I just finished reading Joke’s newest short story. I had to cry and cry and cry. This is no selling point for the talents of my life-partner. It is sharing with you how I am moved by yet another woman. It is a personal sample of how the feminine can and is moving the human world. Think Greta. Think Merkel. But also Gandhi, Mandela, Ramaphosa. Non-dominating men who represent a balance of the masculine and feminine in them, who can be small as much as they are big.
In her story, Joke captured all the major strands of our times in an intense drama based on a farm in South Africa: the destructive last gasps of patriarchy, the crisis of faith and global warming. Before reading the story, I had a clear idea of what I’d like to share with you in this newsletter. But now the water that flushed through my heart turned my mind into a fog. Everyday the news is filled with intense drama the world over. How to get a grip on it all? I find that free news on the internet has heightened my appetite for headlines – every day a string of articles can be opened to feed this appetite, leaving little space for reflection. Trump is a master of this: constant news frenzies through provocation. No time for reflection. And it obscures the slow deterioration of the mechanisms of governance under his watch. Not to mention the sleaze, corruption and deficit of care.
Despite the fogginess, let me try. I mentioned “the last gasp of patriarchy” Perhaps a too optimistic reading of our current state of human affairs. But listening to what the soils and the air are telling us, the available budget for burning is shrinking fast, not only in terms of the (fossil) fuels available, but also because the atmosphere is choking. All this burning leads to the burning of us all.
Anyone who sometimes wonder whether the control of fire was our original downfall? Not the eating of the apple, not greed, not the invention of war making, but that day the first human managed to start his or her – probably his – own fire?
My father, a Reformed preacher, used to talk a lot about fire. Burning with the Love. Firing up the youth for Jesus. Purification. And he died of the fire – that runaway in-flame-ation called cancer. Global warming is a runaway inflammation of the atmosphere. It’s the main driver behind the surge in runaway fires we’ve seen in places we thought was untouchable. Knysna. Malibu. And so many more.
Did we do well in getting control of fire-making, turning our focus away from our most natural life-giving fire, the sun? Now it seems like the sun is killing us, yet, it is our fires that brought the choking with it, the overdose of heat, the looming mass extinction, the revenge of Mother Earth..
Back to my first point: but this morning I want to thank the women, beginning with Joke, whose story gave me those much needed tears – tears, the rain that brings relieve to the droughts in our hearts. All women who make themselves heard, and more importantly, felt, in these times, when what packs of men did to us and the earth is beginning to unravel. Badly.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am a man who even calls himself the HA!Man. I do not apologize for being a man and I do not wish that I was a woman. What we rail against, though, is the operation of men in isolation from the feminine principle, the female energy. In isolation from women. When too many male minds get going by themselves, you soon see them losing touch with the ground. You soon see them idealizing. You soon see them trying to perfect. You soon see them beginning to lust. And you soon see them beginning to destroy – first all around them, then themselves. They become linear, two-dimensional.
Also, not all women represent the feminine. In fact, sometimes a woman can represent or uphold the dominating male principle more crudely and devastatingly than a man, perhaps because they try extra hard. Think Thatcher. Or our public protector. My late mother, like so many devout women of Abrahamic faith was a staunch defender of the supremacy of Adam over Eve.
Do I hear voices saying that all this gender talk is relative? That we should not even think in terms of men and women anymore? That we should be free to identify ourselves as non-gendered? Or be able to choose our gender? I am afraid that going into argument with these voices lies beyond the scope of this message. It can become very complicated, so complicated that it’s easy to throw out the baby with the bath water and say that anything goes. in the meantime, the reality of packs of men trying in various ways to still uphold male domination in the world goes on. And the reality of a surging femininity is also going on, and gives ground for hope.
Because the story of patriarchy, of competing religions and of global warming can all lead to destruction and death, to the end of our cycle. On the other hand the surge of the feminine is not about Utopia,. It is not about a world full of love and peace and perennial flowering. In Joke’s story, what brought me to tears was not the saving of a life by some hero, or the conversion of a bad person into one that is now good. No, it was brought about by all of the characters, in how they struggle to relate, how they fail in that, and how relation is restored, if only in tiny ways.
It is not in choosing between the masculine and feminine, it is not in asking women to rule, it is not by trying to do away with our very deeply layered and basic gender differences that we will find our way again. It lies in re-animating a dynamic relationship between these two principles and between the sexes in general. Relation implies mutuality. The one finding its role and identity in the face of the other. In isolation, in domination, the differences become more absolute, stark, lifeless, destructive. Relation is not a definition of male or female. It is an active participation in being different and being the same all at once. Relation goes beyond what I can write about here, it jumps off the page into real life. A story about relation brings you to yourself, liberates you from the typed words, wetting your cheeks, switches on the sun again and fills your lungs with air.
Men and woman can and both should awaken this in us: that we are alive. That even though we can control fire, we should maintain that grip on life, not allowing the fire to run away with us. The powerful role women can and are playing right now is only powerful in the face of the power men have enjoyed and abused over millennia. But in the end it is not about who has the power. It is about how well we relate.
Something of this we have yet again in South Africa, in a president called Cyril Ramaphosa. We are extremely lucky. The changes are brewing all over the country, even though many pundits still have a wait-and-look attitude, not to speak of many in this country who still fail to see what’s happening. The problem with a good leader balancing the masculine and feminine, is that it does not show off. It does not peddle in grand gestures. It’s bad for the attention grabbing news cycle. My free internet newspapers generally finds him too slow and “un-presidential”. If he does not shock or entertain you, he cannot be good.
But the world is dying because of cheap thrills. There is quite a thrill in fire making. especially when surrounded by a pack of men. The thing is, you lit a fire, you need to take responsibility for your cleverness. And be aware of the price you are paying for such ease. Also the limitedness – the vulnerability – of the earth that you are burning. Only adolescents think that thrills constitute life.
Relation is flow. We need more stories like the one Joke wrote, to reveal and restore flow. Men and women in flow. Heaven and earth in flow. And rivers that still flow with the water that forms the core of our origins, our being and our survival – spiritual as well as material.
Thank you again, Joke, for the flow of tears you gave me this morning.