the most obvious and subtle forms of injustice
  • Speaking up against injustice as and when you can
  • Taking action at an individual and or collective level in a collaborative manner