Saturday, May 1, 2010


Sometimes I feel paralyzed to write. Not so much writer's block, as there are usually more than a few ideas swirling in my head, but more of an existential angst - a why does it even matter anyway? So though I pride myself on my autonomy, it does feel good when I meet new people who have been following my blog. I may express weariness with the process at times, as is the case in virtually all creative expenditures. Yet it is like the air I breathe, and I doubt I will ever really stop writing, universe willing.

I have been lightly stepping back into various enterprises to help subsidize the cost of my graduate education. I had thought, half in denial and half in naivete, that I could simply utilize my free hours towards this goal without having it all spill over into the rest of my very busy life. But there is something about doing this work that engenders fixation. Like the myth of Narcissus staring at his reflection in the pond. Maybe it's impossible to disentangle one from the other. Like getting paid to shoot up while trying not to get high (no, I don't do that stuff - still, an apt analogy). The pleasure and the ego stroking are part of the package.

So now, I am trying my best to strike a balance. I do think I'm doing a better job than before. It's nice to have one foot in the vanilla world. Not just to keep grounded, but because everything else seems that much kinkier.

I saw this interesting talk from ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison, former wife and colleague of psychedelic legend Terence McKenna. She spoke of the need to value folk research - the millennia of soul-searching on ayahuasca that has become a part of the knowledge base of Latin American tribes, but which modern researchers too quickly discount. She also spoke of the systematic and brutal repression of traditional herbalists in Western Europe, who also possessed esoteric knowledge about mind-expanding plants. These herbalists and healers were predominantly women.

Countless were silenced and killed to make way for modern, patriarchal structures which channelled power into the hands of male authority. From my own research, I know this happened in the Philippines as well. Women had been leaders in the villages. They were mystics and healers. They were pushed out and replaced by the priests, and then made to fit their powers into a role based on the virgin Mary, with all the impossible challenges such a model evokes. Women had their feet knocked out from under them, their confidence in their own power trampled, and in many ways we are still scrambling to recover from that historic fall.

The thought that keeps coming back to me is what a massive brain drain we still have when it comes to women. And I am not even talking about countries that actively maintain gender inequality. That can almost be seen as the easy part - getting our rights is pretty straight forward. It's in a society that has progressed as far as we have that the intangibles get in the way. Vanity - maybe the church was right in making that a deadly sin. Women are taught to value themselves based on their looks and their femininity. Not only does the maintenance of vanity take away precious time in this world when we could be focusing on more important things, it is a drug in and of itself. It induces mental laziness in women, reinforcing a tendency to skate on the surface. Because batting our eyelashes is all we need to do to have a man take care of things. Women have legal equality in our society, yet we play a double standard. We demand all the rights of men, but also many more privileges.

The time will come when these sacred cows of femininity will get torn down. I often think one sign will be when there will be more female comedians. When we can poke fun at women with the same permission as men, when we can tolerate being laughed at equally as well as men - I think that will be a better sign of having "come a long way" than getting to pick up a gun and fight. That and strap-on play in every bedroom. Amen!