Less than a decade ago, with Mary Magdalene gracing the cover of the December 8th edition of Newsweek, and “The Da Vinci Code” continuing to ride high on the New York Times bestseller list, the cultural historian in me awakened to the possibility of important developments in our understanding of gender. My first thought was that we were finally going to put the Madonna/Whore Syndrome to rest. Perhaps the old patriarchal definitions of male and female were finally cracking apart. Those ideas were reinforced by reading the Newsweek article, which heralded the new Biblical scholarship, done mostly by women, that was painting a new portrait of Mary Magdalene, not as a whore, but as a wealthy, independent woman who had likely made significant financial contributions to Jesus’ ministry, and had become his closest confidant and leading apostle.
Inspired by these developments, I began considering a process of “reflective activism” in our understanding of gender. Activism is usually defined as a response to injustice, an attempt to point out and overthrow oppression, to advocate for the freedom and possibility of the many over the power and privilege of a few. The reflective activism that I have in mind looks for the enemy within as well as the enemy without. It engages personal, as well as interpersonal, and societal transformation. I am suggesting that work from the inside out, from our experiences and images of self and other, initiates change in how we see gender itself. And I believe that changing our way of thinking about gender may activate profound changes in how we come together to build intimate relationships.
Rejection of Self and Longing for the Other:
As I began to contemplate gender issues, I flashed back on a moment of personal mini-awakening on a spring afternoon in 1984. I noticed that my therapist, Jane Gerber, was looking at me in surprise as I worked through some anger at my girl friend. She said, “Tom, aren’t you aware that there is a war on between the sexes?” At that time I truly was not. Since I saw myself as an aspiring feminist and pacifist, I thought that my girlfriend and I were on the same side. Now, equally surprising to me twenty years later, I see the conflict that existed between the genders then, continuing today. What I hope to do in this essay is to explore the ongoing struggle between men and women as it manifests itself in intimate relationships. As a psychotherapist and as an active participant in intimate relationships throughout most of my adult life, this is where my expertise lies.
In writing this article, I have asked for collaborative participation from several of my past and present colleagues at “Newtopia Magazine”. I will be including their poetry, writings, and two of my poems to illustrate the various themes that I explore on the road to a healing and creative reunion of feminine and masculine. I believe these themes are very much in the emerging consciousness of both women and men at this point in our history.
In his writing and interviews that followed the publication of “Iron John”, Robert Bly suggested that although we come into the world with a 360 degree personality, by the time we are ten years old, we have rejected many aspects of the self. The pressure to adapt to expectations in order to live in our families and our society leave us with less than “half of the psyche’s pie” in Bly’s words. This partial rejection of the self leads to a longing for wholeness and the hope that we will find this wholeness in the arms of an intimate partner. An amazing expression of this longing for the other and the promise that finding “her” holds will be found in the excerpt that follows from Randy Roark’s poem “Hymn.”
In the corner a shadow is writing
And a woman’s body stretches like an ascending flame
Until a white body of mystery emerges
I don’t know how.
I adored her-
That led me to everything I am.
Her eyes were grey or blue or green.
I dreamed her as a poem.
I saw her on the page.
Another hot lost thoughtlessness like myself-
Maybe the better part of myself, sleepy, but flesh
Which was then, all trembling-
She dreamed into the pillow where the yellow moonlight
Glistened in the reddish henna of her hair.
How beautiful she was!
She smelled of flowers
And more beauty, more light-
Her skin its own perfume-
Her hair a golden film across my chest-
The deep sunny taste of her mouth
My fingers on her belly
As she slept and shivered
Slippery, velvety, and warm.
The gold of the barns gleamed in her hair and
Her hands were flame and snow-
Emeralds her eyes, and
Her blouse as it fell
Made a circle of light
Beneath us, glistening
Like a thousand tiny violets
In a field of Persian jasmine-
(“Hymns” by Randy Roark, pub. 2000 by Dead Metaphor Press)
In his poem, Randy captures the fullness of the archetype of romantic/erotic love, and the feeling tone of intense longing for the experience of wholeness in the beauty of his words. The lines “I dreamed her as a poem- I saw her on the page-” are a beautiful illustration that we all carry images of the longed for beloved inside ourselves. The subject of his love is imagined as “the better part of myself” and as one who has “led me to everything that I am.” These are fine expressions of the sense of completion and transcendence that can come when we are “falling in love.”
