• Today’s questions: What feels uncomfortable today? Where does it feel uncomfortable? What might this be teaching you, if you allowed it to teach you?
• Today's suggested practice: Day 23 of this month's practice, to practice for yourself, your wants, the things you yearn for (see Kendra Cunov’s short “Notes Towards Self Practice” below)
• My practice: 6AM: 20 minutes: Mediation for Physical Health & Mental Clarity
• My vulnerability practice: There is so much to do. But I want nothing of it, and will let it all go with the wind and the rain…
★ The August 16 Apprenticeship to Love Virtual Workshop will focus on the “lessons of Barbie” If you’re not already a Premium subscriber please join me here: If you’d like to access these monthly Virtual Workshops for no charge, please sign up as a Premium subscriber (price of a coffee every month) here.
Hans Peter Meyer
It is my perception that we are, in the wake of the awakening of sensitivities and consciousness and conscience that is often called “woke-ism,” experiencing a backlash. We’ve been here before. Germany in the 1920s was a profoundly “woke” place. Germany by the mid-1930s, not so much.
I have friends who resent the “woke” thing. I don’t get it. Or maybe I do: I’ve felt uncomfortable every time I’ve been invited or forced to change. I’ve been uncomfortable with every awakening I’ve experienced. Well, maybe not all of them. The awakening to sexual pleasure was pretty much a fun thing. Unfortunately, even there —with the fun sex thing— things got awkward and uncomfortable the more I really experienced it.
That's life, I guess. A little bit of sweetness, then a little bitter. Eventually the bitter becomes the better thing. But at first, no. Too yuck.
I wasn’t going to watch the Barbie movie. Why would I do that? My sisters and cousins played with the dolls. Sometimes I played along. Later, my daughters. One day, I imagine, my granddaughters. At one time it all seemed so revanchist. Politically retrograde. But I wasn’t going to make my kids’ playtime any more political than it already was (we were “progressives,” so, of course, everything was political). Somehow in a feminist household we didn’t battle over Barbie.
But still, I’m not going to watch a whole movie about the doll that messes up women’s self image. Etcetera.
And then I saw some of the right wing (I will not call them “conservative,” because these people are not conserving anything, they are radicals trying to undo the rights of… Well, perhaps you get the point…) I saw some of these reviews and apopletic commentaries and I knew I had to watch.
My advice, if you’re a man, make this a date-night event. Not a comfortable date-night event, but one that shows you’ve got the b*lls to sit while caricatures of masculinity are laughed at. But hey, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
Go to the moview for a date-night, or for a “boys night out.” Even better! Go with the bros, and notice.
Either way, notice. Notice how hard it is to laugh at the cartoonish masculinity that’s being offered.
Don’t —PLEASE DON’T— take it personally. It’s a movie. It’s a movie about a couple of dolls, for Chr*st’s sake. Lighten up. Sit back. Chew on some popcorn and watch how big political stuff (feminism, patriarchy, democracy, rights, etc) gets pummelled and played with in a cartoon context.
But then: Let it sink in. Not the defensiveness —let that drift away. There’s more going on here in this fluffy movie than you can imagine.
There’s a saying. I’m going to butcher it and not know how to credit it. The first time I heard it was from a wise man named Mike Littrell at a gathering on Cortes Island at Hollyhock. He credited Hemingway. I think Hemingway credited the Bible. In any case, it goes something like this: Life breaks all of us; some of us are stronger in the broken places.
Here’s another I’m going to wrangle with. Attributed to Margaret Atwood, but I’m pretty sure she’s footnoted someone else: Men are afraid of being laughed at; women are afraid of being killed.
Or this: A man recently posted about a conversation about dating. He offered that it was a low risk adventure: the worst thing that could happen is that he’d waste a couple of hours of his life with someone who was boring. His female friend responded: The worst thing that could happen is that I get raped. Or killed.
Barbie isn’t about any of this. But it is about, at the end of the day, how we understand and interpret and, if we’re especially courageous (and this is where women tend to beat the men, hands down), how we re-interpret the codes of the culture we’ve been raised in.
When you watch Barbie think how life has broken you. Think how you’ve responded.
