I've been thinking about authority. What is real authority, really? I think when it's authentic it just shows up, the way water runs downhill. Authority shifts positions within a group of people depending on the topic at hand because different people know more or less about different things because we've all had different experiences. Of course that fluidity takes humility, paying attention and a willingness to change roles within the group. If we're identified unquestioningly with certain roles then we get stuck with a preset authority figure who's supposed to know all the things. Longterm I think this kind of structure leads to distrust because it's unstable and becomes defensive - a whole lot of small, fortified kingdoms ruled by fools, so to speak.
Traditionally in our culture, authority has been assumed to belong to men. Man as head of household, man as boss of company, man as hero and God. Another traditional view is that adults always have authority over children and are supposed to tell children all about life. All of this is changing as we learn more and it's a sloppy, unsophisticated dance we're doing to clarify who in the group really does know more, from actual lived experience, about the topic at hand.
For me, the dance step that is most sloppy right now is - When to interrupt? And how? Noticing when either I or another person has fallen asleep behind the authority wheel and is driving into a bog. I can't rightfully complain if I'm sitting in the car letting it happen and I definitely can't complain if we end up in a bog that I drove us to. Ok, if I'm getting clear that complaining is not helping then what else should be done? How can I interrupt this momentum so that we can go somewhere better than a bog? Oh, another thing that doesn't work all that well anymore is just leaving. I get into the habit of looking for my exit when I feel trapped in a bad authority situation, but over time I notice that if I leave this one I'll just show up in another one. What do I really want? I want to dance with authority! I want to dance with the people I'm with in this moment and the next. There are many ways to dance but my favorite way involves some agreed upon structure and then a lot of freedom and improvisation within it. The model of authority is changing, and it creates a more trusting world as we each step into and out of authority with more and more ease.
I was confiding in my journal this morning about a situation (or a few) that happened on Christmas and came to looking at a value that lives in me about authority, leadership, sharing of power among people. I did pretty well with standing in my own shoes, and there were plenty of times when I caved in too. It’s been turning over in my head for the past few days and I’m imagining those icky moments, having done them differently. What would that have looked and felt like? It always comes back to the most obvious purpose for people gathering - connection, belonging, friendship. I can imagine going ahead and assuming my own authority in a way that breaks the spell and invites a new level of connection and honest relationship to grow among us. I can also recognize those moments when I actually did that through my own dense conditioning and it wasn’t absolutely perfectly amazing but it was good. You see, my historical habit around authority has been to follow whoever's habit it is to lead. I've tested it for years and that model does not typically create a thriving situation! So, time for something happier.
Ten years ago a friend quoted these lyrics to me as poetry and anthem and they pop into my head from time to time:
But don't give yourself away
Last night a woman at Lockhart prison mentioned that during her sentence she took a class called "women's health". I asked her what that class was like and she essentially told me they learned about disease - how to avoid getting STDs, how to check for breast cancer, and other problems... She mentioned nothing about health... I felt the sinking feeling again that comes in regards to how our culture regards our bodies and the messages that are ingrained in our beliefs about fear and distrust of our nature. I'm sad that people in prison are bombarded with a religious view that is just another prison of the mind and I'm sad that women who have already endured a lifetime of hurt are being taught more bad news about their bodies. One common example is that many people (woman or man, in prison or not) were molested as children, which hurts a young psyche, severs our sense of self and invades our rightful dominion of our bodies. Add to that an ongoing "education" about bodies as basically uninhabitable places that have to be vigilantly measured and monitored for intruders, that are basically sinful and need to be saved by an imaginary man god so we can be whisked off to heaven after the misery of this life has passed. Such a conundrum.
This is a sad belief system that interferes with our inherent capacity to thrive freely in our bodies, in our lives and in our world.
We cannot teach what we don't explore and plenty of people are out there teaching about "health" but what they're really doing is teaching about fearing our bodies and managing the consequences of that fear, because in a very direct way the attitude creates and maintains tension that makes the disease scenario come true. Plenty of people are also out there preaching about salvation but what they're really doing is passing on this story that says humans are bad and have to be saved. No. Humans are consciousness in bodies that are designed by the movement of life. We are movement! We are fully capable of inhabiting our bodies in clear discovery so that we can experience more and more and more of this freedom that is already our nature. It's a play between consciousness and form, dynamic and robust in every one of us, in our uniqueness and our universality.
We are not sinful and we are not disease. We CAN condition our minds to fear ourselves and the world so that we live in a continual state of tension and stagnation, preventing the flow from doing its awesome renewal thing *if we choose*! Or we can choose to stop believing these dismal stories and go with the flow that is us. Traumatic experiences that have conditioned our minds and bodies to contract in the face of life CAN heal. This is our nature. Any class called "women's health" or "men's health" or just "health" needs to be oriented to the flow of life, not the blocking of it. Otherwise call it "illness and vigilance class". Or how about "sad class"? Haha!
In our culture we're so used to the sad story that we don't even notice how sad it is. Sure, all kinds of wild, crazy, graceful, funny, boring, painful, beautiful, scary, darling and ridiculous things happen throughout a lifetime, and we are fully equipped to go through the contractions and expansions, to learn and heal and grow as we go. Nature is resilient and life is incredible. We should embody it.
Hi, it's Ginger. I hope my thoughts here will add to freedom, expansion and creativity for you as you read them.