Aldous Huxley suggested that it is only through the eyes of love that we see clearly, and so we can speculate that when we dream in the rapture of Amore, we may indeed be catching a glimpse of the other person’s 360-degree personality, as well as our own. Everyone knows the powerful feeling of oneness that accompanies the experience of falling in love. And indeed, it also helps explain the excruciating pain, despair, and disillusionment that accompanies the end of an intimate, “in love,” relationship. An ending is a ripping away of an illusory sense of wholeness, of the restoration of what was lost and then regained somehow, magically, in the embrace of another.
So where do we go from here, from this initial rapture of longing temporarily fulfilled to the crushing loss of joy and disappointment that can follow when conflicts and confrontation emerge- and won’t go away?
Recognizing The Distortions of the Patriarchal Lens: Accepting the Gendered Self
Robert Bly and Marion Woodman joined forces to write a powerfully suggestive book, “The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine” in 1999. In it, Marion Woodman writes that the “patriarchal lens,” which has dominated our perspective for centuries, colors all our images of others and ourselves. The definitions of the genders that the patriarchal perspective creates for us are well known. There is the idealizing of the young feminine, the “swan princess”, who is split off from her full sexuality by demands for her innocence; the demonizing of the fully sexual woman as the whore or slut, who is then sought out by men in secret; the darkening or disappearing of both the mature and aged feminine as the “witch/bitch” and “old crone”; the imbuing of the image of the male leader with exaggerated needs for power, wealth, dominance, and control, the emasculating perfectionism that drives men to exaggerate their machismo, pump up their bodies, or surrender to feelings of inadequacy and failure. These distortions infect our view of the respective genders causing enormous personal pain and relationship distress. I will return to exploring some of the consequences of viewing gender through the patriarchal lens later in this article.
The signs that we are emerging from this patriarchal point of view are everywhere around us now. Dr. Jane Alexander Stewart in an article written for the San Francisco C.G. Jung Library Journal on “The Feminine Hero in The Silence of the Lambs” heralds the emergence of a different kind of hero. The “Silence of the Lambs” was an enormously popular film, winning numerous Oscars and giving audiences a female protagonist equal to dealing with evil in the world. A small slice of her writing from that article follows.
In this very first scene, Jonathan Demme’s terror-filled film The Silence of the Lambs from Ted Tally’s Oscar winning screenplay sets the audience in position to identify with a new heroic journey of the feminine. When Jodie Foster makes her appearance, an FBI agent-in-training alone in the forest, we feel the context of danger that is the familiar hallmark of a woman’s life. “She’s not safe,” the red light flashes in our brains. Any woman alone, anywhere, puts us on signal alert. Watching Lambs terrifies us because we, especially we as women, know the danger so well. We know a woman isn’t safe living alone in her own apartment; and she tempts the fates when she chooses to run by herself through a park. Though classical mythology likens the female spirit to a nymph, at one with nature, invisible killers haunt the contemporary American landscape and women live with the fear that attack can come from out of nowhere. Not only do they fear men’s attacks on their bodies but also they face denigrating social systems that reinforce a second-class status and devalue what it means to live through a feminine point of view. The character Clarice Starling represents an emerging model of a new female heroine. She embarks on a journey of confrontation with this hidden and pervasive annihilating force against the feminine in American society. Instead of following the precedent of most action/ adventure films starring women, “The Silence of the Lambs” does not focus on the way in which women have to function from the masculine in order to get the job done. In Clarice, we see an action/adventure character who is full of feelings from beginning to end, one who never doubts that feelings are an asset, a source of power. We watch her balance her intuitive clarity with a skillful maneuvering of frank and intimate conversation. She has an uncanny ease with emotionally piercing scrutiny by her male bosses, peers and even the male killers. Close examination of her most private thoughts does not rattle her. If anything, she becomes more focused. She is responsive, not passive, in the face of male betrayals and holds a mirror for the transgressors to look at themselves. And, against all warnings, she continues to place importance on establishing real interpersonal trust with Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter.
