emasculation + masculation

Dear men and women,
a question about gender roles:
specifically, “How do women feel about being ‘masculated’ in our culture?”
and, “How do men feel about being ‘emasculated’?”

Okay, that’s two questions. And there are more below.

The popular interpretation of the Samson and Delilah myth is that Samson lost his strength because Delilah had his hair cut off. This interpretation is sometimes used as an analogy for the emasculation of men that sometimes happens when traditional gender roles are conflated without conscious intention.

In an ideal world, perhaps we wouldn’t need to talk about gender, but the reality is that our gender roles have evolved over millennia and they serve important social functions. If we discard and/or conflate them with reckless abandon, each individual in a relationship could lose touch with their culturally conditioned identity and begin to suffer identity crises that can become debilitating if not consciously addressed.

I think it’s worth pointing out that while “emasculate” is commonly understood, it would seem that “masculate” has not been used since 1620, the same as everyone knows the meaning of “misogyny”, but not “philogyny”. Based on the squiggly red lines, Microsoft certainly doesn’t acknowledge even the existence of these words. Such is the unfortunately dominant nature of patriarchy in our culture.

A lot of men are painfully aware that gender-role conflation can feel emasculating sometimes, but I wonder:

how do women feel about being masculated?

This is an actual word, “masculate”, meaning “to make masculine and/or strong”.

Do women have to become ‘more masculine’ to be successful in our culture?

Is success defined in our culture in primarily masculine terms?

If so, is this why competition is valued more than collaboration?, winning more valued than supporting others to succeed?

What effect does this have on our relationships?

If we have emasculated men and masculated women (men who feel pressure to be more feminine, and women who feel pressure to be more masculine), will the children of our families develop into androgynous hybrids, or transgender ~ into beings who are biologically male or female but who identify as the other or neither?

Is all of this indicative that we are evolving into a species that transcends dualism? Or devolving into the ‘mindset’ of single-cell androgynous organisms?

what makes us (not) mystics

I read a book recently called What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. The subject of the book is the “four seals” of Buddhism:

All compounded things are impermanent; all emotions are pain; all things have no inherent existence; nirvana is beyond concepts.

I had heard of the book while practising the lam rim at a study retreat, at a time when I was considering ordination ~ reading the book was part of my investigation into whether I actually wanted to be a Buddhist. The teachers at the retreat recommended the book as a good introduction to what a student should understand before they consider even taking refuge.

So I read the book with fervour and very much enjoyed Khyentse’s style ~ so much so that I eventually travelled up to Sydney to watch him speak at a day-long teaching that was more reminiscent of a rock concert than it was of any teaching I had ever attended before. He was very funny, and he managed to convey a lot of insights that were valuable without talking directly about Buddhism very much.

He remains one of my favourite Buddhist teachers, but there was something in the introduction to the book that has just now popped into mind and caused me to question the value of asking the question, “What makes me not a Buddhist?”

No wait … it wasn’t in the introduction to that book ~ it was in another book that was discussing the same concepts, the four seals. Anyway,

wherever I read it, the author was drawing on the same notion: that to be a “card-carrying” Buddhist, one needs to agree with or understand the essence of the four seals.

Based on the current state of my research/understanding, this includes me. I believe I understand and agree with each of these four principles.

These principles, however, are not exclusive to Buddhism ~ they are principles understood by mystical traditions everywhere … or perhaps almost everywhere. If we agree with or understand these principles, we are not necessarily Buddhist, but to identify as a Buddhist we need to agree with these principles.

I understand that doctrine is a valueable guide in the search for truth, but this feels a bit too-dogmatic to me, especially now, but even a little bit back then. I was willing to let the dogma-feel slide, because I was (and still am, sometimes), eager to feel like part of a group that shares the same beliefs ~ it’s comforting, no?

But just now when I was doing something other than actively thinking about truth (I was doing a sort of zentagle, a form of art therapy … and waiting for Centrelink to take me off hold … 1:02:51 hours so far ;/


I was doodling and it came to mind that if we want to call ourselves a “card-carrying” Buddhist, we need to look at that:

the mystical path is a search for our true identity, our true nature ~ in Buddhism it is taught that what we believe to be our identity, our self, is an illusion: our identity is comprised of such elements as, say, male, thirty-four years old, brunette, dread-locked, quite handsome but a bit lopsided 🙂 Other elements include our cultural affiliations: Australian, public-school educated, progressive and a little bit Buddhist.

It’s that term “card-carrying” that caught my attention while I was doodling. A card-carrying member of a club has easy access: show the card; people trust you won’t get drunk and trash the place; they let you in. To say that understanding the four seals makes you a card-carrying Buddhist just renders the whole purpose of understanding these truths irrelevant, because these concepts are also an illusion. Yes? No?

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse ~ he kinda looks like John Safran, don’t you think?

Something I remember now from the Khyentse book is that the conclusion, maybe even the final line of the book, is the statement that if you realise enlightenment and still think you’re a Buddhist, there could be a problem, you know what I mean?

