What is Femininity Now? Courtly (Lyric) Love in an Age of Women's Liberation

I had a fascinating conversation with my friend David during the Evolver Convergence.  He mentioned that he noticed that a lot of men in consciousness circles these days experienced a sense of purposelessness: "If a guy isn't super-rich or famous he feels like he doesn't have anything special to offer a woman; I mean, what does a woman need a guy for? Women can do everything just fine on their own."

This really surprised me to hear, but of course it's true. All the women I know can indeed do everything just fine on their own.  Yet the notion that a man could really feel that he was superfluous to women - though I'd heard it expressed previously  ("A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle") - struck me as so sad and so untrue.  When David asked me what I felt I needed men for in my life I immediately gushed: "Everything!"

Which of course is not exactly the case.  Let me emphasize that I'm fully a feminist in the sense that I hold up the radical idea that women are people.  And also let me emphasize that I've lived whole stretches of my life as a single lady who works and supports herself.  I know I don't "need" a man to provide the necessities of my life - and this knowing may be what underlies the crisis of masculine purpose that David is talking about.

So where did that gushing, breathless "Everything!" come from?

It came from my acquaintanceship with the deep joy that wells up when I notice that something about my femininity has inspired a man to action that both helps me and helps him and actually helps our community and our world.

I've come to feel lately that femininity (at least my personal experience of it) is a mode of holding open a space of rich possibility.  In other words, when I'm really in my feminine power I'm not so much doing things - instead I'm creating a spiritual, emotional and creative environment where things can happily and easily get done. This holding of course isn't entirely passive: it requires intention, presence, discipline, faith.

For example, I feel I exerted mostly feminine power in my role in organizing the Convergence.  Yet that business of exuding feminine inspiration certainly wasn't  a matter of lying on the couch and eating bon-bons like Peg Bundy.  It involved showing up consistently among the evolvers in my life and loving them and listening to them. Also, ironically, it entailed a "to do" list that was fairly extensive.  It's tough to explain: when I'm in the feminine emanation thing I'm certainly doing stuff (making soup for potlucks, writing up press releases, offering ideas for art parties) but the nature of the stuff I'm doing is supportive of the happening rather than being the happening itself.  In other words, the deepest part of my service is inviting others to share in the imaginal zeitgeist of the work we're doing and to be inspired by it.

So back to men.  One of the reasons why men (or masculine-essence people) are really delightful is that they're often more responsive to this imaginal emanation stuff than my women friends.  And sometimes they pick up on things that I didn't even know I was emanating - positive, beautiful things.  And then they act on those inspirations.  This, to me, is the essence of courtly love: it's a sacred erotic process of reception and action.  Interestingly, the writer Gaston Paris, in the 1883 essay that coined the term "courtly love" observed that in amour courtois

"The lover (idolizer) accepts the independence of his mistress and tries to make himself worthy of her by acting bravely and honorably (nobly) and by doing whatever deeds she might desire, subjecting himself to a series of tests (ordeals) to prove to her his ardor and commitment. "

This doesn't sound all that different from the present situation of women's liberation or even the prospect of free love, does it? The lover has to humbly accept the absolute independence of his mistress. It sounds downright enlightened, actually.  Of course I would add to this that in our modern version, the mistress has to also accept the absolute independence of her lover.  While it's true that I definitely have days when I'm excited by the prospect of making a gentleman do "whatever deeds" I might desire, most of the time I'm mostly fascinated by the phenomenon of spontaneous inspiration which, as I've just mentioned, I believe is the essence of courtly love (or lyric love, as I like to call it - being as courts no longer really exist but lyrics sure as hell do).

On an organizational scale: so many times during the weekend of the Convergence gentleman friends did super-helpful and laborious things on my behalf in a wondrously gallant fashion, always without me having to ask twice and sometimes without me asking at all: hauling chairs, hooking up sound systems and just generally making magic appear.

On an intimate scale: Matthu made a major positive change in his life recently and he credited me with inspiring him to do it.  This stunned me - while it's a change that I very much like, it's not one that I expected or even hoped for him to make. My mother always said "You can't change a man" - but apparently you can, if you have absolutely no intention or desire to change him! Such is the nature of the feminine work of holding the space of grand possibility.

Something that sometimes irks my ego about this magic amazing feminine power is that it's no way exclusive to me.  I can wield it but I can't own it. As much as I'd love to see myself as the sole emanator of the Eternal Feminine on this plane, it's just not so.  Case in point: there were at least three other stunning Love Goddesses at the Inner Divinity Costume Party.  I used to see this as a bummer: it means that men I love might go around getting tremendously inspired by other women!  How dare they!  But right now I have a bit more of an expansive sense: I would adore for the men I love to go around getting tremendously inspired by other women.  I just want as much inspiration and love to flow forth into the world as humanly possible.  I want to have no control over it whatsoever.  I just want it to happen - heaven knows we need it.

 

 

 

 

 

image: [Denis Bocquet]

image: [Edward Leighton - Godspeed]

Posted on June 6, 2012 and filed under Unconditional Love.