Jane’s writing begins to illustrate a process of building stature for women that Woodman and Bly agree must occur if we are to begin to see one another and ourselves clearly- without dependency on an illusion. We must come to terms with the real qualities, resources, capabilities, and possibilities that come with our own gender. Marion Woodman points out, that what matters is not only that one is a woman or a man, but also how one perceives ones gender and how well one is able to accept it. Jane Stewart suggests that, for women, this process of perception and acceptance includes the recognition that there is a great deal of positive power and value to feeling, intuitive clarity, and intimate communication- in either sex.
To promote further recognition and acceptance of a fulfilled feminine, let us listen to two poems by women poets who are discovering the full range of the feminine in their work and in their lives:
There She Is
She punches light
Through the night sky
She wrangles eagles and cockatiels
Taken in by the desert,
Water shocked her into consciousness
Fire was too simple.
The Bookcase Builder
The Seduction Factory
The Split-end Seeker
She’s got a cadre of criminal buddies outside.
She’s got the tea party pantsuit set wondering how?
Come back when she’s got her chatter on
When she’s not writing the end to an endless song
There was something more she had to say
Come back when the cops are gone
And it’s a brand new fucking day.
(by D. Max Staab, 2004)
5 Girls encountered today were
The girl with the hat, the pipe,
The rough shoulders
The girl with the owl
The girl with the swan
The sad girl hung-over
The girl with the hat, the pipe, the rough shoulders
Was clearly on ecstasy
Banishing her sobriety
To a misshapen house of the past,
Damage and lies.
The girl with the owl
Ate french toast and orange juice
While wearing gold earcuffs
And walking two dogs;
Her head full of advanced degrees.
She spoke of a facial to go to
And a date with someone dangerous,
And her addiction to cyclical destruction.
The girl with the swan
On a leash of daisies at the park
Looked like a woman entering sacred space
Alone; a black hole with no map
As the body starts to go,
And the absence of plans,
And whatever her future holds
Hand in hand with her willingness to accept.
The girl with the hangover,
Sat next to her pool this morning
With memories of her divorced parents mingling
With memories of last night’s drunken dance mingling
With the ache in her arch from her high heeled shoes
Mingling with the sun tan oil slicks in the water.
And me: traumatic and flawed
Human and hungry, dramatic
in the realm of grace or ungracefully
shuffling beauty; transformative
All four of them me
Or five of us in all
Or each of us each other
Interchangeable among another
Girls encountered today.
(By Kimberly Nichols, from “Soot Sister”, 2003/2004)
In each of these poems, the poet comes to terms with her emerging self, not just her power, but her complexity and vulnerability. She can be seen throwing off the patriarchal definitions of the feminine, and exploring her “dark” side. This is the work of the poet accepting her full sexual nature, feminine and masculine, in all of its multi-dimensionality, complexity, and drive. It is this full acceptance that allows us to interact with one another with a whole self. At this juncture; the plot thickens and becomes mysterious. For it is not sufficient to see, own, and accept ones own gender. We must also move toward an understanding and acceptance of the other gender that is already a part of us.
Owning the Animus/Anima: Overcoming the fear of the other
From my perspective as a psychotherapist who frequently works with couples, I see men and women’s fear of one another as one of the major sources of conflict and difficulty in relationships. One of my favorite Jung quotes is that, “Whatever in myself I reject, goes far away from me and starts a revolution of the periphery of my personality.” Jung’s understanding of the relationship between rejection and projection in the realm of the psyche, coupled with his notion that every woman has a male aspect (animus) and every man a female aspect (anima), gives us an entryway to understanding the complexity of each gender’s fear of the other, and how that fear may be overcome. Dr. Jung thought that the healing of the psyche would involve a persons developing awareness of the animus/anima and an acceptance and embracing of it. Because of the ways that children are pressured to have the gender traits of their own gender, and to reject the traits of the opposite gender, the process of accepting the anima/animus is very challenging for most of us. My father’s admonition, “You don’t want to be a girl, do you?” still echoes in my ears on occasion.
