The Bodhisattva ideal in popular Western culture

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jonsjourney
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Post by jonsjourney » Fri May 22, 2009 12:33 pm

Hello to all!

The middle way is rarely encouraged in our society...no? So much is carved into black and white terms that by the time a child gets to college age, these ideas have been drilled into their heads for over 20 years. A good parent, as was indicated earlier here, is one who facilitates their child's growth, intervening when necessary...and watching, sometimes painfully, as they discover how things work for themselves.

Boys are given G.I. Joes, baseballs, and building blocks. Girls are given dolls, batons, and mock kitchens. Think about what we put in front of infants...pinks for girls...blues for boys. When we interact with a toddler, we rough-house with the boys, and speak in kind and loving tones to the girls. The television images which are geared toward gender roles keep building on these stereotypes throughout a child's growth. By the time we hit puberty, we have been thoroughly conditioned for our gender roles. As those hormones kick in, we become ultra masculine and ultra feminine during our high school years. This is such an important time in determining how long it will take before we realize that we are being conditioned. Some may never know. I get a chuckle whenever my friends and I peruse dating websites. So many men and women want it all from a partner...women want the masculine, strong, handsome man who is sensitive and is "emotionally available"/willing to talk about their feelings. Men want the 'sexy' accommodating woman who will bring home the bacon, cook it up and happily send him out the door while he goes and plays with his friends. People are being conditioned to want an illusion, which I think explains the high, and getting higher, divorce rates.

Is the conditioning nefarious? I don't know the answer to that. It certainly creates problems, especially today. I can understand the importance of testosterone-driven ultra masculinity 32,000 years ago, but today it does little else than inspire a spectacular 3-point shot or a bone-crunching tackle in a football game. Both males and females are experiencing a major shift in what were considered 'traditional roles' for most of human history. Women and men both face special challenges in navigating the modern work and social worlds. The study of gender role is relatively new to science...we are on the leading edge of understanding how to reconcile what seem to be innate tendencies versus the mixed messages we are expected to properly navigate as we interact.

Do I help the woman who is stranded on the side of the road, or will offend her sense of independence and autonomy? Hell if I know. For now, I will choose to help and possibly suffer the consequences of being perceived as acting out of chauvinism...this is my problem to navigate...so I will defer to compassion if all else fails! If I act out of compassion, I am acting in accord with my moral compass and if my act is misperceived, at least I do not need to carry guilt over it.
Last edited by jonsjourney on Fri May 22, 2009 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Neoplato
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Post by Neoplato » Fri May 22, 2009 1:10 pm

The middle way is rarely encouraged in our society...no? So much is carved into black and white terms that by the time a child gets to college age, these ideas have been drilled into their heads for over 20 years. A good parent, as was indicated earlier here, is one who facilitates their child's growth, intervening when necessary...and watching, sometimes painfully, as they discover how things work for themselves.
Well, I’m already tainting my children. No notes from the teachers yet. My son has asked me “What makes life?” and I gave him the Neo-Platonic answer (Earth, air, water, fire, and ether) but he has no concept of “god” yet.
So many men and women want it all from a partner...women want the masculine, strong, handsome man who is sensitive and is "emotionally available"/willing to talk about their feelings. Men want the 'sexy' accommodating woman who will bring home the bacon, cook it up and happily send him out the door while he goes and plays with his friends. People are being conditioned to want an illusion, which I think explains the high, and getting higher, divorce rates.
My experience is that my children fell into their own gender roles. My son has always been “rough”. He used to flip himself out of crib before he was two and he likes to jump from high places. My daughter stayed in the crib a lot longer and has no desire to rough house. She actually likes being a girl. “I’m a princess daddy, buy me a princess dress.” She’s only four.

As JC said “Marriage isn’t a love nest, it’s an ordeal.”
Women and men both face special challenges in navigating the modern work and social worlds. The study of gender role is relatively new to science...we are on the leading edge of understanding how to reconcile what seem to be innate tendencies versus the mixed messages we are expected to properly navigate as we interact.
Quote from the Gospel of Thomas:
22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom."

They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?"

Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."
If I act out of compassion, I am acting in accord with my moral compass and if my act is misperceived, at least I do not need to carry guilt over it.
This is my reaction as well. We cannot control how people perceive us, we can only be who we are. :wink:
Infinite moment, grants freedom of winter death, allows life to dawn.
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Post by Neoplato » Fri May 22, 2009 10:16 pm

A good parent, as was indicated earlier here, is one who facilitates their child's growth, intervening when necessary...and watching, sometimes painfully, as they discover how things work for themselves.
Hey JJ, here's what Joe has to say. :wink:
And so, it seems to me, there is a critical problem indicated here, which parents and families have to face squarely: that, namely, of insuring that the signals which they are imprinting on their young are such as will attune them to, and not alienate them from, the world in which they are going to have to live; unless, of course, one is dead set on bequeathing to one's heirs one's own paranoia.
Infinite moment, grants freedom of winter death, allows life to dawn.
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Post by Stone_Giant » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:03 am

All - excellent thread, exemplary in its demonstration of mutual respect while still containing challenging and passionate views, it's beautiful to see such balance in action!

Somehopes - just wanted to throw this into the fray, Its the opening post in My thread "Mythos: For the Creative Community > Bob Dylan's Lyrics"
I'd be interested in seeing a discussion of Dylan's lyrics and their adherence or otherwise to Campbell's Hero or Myth templates. For instance, one of my favourite Dylan songs is Chimes of Freedom, and to me this has the sense of the mission of a Boddhisattva, "to save all beings from suffering."

"Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing."
The whole song is worth further study. Could Dylan himself be seen in a Boddhisattva role? His body of work is inspiring and uplifting, though he has often appeared to be a bit of a spiky character (as was Jesus with the moneylenders at the temple) - but maybe the ends justify the means. Compassion often manifests itself as "tough love" after all. Or to put it another way, the medicine may taste bad but its prime aim is to heal.

x Stonegiant
Last edited by Stone_Giant on Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Clemsy » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:18 am

Stone_Giant! How very cool to see your name on the boards! Welcome back!
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
Stone_Giant
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Post by Stone_Giant » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:34 am

Clemsy - yes its been a while, though I have been dipping in every month or so to keep an eye on things :) .
somehopesnoregrets
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Post by somehopesnoregrets » Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:07 am

Hi again; sorry for missing in action so much... school, motherhood, and a new, extremely interesting part-time job have been gnawing on my schedule, not leaving much time for Internet exploration of the mysteries of life, consciousness, and everything else.

Thank you, StoneGiant, for contributing your experience and perspective. It seems I'm coming more and more to the conclusion that Bodhisattva is a temporary role, a state of being rather than a title any one person permanently deserves. This morning at the gym, I had a beautiful conversation with a random stranger in the locker room, about the beauty of perfection seen through mindful appreciation of the present moment and how this is what most philosophies and religious traditions head towards, using extremely different methods, detours, and paths. I left that locker room with a feeling of lightness and joy. I might never see that person again, but at that moment both of our spirits touched fully, and we were Bodhisattvas for one another.

I like the democratic feel of mutual Bodhisattvahood. That's the most tragic thing about oppression, that it violates the oppressor as much as the oppressed. That's the problem with wars, be they gender wars or crusades: Even when we win them we lose out big time.
Is the conditioning nefarious? I don't know the answer to that. It certainly creates problems, especially today. I can understand the importance of testosterone-driven ultra masculinity 32,000 years ago, but today it does little else than inspire a spectacular 3-point shot or a bone-crunching tackle in a football game. Both males and females are experiencing a major shift in what were considered 'traditional roles' for most of human history. Women and men both face special challenges in navigating the modern work and social worlds. The study of gender role is relatively new to science...we are on the leading edge of understanding how to reconcile what seem to be innate tendencies versus the mixed messages we are expected to properly navigate as we interact.
I had to look up "nefarious," just to make sure I know what you're saying (English is only my second language; I grew up speaking German for the first 28 years of my life). Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, which I consult in such cases defines it as "flagrantly wicked or impious : evil." No, I don't think the conditioning is "wicked" or "evil," but I do feel it is damaging to both the individuals and the societies they form, because it distracts us from what I consider our most important work, figuring out who we are and how we can be useful to the world, and pulls us into distracting dead ends, trying to live up to somebody else's idea of what we should be. So, there are "wicked" effects, but I don't see wicked intention on part of the perpetrators, just short-sighted ignorance.

