In a world where the quantity of secondary (mediated) observation and interpretation threatens to drown us, the imperative to renew and expand our observation skills (in all forms) is at least as important as the need to sift and make sense of the flood of mediated information. Improved skills of observation and thoughtful interaction are also more likely sources of creative solutions than brave conquests in new fields of specialised knowledge by the armies of science and technology.
The icon for this principle is a person as a tree, emphasising ourselves in nature and transformed by it.
— David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept, in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Galen is getting his hair cut by a ten year old in a few weeks, as part of a performance about the segregation and disenfranchisement of children in society. An opportunity to trust the skill and style choices of a kid. I think this is a great idea for a performance and I’ve been telling a lot of people about it. (More explanation if you want it.)
I am not getting my hair cut. It turns out I am still terrified of bad hair cuts. I’m not terrified of no make up, belly rolls, showing cellulite in public, body hair, laundry day outfits, etc. But hair cuts, yes. I’m fascinated.
I had unflattering hair cuts that didn’t express my soul essence for about 13 years in a row, between my mum deciding I looked cute with a mushroom cut in grade 1, through a lot of small town $7 haircuts, through getting my friends to chop off my hair in grade 11 (somewhat better), through shaving it off in grade 12 (worse again), growing that out a bit (better again), and deciding to go to my grandmother’s hair stylist when I moved to Victoria. That was how much I knew about haircuts when I was 18. I thought the neighbourhood wash-n-set was the place to go for the punk rock haircut of my dreams. Granny’s stylist did alright as long as I kept it really short. It took me until I was about 20 to realize there were people who knew how to create a haircut on purpose, rather than just cutting to the approximate length and hoping for the best. My hair trauma is not helped by the coincidence that I was a giant nerd during pretty much the exact same time as the ugly haircuts. That photo shows me five minutes after having my hair cut and styled at some $10 Hair Hut type place at the mall in my hometown. It also shows me about 1 month into a three year stretch of on-and-off suicidal depression. COINCIDENCE? I’m joking about 50%. I could have used a hair mentor.
So. This haircuts by children performance may have cured me of my inner judgments about feminist environmentalists who won’t talk about reusable menstrual products. The shoe is on the other foot now. And even making that connection might help me sort out my hair terror. I had my share of menstrual shame and angst as a teenager. Maybe if I think about how I rearranged that, I’ll be able to rearrange my hair anxiety into something more in line with the rest of my values.
In the meantime I am telling a lot of people about these haircuts by children. So far I’ve prompted I think three people to set up appointments, one of them a stranger.
These are quotes from Women Who Run With The Wolves that have been sitting here with no context, unpublished, since February 2009. I think I was interested in talking about love beyond infatuation, love as an action or alliance instead of a feeling. I still am.
I haven’t posted anything here, or done much writing at all, for many months. Spitting out some old drafts seems like a good re-entry. I seem to do this every now and then. Maybe I can promote it as a personal feature instead of a bug.
Anyway. Old quotes.
A part of every [person] resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share. We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying, pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying, pretend we can progress and that our favorite flushes and rushes will never die. But in love, psychically, everything becomes picked apart….
What dies? Illusion dies, expectations die, greed for having it all, for wanting all to be beautiful only, all this dies. Because love always causes a descent into Death nature, we can see why it takes abundant self-power and soulfulness to make that commitment.
In wise stories, love is seldom a romantic tryst between two lovers. For instance, some stories from the circumpolar regions describe the union of two beings whose strength together enables one or both to enter into communication with the soul world and to participate in fate as a dance with life and death.
It is true that within a single love relationship there are many endings. Yet, somehow and somewhere in the delicate layers of the being that is created when two people love one another, there is both a heart and breath. While one side of the heart empties, the other fills. When one breath runs out, another begins.
I have often wished that the function of the beauty industry was to help people get better at beholding beauty. It could be like art appreciation classes that show you what can be appreciated about art you didn’t like looking at before. That might even be the root of my complicated gut reactions about body image activism performances like burlesque. Does it help me see beauty in a new place, or does it just involve new people winning at the same old beauty contests? I think my guts know I’m looking to broaden my beholding skills, not get caught up in competitions.
So I liked this comment about aesthetics and perception, for focussing on “coming to terms with what you consider ugly,” and on ways to help people do that.
Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.