Since so many of us have been actively and passively encouraged by family members and peers to reject the opposite gender’s traits, we may have unwittingly rejected parts of ourselves that are indispensable to having an intact self. I suggest that our hatred of the opposite gender and the repulsion that some people feel toward homosexuals may be found in this gender rejection process as well. I also suspect, that some of the fear that we feel when entering intimate relationships may be found here. If I reject aspects of the feminine, I will eventually find those rejected qualities in my intimate partner, and then feel the impulse to reject her for having them. As I become intimate with her, I will feel myself merging with the feminine and need to pull back into my masculine fortress. I may begin to reject her as a way of staying separate from her femininity.
So how do we begin to transform these dynamics and tendencies into healthy and functional processes that will foster intimate and loving relationships? The next step in the process, I believe, is contacting and embracing one’s own anima or animus. There are several ways that this can proceed. One path is to examine one’s dream life, “the royal road to the unconscious.” In our dreams, our animus/anima will appear as a person of the opposite gender, and our examination of this dream figure’s qualities, traits, talents, and activities will begin to reveal the anima/animus’ aspects. Reflecting on what we find unacceptable in ourselves, and what the roots of those rejections are may also connect us to aspects of the opposite gender, as will an examination of the things that we find ourselves uncomfortable with in our relationship partners and friends. It is equally valuable to pay attention to the things that we love and value in our partners and friends and to reflect on whether we see ourselves having similar traits. If we find that we do not seem to have these traits, they may be parts of the anima/animus that we have lost access to. Writing poems, essays, and short stories about relationships, or about what we long for may also put us in touch with the opposite gender aspect. To this end, I include two poems, one of my own inspired by a dream about searching for the anima, and another of Kimberly Nichols’ poems, in which she imagines becoming various aspects of the masculine.
Dream Song for the Anima
Your soaring, gliding, words-
Slipping like butterflies from chrysalis,
Evoke a dream of garden walls
Rising tall from pregnant earth in early spring.
Unearthly geometry in height and breadth,
Vine covered darkening grays and moistened greens,
Restless to reflect each ray of wandering light,
This mammoth presence brings me to my knees.
How will we hear the sacred, when it’s calls
Echo from hidden caverns, underground streams,
Flicker in dying firelight, sound simple, single notes
That overwhelmed ears and weakened eyes mistake for
But this monstrous monument,
Dwarfing time and space with weight and mass,
Like screams that chill the blood, deep sobs of grief,
Defies all hope of willful ignorance.
Crafted somewhere in these huge walls,
An almost microscopic gate allows trespass
To a maze, fog shrouded by a ghostly dance.
Here, daring to be lost on twisted breathless paths,
My peaking senses wash with waves
Of hallowed grace I can’t endure.
I sense that I may find you here,
Mesmerized in reverie,
Beneath Ginkgo, framed in ferns,
Chanting waterfalls of Coltrane hymns.
I awaken with belief.
Inside these walls, this garden is your gift
Of yearning, tender, smoky majesty.
(By T.Goforth, April, 1999)
DID YOU EVER
Did you ever wanna be a cowboy?
Riding tall in the saddle
Whipping the wind out of the west
Yee hi ho hay
Right out there on the
Range of emotions
Rise through the kettle
On the stove.
Did you ever wanna be a vampire?
I know you did
Your last lover called
A dracula kisser
Silent in the dark
Slow and conniving
Did you ever want to be a masochist?
Belt on and nothing else
Studded collar under your covers;
Letting you pent your
Did you ever wanna be a senator?
Giving it good
To the common
Man under wire,
Life entwined with
And what about a junkie?
Head down in the gutter
Threading itself up
Into your veins
To stand and to
On their own accord.
Bless me son. I
Ask you these things
In the chimney of my
Brain without sleep,
No mopping the galore
Of my weakness.
Ten P.M. weakness.
I wish I was the moon tonight.
I’d like to be found
Sitting fat and high
In everyone’s window
“Dream Song” is best heard as a hymn of longing for the anima. It also conveys the breathless excitement that can accompany contacting the feminine aspect of the self. Here the anima is a version of the swan princess, the beautiful young woman of magic and mystery. This is the easiest positive aspect of the feminine for men to contact, and the aspect that we often prize most highly. The poem attempts to convey that the journey to the feminine is a sacred one, inspiring awe and wonder in the seeker. In “Did You Ever,” the poet speculates on her desires for masculine experience, and weaves her way through to the dark side of the masculine. The ending of the poem suggests that once we start to own the opposite aspects of the self, we can return, as the poet does here, to a full feeling of our own gender, the moon “sitting fat and high in everyone’s window tonight.”