My older daughter (who's 3 1/2) loves ballet and princess-inspired dresses but also enjoys running around barefoot and challenging herself physically. She's the prototypical girlie-girl, despite all my sneaky attempts to turn her into a Birkenstock-clad feminist, dressing her gender-neutral as a baby and pointing as many non-genderstereotypical role models as I could find out to her. Do I feel I wasted my energy, since she's obviously, now that she has a choice, embracing many of those dreaded stereotypes? I don't think so; at least she knows that there is a choice, and she is choosing consciously rather than being a programmed automaton. My younger (1 1/2 year-old) daughter is the total tomboy. Great throwing arm. Big attitude, even at that young an age. I made no difference in how I addressed gender issues with either, she simply came with different wiring to begin with (plus it might have helped that I am more experienced as a mom and am subsequently less anxious and less overprotective with my second).

So, the first important issue here is choice. People who try to force gender-neutrality on us are just as suspect to me as people who try to force stereotypes, because neither of them trusts us with our choices. In my eyes neutrality fascism and stereotypicality pressures are both unhealthy extremes. So, please, NoMan, don't put me into the wrong box, when reading what I write by mistakenly assuming my writing "equality" means any kind or form of "forced gender-neutrality." It doesn't. I really don't. I mean equal rights for different people in accepting those differences rather than trying to force people in one simple (either leftist or fundamentalist) mold. I know I'm repeating myself here, but I want to be very clear about this, since this point seemed to easily get lost in some of our previous interactions.

The second important issue that I see is that there is diversity. In both groups, males and females, there are some that fit the stereotype more readily and others that don't (and the experience with my daughters leads me to believe that quite a bit of that is born not made). I take offense at many societies' attempts at being more supportive of some of those individuals and less of others. It bothers my sense of fairness. Yes, life isn't fair, but I value the ideal of fairness, however lofty and hard to achieve (and, again, forced one-size-fits-all solutions, no matter if leftist or fundamentalist/theocratic generally tend to result in more rather than less unfairness, at least based on the examples I've seen).

Any general tendencies that you might see, NoMan, when looking at men and women, are averages only. There are individuals who don't fit those stencils, and even in the relatively tolerant (in comparison to many other societies currently in existence) contemporary U.S. society many of those individuals are suffering as a result of their being perceived as "abnormality." Maybe not in the group of people you usually deal with, but living in S.F., I have met gay and trans people who went through hell where they grew up and escaped from, often from the hands of their own families, the people who were supposed to love them most. I'm not going to repost the link here to the memorial site for gender-queer individuals, which I posted in the "Adieu Mr Card" thread. However, I wonder how much of the discomfort that many individuals here have with transsexual, transgendered, intersexed, and/or cross-dressing individuals (all of those are very different from each other, by the way, in addition to being different from mainstream gender prescriptions), is due to a combination of misunderstandings of the nature of gender and sexuality (the former being a social construct, the latter a biological descriptor) and partly due to how salient those perceived differences are made through the way people are socialized.

Who knows how many of those who abuse and hurt people who are perceived as outcasts, as different from how "one should be," are doing so because they are uncomfortable with their own differences, with what, in this society, might have to be pushed into the realm of what Jung called the Shadow? If our society would not keep creating and maintaining those stringent separations between what is meant to be "male" and what is meant to be "female," I wonder, would some people not feel the need to surgically and hormonally transition to the other gender but would simply be ok with being a female with a lot of yang energy or a male with a lot of feminity. I truly believe that to expand our social consciousness from a strictly binary system of male and female into the continuum that truly exists could benefit us all by shifting the focus from oppression to cooperation and mutual inspiration. Yes, the majority of people might be on the "normal" end of the Kinsey scale, but I don't see where our Constitution makes a big difference in the right to pursue happiness between those who are in the middle of the bell curve versus those on the fringes of it (that I generally don't believe happiness can realistically be "pursued" at all but rather chooses to visit us on its own terms is a completely different topic, of course). When do people stop being worthy of civil and human rights in your eyes (the right to marry and being treated equally by federal laws only being one of many)? How many of somebody's kind have to exist to earn them the protection of human rights and constitutional equality? Once again, equality in the way I use the word does NOT mean being in denial about differences between people but almost the opposite: NOT using differences as an excuse to oppress, hurt, and hate.

As I said in the "Mr. Card" thread, I don't for a moment think, NoMan, that you are oppressing, hurting, or hating anybody, but it seems to me that your boomer disgust puts you in rather unsavory company as far as your attitudes about marriage equality and gay rights are concerned.

Just my opinion, and sorry for kind of combining my answers between this thread and the other, but I only have a little moment to write right now and both topics seem to overlap quite a bit.

Hugs.
:-) Julia
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