the power of observation

winterI was just winding down after a day of a beautiful Power of Story workshop with Mary Alice Arthur and had some thoughts I wanted to share.

I’m going to write here about the one piece of the day that got under my skin, and why. It was just a small bit of a graphic she used, not a big deal in the scheme of things. I didn’t talk about it with the whole group just because there wasn’t time for it, rather it wasn’t the right time for it and there was far more, very lovely stuff to do.

It was a small piece in an illustration of the practice of storytelling. In the middle is a yin yang symbol and Mary Alice described yin and yang as the (yang) grandfather energy and (yin) grandmother energy, the (bad paraphrase coming, sorry!) former being the more active and the latter being more observant, listening, nurturing. Again, bad paraphrase and I’m not saying this to mean Mary Alice was being sexist, or insensitive, or that there’s anything wrong with or less valuable about either of the roles described there, rather…

Of course it got me thinking about my hot topic (in my own personal brain and heart) lately, gender. And the feminine yang and masculine yin that often get overlooked in our culture. You can read more about that here (my thoughts and links out to Charles Eisenstein and others’) if you want, but a piece of it is that the feminine yang is like the exerting womb in labor.  So taking that metaphor further, I see the process of conception and gestation, the taking in of seeds and combining things into a new living organism, then actively pushing it out into the world to grow on its own, and easily apply it to my own observations about the work that women are doing all around the world, in creating and birthing a new world. Women everywhere have been on the leading edge (no disparagement meant, guys, we appreciate your support ;) and tons of your own contributions, of course) of big change, slow change, painful change, change that involves listening, some self-sacrifice, synthesizing of different worldviews and approaches, communication, vulnerability, risk of failure, on and on and on. And action. And pushing. And pain. I realize all we need to do is look around us and we see that the feminine is not only yin, not generally passive, and that a feminine yang is different from a masculine yang. If we can recognize and appreciate this we can feel empowered to move when it’s time to move, act when it’s time to act, not feel like we’re being or need to “masculine” when we are active and pushing. We can stop thinking of women as passive and supportive, nurturing, volunteering because we’re natural givers, etc. and use our powers of observation to see that there’s a lot more going on and that that’s something to foster, encourage, cheer on, get down with. Of course whatever your gender.

Then I got thinking about how this simple power of observation also applies to our lives in our current social, cultural and economic context. I often hear people question whether it’s possible for humans to live sustainably, regeneratively, cooperatively, interdependently. Well of course it is. If we use our power of observation we can see that’s what happens with other species in nature, that’s what’s happened for most of human history, that it still happens in indigenous cultures in many parts of the world. Can we support everyone in our communities to a standard of life that would feel acceptable to ourselves? Of course we can. How? Well we definitely need to do something different from what we have been! Let’s try.

On that note, I’ll leave you to your Saturday evening. I know, I’m a total geek for writing this little essay on a Saturday evening but it’s too cold for me to get motivated to go to the show I’d wanted to see, and my brain needed to dump that stuff out and get on with writing songs for my show next Friday