While I firmly believe that owning and integrating the animus/anima is a partial antidote for overcoming the fear of intimate partnership, there is another fear that must be understood as well, the fear of being dominated by the opposite gender. In another poem from Kim Nichols’ “Soot Sister” collection, we find an incisive explication of this fear, which so frequently arises when attraction and chemistry are strong.
You terrify me yet I love you
more than anything, this morning
I woke up in rain; gray sky
through open white slats in a
little girl I love’s bedroom on
her leopard spotted sheets and
a cool morning mist
hit me. Last night we
sat on rooftops, knees hunched up
on burnt sienna colored shingles, your
back towards me as you spoke
into the sunlight, glaringly
bright like you, and me, a true
earthworm inching on down
towards the eaves
afraid of everything about you
except for the warmth of your
hands, the smooth expanse
of your brown belly, an umbilical
place we were connected as one
once before we both burst forth
into this brilliance. Last night
when we met you swept
me, you sweep me, down
to a place frozen; an icicle
manufacturing plant, a snow
powdered realism dust, the kind of
truth that leaves bite marks, enough
on someone cold, old and isolated, someone
naked and hungry, marks
this seesaw, this who is really
better, this will we ever bisect
again, last night
I tried to read a story
to an audience that included you
and halfway through
I could not go on. My deep voice
was there, my no fear, my desert
legs were there, my chignon too
and you. The warmth of you, the
freezing cold of you, my mirror
you, hand in hand, you
were the fear fire in my loins.
(By Kimberly Nichols, from “Soot Sister,” 2003/2004)
Here Kim Nichols beautifully and skillfully points to the dynamics of dominance, the issue that therapists refer to in couples work as the power struggle. The poem fleshes out the concept with revealing phrases, “this seesaw, this who is really better, this will we ever bisect again.” The poet describes herself as “a true earthworm inching on down towards the eaves, afraid of everything about you” in the face of the brightness of this being she loves and fears simultaneously. There is the sense that she is losing a competition that she longs to exit from, but cannot escape, and there is a strong feeling of omnipresent judgment and scrutiny that paralyses her as she attempts to read her story.
Deconstructing the Dominance/Submission Model: Moving Toward Partnership
The film, “The Hours” starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore, illustrates the pernicious effect of dominance and submission in intimate relationships. The film suggests that either gender can feel imprisoned in a relationship. What matters is whose interior life is dominant. Each person in a relationship has an interior life. Each person hears their inner voices and sees their inner visions, feels their inner feelings. But in some if not all relationships, one person’s inner world prevails over the others. There is often a dominant figure in each relationship, and that person can obscure the dreams and desires of the less-dominant partner. If the less-dominant one accedes to keeping their inner life secret, they will gradually feel more and more victimized and resentful. The choice to be the woman behind the man did not feel like a real choice to Virginia Wolf or the 50’s housewife. It was the only role that a woman had been given to play. The only other choices, the movie suggests, are to die or run away.
The power battles and struggles for dominance in relationships are always in the service of something. We each have written a script, or created a fantasy or dream of where our lives and relationships are supposed to go, but this script is only partly conscious. When something arises in our lives, which is a threat to the enactment and fulfillment of the script/dream, we often react strongly and try to coerce our partner or our life back on track. There is a tremendous energy fueling these scripts and fantasies. Young children, who in the face of pressures, injuries, and traumas are trying to make sense of their lives, have written these stories. It is in these moments of overwhelming distress that they are forced to create the fantasy, dream, or story that becomes the way to survive and transcend their childhood fate. It is for this reason, I believe, that we have such strong reactions when our script is challenged, and why so much energy can go into trying to dominate or control our partners. We are asserting our “dream” as the best and safest path to follow, and we will defend this dream as if our lives depended on it.
