Crossing the threshold into my 60th year last night was a little bumpier than I anticipated. Wide awake at 1:00 a.m., I decided to pick up and read the slim book given to me yesterday as a birthday gift by a friend. For everyone engaged in a struggle to find a way to truthfully and accurately consider what gender might mean in this advancing, maturing stage of human evolution the essay and comments in this book offer some important insights:
Journey to the Father: New Perspectives on Gender and the Baha’I Revelation by Joell Ann Vanderwagen.
I have now been engaged in active healing from the first 18 years of my life I spent under the malevolent influence of my severely abusive Borderline Personality Disorder Mother and her accomplice, my father, for half of my lifespan. During those 30 years I have never been able to begin to grasp on any level that felt true and genuine the nature of my father’s actions while I was growing up.
Nothing I have ever learned or thought about in all this time has ever ‘clicked’ for me in my efforts to ‘know’ my father until I read this small book in the first wee hours of my 60th year of life last night. Nothing has seemed right, felt right and therefore nothing has been right in its potential to elucidate for me the role my father chose to take in regard to the terrible treatment my mother forced on me until I read Vanderwagen’s essay and her comments. It’s like I have been wandering for all these years down a sterile empty hallway, encountering door after door after door upon which I have knocked and found no answer about my father.
I know all kinds of assorted ‘facts’ about Father’s upbringing, about what might have – or did – contribute to the sterile and ineffectual man he grew up to be. Yes, he was a provider for our family of material support. Yes, he was evidently professionally capable as a civil engineer. Yes, he accomplished what needed to be done to homestead 160 acres in Alaska. Yes, he remained married to Mother and thus had a physical presence during my childhood. But as I work my way through writing my childhood story for book publication the Father I encounter in every memory where he was present includes him as a cardboard cutout figure, a shadow of a human being, standing – no, really lurking – at the edges of my memories of terrible abuse being perpetrated against me by my mother.
What I read in this book last night does not surprise me. The author’s words are new and offer a new take on the entire realm of gender considerations in Western culture if not on gender throughout the past evolution of our human species. What impresses me is that the new words I found in my reading last night for the FIRST TIME ring with truth about my father and about the ‘parental unit’ of my parents.
I needed NEW to find TRUE, because my inner instinct about healing from child abuse trauma has guided me with a bright light all the way not only through these past 30 years of healing, but also instinctively throughout the first 18 years of my life that were so hurtful to me and has up until last night came up with nothing meaningful about my father. Zippo. Zilch. For this 30 years of searching I have always come up empty handed because I was searching along the wrong path.
I am a part of a culture that is based on wrong beliefs that were built into society as if they were true facts. Vanderwagen notes simply and clearly how beliefs about gender proposed by Plato and Aristotle fed assumptions that men are superior to women. Because, in spite of myself, I have searched for answers about my parents within the thinking patterns of my own culture I have encountered essential lies within lies. I have found no truth and therefore no foundation of understanding because I found no way to think clearly outside my society’s faulty streams of information.
Most simply put, there is a very clear visual graphic on page 21 of Vanderwagen’s book coupled with another one on page 25 that turned the proverbial light on in my thinking about my father, about my mother, and about their interactions as my ‘parental unit’. According to the author’s presentation humans of both sexes, even with their obvious differences, are completely equal as are the two wings of a bird. On their essential human level the qualities each gender possesses can be honed, perfected and presented equally by both women and men – or not.
Four distinct qualities are presented for ‘masculine’ and for ‘feminine’ along with what is expressed should these qualities be non-existent. This picture exactly describes my parents:
Masculine: existence of qualities – strong, forceful, active, assertive
Masculine: non-existence of qualities – weak, timid, inert, passive
Feminine: existence of qualities – gentle, tender, receptive, responsive
Feminine: non-existence of qualities – rough, brutal, closed, rejecting
While humans grow into maturity by choosing to bring forth not only the best of the qualities that come more naturally to their gender, we are also obligated to develop those qualities within us that belong more easily to our opposite gender. This balance springs forth into our lives as a flexible wisdom. This balance brings well-being and goodness into the expressions of our self – our soul (which has no gender) – in our life.
Looking solely at my parents in terms of their gender represented by them in my life as Father and Mother, during my 18 year abusive childhood this was the picture:
The non-existence of masculine qualities listed above clearly and accurately describes my father: weak, timid, inert, passive
The non-existence of feminine qualities clearly and accurately describes my mother: rough, brutal, closed, rejecting
My parents were a mess! Neither of my parents was self-aware. Neither possessed a desire or motivation to improve their inner reality. Using the model I have discovered in this book I can begin to let myself know the shared truth about my parents: Both of them were spiritually dead (spiritually sound asleep – spiritually bankrupt). They both lived in a world defined by the absence of goodness and by the absence of any effort toward improvement leading to progress in the direction of goodness. That kind of world, on the level of our human species, breeds evil.
And that is exactly what happened in my family of origin.