When you watch Barbie think about how your sisters or daughters or granddaughters or mothers used these dolls to both affirm the cultural stereotypes for women —and how they reshaped those stereotypes and values. The dolls are just that: dolls. But our doll-playing selves weren’t and aren’t playing paint-by-numbers games. They’re interpreting how to do relationships and parenting and careers based on what they’re seeing around them.
What kind of example am I setting? How am I, to borrow the question that stands at the end of the movie, How am I creating my life in this culture, knowing that every new thing hurts.
It hurts to step outside the conventions. Thanks to some very courageous women in the mid-20th century women have been encouraged to think outside the box that the culture gave them. They were hated. They were hated for being “man-haters.” Maybe some were. Some —more than we like to admit!— had good reason to hate the men (fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, friends, dates, husbands, etc) who they were led to trust, men who hurt them, raped them, almost killed them.
It hurts to step outside the conventions and be something new. That’s what women experience every time they get “woke” to how miserable they are living the life the culture makes ready for them. Not all women, to be sure. But lots.
And it’s true for men, too. Not all men, no. But so many of us have grown up inside a box called “masculinity” that doesn’t fit who we are, how we want to be.
The very sad thing, for you and me brother, is that most of us have not had leadership like the women of the so-called “second wave of feminism” of the 1960s. Many, many, many of us have learned from our mothers or our sisters, or our girlfriends and wives, that the boxed version of masculinity is not a healthy thing. For anyone.
I read a beautiful and painful essay recently about “the problem with men.” Beautiful because the writer did an admirable job of showing how f*cked things are for so many young men. Especially when it comes to masculine leadership. That was painful. But the most painful part was that she identified the heroes of the “manosphere,” the prophets of an emergent fascism and retrograde toxic male behaviour, as the only alternative these angry (mostly white) young men are seeing.
It’s not quite that dark. There are many men doing admirable work that isn’t about ratcheting up the culture war between men and women, or against those who identify somewhere on the LGBQTetc spectrum. David Deida. John Wineland. Soma Miller. Ted Riter. Max Trombly. Brandon Archer. Travis Straub. Justin Patrick Pierce. Connor Beaton. And more and more.
When I was where Ken was, life was hard. And it’s like that for many men right now: no passion for their work, no real friends, unsatisfied in a relationship but only feeling value when she attended to him. It’s a frustrating place to be. A place of feeling literal impotence: no potency, only dependence. And we blame her. The job. The system. Etc.
If we’re lucky —and I was lucky, several times— she liberates us by leaving us. Enlightenment hurts. But every hurt took me deeper into who I am the person I am. And that person, in this body, in this life, is a masculine-identified man.
It’s a silly movie about dolls. A silly movie that’s a cartoon about how this culture represents women and men. And, it’s a silly little movie that asks me to remember that stepping outside the box —or being pushed outside the box, or asked to leave the box— is a painful thing. But that’s OK. Enlightenment hurts. Being awakened hurts. But I’d rather the hurt and the coming to love the sometimes-bitter than settling for the sweet that becomes dull.
In the end, who am I when I, in my “Kenough” moment, stand outside the boxed behaviours of this culture?
I have no desire to go “back” to some mythical golden age, the fascist utopia of the manosphere. I have only one desire, to know this life more deeply and revel in what it offers. It will hurt, but the hurt is less when I know that this is just me waking up to a beauty and a love that transcends my limited imagination.
🌀The Conscious Warrior is ruthlessly honest with himself while being kind to others. (John Wineland, Precept 1)
🌀You are not like that anymore. (My beloved, my Oracle and Siren)
TODAY'S SUGGESTED PRACTICE
Day 23 of this month's practice:
Please read through first, then ...
Today, set a time —at least five minutes, perhaps 15— when you can be alone and in stillness.
• Stand or sit or lie, with a beautiful and straight spine, firm but relaxed, feeling your feet or your sit bones or hips heavy and connected to the earth
• Close your eyes;
• Inhale deeply into your belly, letting it become soft and round;
• Exhale by gently and slowly, much more slowly than your inhale, pressing your navel to your spine,
• And listen to Kendra Cunov’s few minutes on practice:
When you’re done, stand or sit or lie for another minute and breathe gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself: Do you feel the invitation to take risks? Do you know your limits, your capacities? Do you trust yourself?
Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
Continue with your day, open to the gifts it brings.