In discussing the dynamics of power and dominance struggles between the genders, I have often found myself speaking of the fear I believe men have of women’s power. My women clients often ask what men are afraid of, and I reply that there are several aspects of the feminine that men react to with fear. Most obviously, a woman’s power to attract a man and to draw him into the experience of falling in love can set off flight reactions in the strongest of men. Women’s capacity to nurture can also inspire fear in most men, who have had to give up sitting on their mother’s lap before they were ready to. Nurture is an experience men both long for and fear. How many of us who are fathers, recognize the feelings of jealousy and loss that arise when the first child is born? The power of deep feeling, clear intuition, and the capacity for intimate communication are other aspects of women’s powers that can intimidate men. Unfortunately, these fears are not always in the man’s consciousness.
Women, likewise, as indicated in Kim’s poem “Sickness” can feel intimidated by their partner’s brightness, his passionate intelligence, his physical strength, his seeming self sufficiency, his ability to stay calm in a crisis. Any experience of one’s potential partner’s strengths can lead to feelings of inadequacy, submission, or actual withdrawal from a relationship.
Listen to Ronnie Pontiac’s highly suggestive poem, “Oedipus Discovers America” for his complex exploration of the dominance and submission themes in our parents’ relationships and how they then affect the kinds of intimate relationships that we build ourselves.
Oedipus Discovers America
I hear them through the wall.
They’re talking about Lewis and Martin on TV.
“Surprisingly,” she says, “Lewis was a dom top
and Martin a rather femme bottom.”
“That conjures an ugly image,” he laughs.
“The only thing worse than Lewis’s ceaseless
need for ass kissing,” she continues,
he finishes her sentence: “was his relentless
obsession with cock sucking.”
“The only thing worse than being an ass kisser,”
her voice deepens, “is being a cock sucker.”
“There’s the rub,” he laughs, “how can such heinous
contempt be attached to so pleasurable an act?”
“Force,” she says, “Force isn’t as exciting
or sexy, or romantic, as people pretend.”
The predictable loud bumps and a crash,
her muffled gagging. His guttural “You love it.”
I guess she did, because she seemed especially
relaxed and cheerful after, absent-mindedly stirring
my canned spaghetti in an old pot on the gas flame,
my mother, both my mother then and the mother I married.
Everyone knows American boys marry their moms,
apparent from a chronic cough, hue of hair and eyes,
hesitant laughter, or gossipy sincerity.
Mistakenly praised as sweet and romantic,
this psychosis triggers beatings, rapes,
and cancers in our supposedly civilized society.
Unconsciously vengeful and apocalyptic,
helpless against the laws of psychological physics
moms only giving what she got. All that swallowed rage
has to go somewhere. With careful and caring snips
the best bits of life are clipped away. Sitting
at the table, sorting through her coupons,
pretending it’s a card game.
(By Ronnie Pontiac, from “For Immediate Publication,” 2002
One implication of Ronnie Pontiac’s poem is that the consequences of a dominant/submissive parental relationship are visited directly on the children. A son is vulnerable to carrying his mother’s rage at her dominating partner, as well as the internalization of his father’s need for dominance. And so when he finds “his mother” in adulthood and marries her, he may inflict both his rage and dominating behaviors on his partner. The poet sees this dynamic as a probable cause of much of the violence inflicted on women by men. This poem represents another attempt to make the unconscious influences of male dominated sexual culture conscious. Although the poet suggests no remedy, there is the surprising mention of the mother’s apparently liking the experience of having oral sex forced on her by her husband. My suspicion is that the appeal of the experience of being dominated is that it can be as close as we come to the experience of true surrender to our partner in sexual encounters.
This brings me back to the beginning of this article and the work of Marion Woodman and Robert Bly in their book “The Maiden King.” Woodman and Bly suggest that the reunion of masculine and feminine can only happen if each of us is able to “ingest” our love of the opposite gender. This ingestion process goes beyond acceptance of the anima/animus and beyond the acceptance of our particular relationship partner or spouse. Ingestion refers to our fully embracing the opposite gender in love and internalizing that love so that it fully becomes a part of our psyche. What so often is the case, even in “good” relationships, is that the happy partners will conclude, we lucked out. We found that one in a million man or woman who was capable of loving us. While this is indeed good fortune, the sense of having found the “special” partner who is the exception to their gender can easily disintegrate later in the relationship when he/she begins to exhibit certain stereotypic gender bound traits. This is not the transforming event that the genders need if we are to put an end to the war between them. Bly and Woodman insist that reunion will only occur when we succeed in fully ingesting our love for our opposite gender. I am suggesting that the steps that we have explored above are the steps we need to take to create that love.