… It is almost as if the pioneers of wabi-sabi intentionally looked for such examples of the conventionally not-beautiful— homely but not excessively grotesque— and created challenging situations where they would be transformed into their opposite.
— Leonard Koren in Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers
Reading this brought up a big sensory memory of what that feels like— I get pretty thrilled and spaced out by perception shifts. I heard an NLP trainer say that it’s common to get spaced out by big new ideas, that spacing out is the physical sensation of a bunch of your brain synapses reorganizing at once. I don’t know if that’s true, but the idea delighted me.
(Excerpt from the Suo Sarumawashi Association’s official introduction)
Sarumawashi, literally “monkey dancing” evolved over a 1000-year history in Japan. Ancient Japanese chronicles refer to it as a form of religious ritual designed to protect the horses of warriors. It later developed into a popular form of festival entertainment, and was performed all over Japan from temples to imperial courts. Today, Sarumawashi is ranked alongside Noh and Kabuki as one of the oldest and most traditional of Japan’s performing arts. It features acrobatic stunts and comedic skits performed by highly trained macaque monkeys.
Sarah H commented about handsomeness and masculinity.
I find it really useful to consider ideas of handsomeness in relation to concepts of masculinity— I can see where my own notions of handsomeness are based in someone (of any gender) being visibly self-controlled, unemotional and hardened. I wonder how we can reclaim words like this— like how do we compliment our loved ones on looking cute, without using words that reinforce these concepts of masculinity? I have tended to use the word handsome, but now it doesn’t seem appropriate.
I am interested in this too. I hadn’t considered the word handsome before, but I use it a lot (also to describe a person of any gender). After some reflection, I think for me it is a replacement for saying something more personal and honest. I’m making a judgment about beauty and gender instead of attending to my feelings and needs. There is an idea I like in non-violent communication, that making judgments reinforces hierarchy and external authority. From Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:
Most of us grew up speaking a language that encourages us to label, compare, demand, and pronounce judgments rather than to be aware of what we are feeling and needing. …
Life-alienating communication both stems from and supports hierarchical or domination societies. Where large populations are controlled by a small number of individuals for their own benefit, it would be to the interest of kings, czars, nobles, etc. that the masses be educated in a way that renders them slave-like in mentality. The language of wrongness, “should” and “have to” is perfectly suited for this purpose: the more people are trained to think in terms of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness and badness, the more they are being trained to look outside themselves— to outside authorities— for the definition of what constitutes right, wrong, good and bad. When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.
To work for anarchist/non-hierarchical relationships, I’ve been practicing not judging things as “masculine” or “feminine” and instead just saying what they are and how I feel about them. E.g., If I let go of describing a boy or man as effeminate, I can usually find more accurate, specific observations. Maybe he’s caring and kind, and likes to wear bright colours. And maybe I feel happy about that because I value kindness and diverse clothing options. I forget this all the time, but when I remember to get specific I like the way it makes me more aware of both the person and myself. I also like that it goes beyond resisting within binary gender and gets outside of gender altogether. Instead of questioning who can have feminine qualities, it is a way of questioning why we call some things feminine at all. I think that celebrating a man or boy for his feminine qualities still reinforces that passive, traumatized personalities are called feminine while aggressive, traumatized personalities are called masculine.
I’m thinking I could replace “handsome” the same way, with concrete observations and personal feelings. On top of letting go of judgments about gender (anyone can have a strong jaw or dark eyebrows), it would skip judgments about who looks more or less beautiful. Previously I’ve tried celebrating everyone as beautiful “in their own way” but I find it works the same way as celebrating genderblurred masculine and feminine qualities. It still reinforces the idea that I can judge who is beautiful or ugly and that it matters. I’d rather find ways to take responsibility for what I see and how I feel about it.
That has me wondering what I am trying to communicate when I tell someone they look handsome. I like to look at them? That is still very vague. I think they have social power because they fit a currently fashionable ideal look? I don’t want to play that game. When I look at their nose I feel hot and bothered? That is more what I’m aiming for. I think I’m using compliments as a substitute for conversations about desire and sensual appreciation. Wow. I would way rather have the desire/appreciation conversation.
I’m going to try eliminating handsome from my vocabulary for a few days, to find out what else I can talk about. I’m not sold on permanently eliminating words that describe judgmental categories because I also use them to talk about politics and the categories themselves, but a temporary ban seems like a good experiment in awareness.