I really appreciated that Khyentse concluded his book with that sentiment. I want to be accepted as part of a group as much as the next bloke, but if we look around and cling too much to various labels to know whether we are or are not making progress along the spiritual path … well, that’s a lot different from just straight-up knowing we are on the path without having to identify as a Buddhist or a Gnostic or a shaman or a Hindu or whatever.

I think it’s realy important to remember this. What do you think?

What makes us not Buddhists/shamans/whatever is what makes us mystics, I reckon.

~ ~ ~

featured image: gildedlilycharms

water dream + driving dream

I want to share these dreams here because I can’t make sense of them ~ the metaphorical meaning of my dreams is usually immediately and strongly clear to me, so I’m feeling a bit foggy about these ones.
We were at someone else’s house, evidently having broken in or gate-crashed the place ~ however we got in, we were not supposed to be there, or so we thought. We were having a party of sorts, being somewhat raucous, jumping in the pool, playing music, generally being a nuisance, like teenagers or something. There was a moment when I was underwater, though I couldn’t exactly see or feel the water ~ I just couldn’t breathe and was worried, and floating. Someone told me there was air over there, and I moved myself to where there was a straw-like thing coming out of a flat-ish round plate, and when I sucked on the straw I got some air, but it was kinda bubbly or fizzy (like I was sucking on a soda stream gas bottle) and wasn’t entirely satisfying, but it seemed to be enough, and that was the end of that scene. Later, the owners of the house came home and parked their cars behind ours, and we couldn’t get out. We panicked a bit because we would have to face them, but I resigned myself to it and when we interacted and we said sorry for being in their house, they said it was okay and they had been observing us from the neighbours’. The people I was with were indistinct, and they feel now like they were more like aspects of myself than like distinct entities.
In the other dream I was driving a late-model manual car (and I’m uncomfortable driving late-model cars in waking life as it is), but in this dream it was worse because I was sitting askew in the seat and having trouble both steering and changing gears, but this only become evident when I shifted position and suddenly I was driving like a normal person. I was still struggling somewhat to change gears smoothly, but I was making progress in learning how to drive this foreign vehicle, though I felt very much like a learner driver. (In waking life I’m a good driver, and can even drive semi-trailers.) At some point, my perspective shifted at the same time as the car careened out of control, left the road, and ended up in a grassy ditch. I watched this from the median strip and it felt distinctly as though someone else had been driving and was responsible for the crash.
Three events from waking life that may be significant: I had a friend over at the house where I’m house-sitting, and on her last night here we got boozey on the back porch ~ she’s an effervescent person and quite loud, and there was a moment or two in the early morning when I worried we were disturbing the neighbour; at the house where I’m house-sitting, I accidentally broke an incense holder that is shaped very much like the straw-thing I sucked on for oxygen; I was playing a racing-car video game recently (which I rarely do ~ and I rarely drive actual cars these days) and I totally sucked at it, crashing all the time.
I’m very much interested in the question of whether dreams are merely the brain integrating memory or whether they come from a deeper source, like the collective ancestral mythological memory. These two dreams I had, they happen to have elements that correspond with my waking life, but if it’s more than just memory integration, am I being told some message from my unconscious through the collective memory? Like, “Don’t be a douche by getting boozey and keeping the neighbours awake” 😀 Probably there’s more to it than that, so I invite and welcome any and all other interpretations.

the brutality of insomnia

You wouldn’t think so, but insomnia is fucked, absolutely brutal.

As a kid I vaguely envied Stephen King when I learned he was an insomniac ~ I thought cool, just stay up writing all night. By my early twenties I discovered Peter Carey, who said something like, “All good writers are necessarily mentally unwell, so be careful what you wish for.”

Insomnia is a mental illness. My mind feels like a V8 engine with only one spark plug and a leadfoot at the wheel ~ it would be revving its tits off if it wasn’t spluttering, farting and stalling with every attempt at cognition. I turn back to the fridge with a bottle of milk in hand and think, Shit, what was I doing?

This is profoundly painful for me, who so heavily identifies with having a powerful intellect at his disposal most of the time. When my mind begins to fail me like this, I get scared, knowing that belief in your correct perception of reality can fall away in an instant, given sufficient stressors, plunging you into the Chasm of Chaos … but,

I’m getting ahead of myself ~ it’s not that bad yet, at night four, but by night seven when it starts to feel like my body is falling apart, shit could get real. At night six during one bout, I told my friend I was scared, and she said (ever the ironically jovial supporter), “You know that by night eleven you will go insane and die?” I believed her then, and I believe her now.

Sleep is precious like water, my dear loved ones ~ don’t mess with it. Don’t ever take it for granted. I used to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Real clever, Gung-ho Gonzo. If you’re reading this and the birds are chirping, go to bed, have a wank, and do some sleeping for me, okay? Do it for the children!