Jean Paul Sartre wrote in “Being and Nothingness” that all sexual relationships were by definition sadomasochistic. By this he meant that one partner would be dominant and the other would have to submit. This may have seemed true in his time, but it is less and less the only option in ours. As women come into greater and greater awareness of all the exceptional aspects of the feminine, and as men become more and more liberated from the patriarchal version of the masculine, we have the emerging possibility of true partnership. The bio-energetic school of psychotherapy suggests that surrendering to the pleasure being received from ones partner and from ones own body in lovemaking allows for the mutual experience of shared bliss. I would similarly suggest that by ingesting our love for the opposite gender, we begin to be able to surrender to the magnificence of masculinity and femininity. My poem “Running with Orion” is an attempt to put such a surrender to the goddess, the fully actualized feminine, into words. In writing it, I had the great pleasure of feeling kinship with all my brothers (Orion) and sisters (Cassiopeia) who are engaged in furthering the ongoing evolution of the gender. If my fellow collaborators and I have inspired your engagement in the goal of ending the war between the genders, we are grateful for your responsiveness, and extend our invitation to you to join us in this reflective activism.
Running with Orion
Tonight the Northwest Wind has had enough of humankind.
With one fresh breath the debris of daily life is chased away.
Orion now runs free across the sky, feet flying, flashing legs
Following the point of his sparkling scabbard.
Called the Hunter, he has no interest in game or food.
He races toward Mother and Baby Bear,
For it is their Spirit catching talents he seeks.
Tonight their soft paws are cupped toward the thunderous winds
That roil the waves now crashing the ancient banks.
Here on the ground, I am caught unaware,
For it’s my red recycling container I seek
That hides behind the looming plastic garbage can.
But the sounds of Orion’s flying feet catch my ears,
And looking skyward, I am alive to the night.
Orion’s tale is my own; of how drawn he is to Cassiopeia’s Throne.
Can he see her sitting there, her bejeweled crown, her flowing gold
And silver tresses streaming toward him in the wind?
Is he drawn, as I am, to her alluring beauty, her imagined grace?
I believe so, since I recall my Father’s first glimpse of her,
And caught the starlit sparkle in his eye.
Tonight, the moon hangs halfway caught in clouds, just barely at hilltop.
It ducks the wind and lights Orion’s way.
As I walk, he is ever at my side, and when I turn
I feel the grace and strength of his run across the heavens.
I know our kinship, our love of her essence,
And the clear-cut truth of nights like this.
So dear brother, I would race across the cosmos in full stride,
I would fly with you toward her magnificent throne.
Together we would worship at her feet, beg her blessing,
Curry fond Cassie’s favor; swear to raise her banner far and wide.
Trading our adoration for one smile, one calling of our names.
Such fools we would be for her divinity.
To call her Goddess would be our shameless creed!
(By Tom Goforth 12/01/03)
This article is from the archives of Newtopia Magazines previous incarnation from 2002-2005 and is considered a still-relevant classic today.
ARTICLE BY THOMAS GOFORTH
Newtopia staff writer THOMAS GOFORTH is a psychotherapist and pastoral counselor working in Chicago, IL. He was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1967 and served as Chaplain to the Cook County Jail and the Chicago House of Correction while working for St. Leonard’s House, one of the first halfway houses in the country.. He did draft counseling and community organizing during the Viet Nam War, and was one of the founding members of the Lincoln Park Therapy Collective, an all volunteer organization which provided free group therapy for people living on the North Side of Chicago from 1968 until the mid 80′s.He helped organize the first crisis phone line in Chicago, and later helped train the staff counselors for Kool Aide Youth Emergency Services and Metro Help. He was an actor in the Free Theater Company and Rapid Transit Guerrilla Communications, two groundbreaking political theater companies performing in Chicago during the late 60′s and early 70′s. In the 80′s he helped found the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Chicago and became its third president and a member of its teaching faculty. At the invitation of Charles Shaw, he became the acting “Pit Boss” of the New Poetry Collective, the poetry arm of Newtopia Magazine in its first incarnation. Follow him at Twitter @thomas_goforth.