There is No Shelter in Either/Or

For years I have been hearing that the “Goddess is emerging”. I have understood the statement to mean that when the feminine energies are brought into balance with the masculine energies, people, in wholeness, can exist in harmony with all life.

What does harmony look like in practical experience? Every culture seems to have its idea of how life should look. We are sheltered by birth and, often for an entire lifetime, within one cultural system. We adapt based on how we perceive normalcy is expressed therein. Humans have an innate desire to “get along,” so we learn the rules of the people around us then do our best to live the “right way”. Most people accept, as children, the way things are. There is inner safety in accepting what is familiar as also universal. Subsequently, when we experience other cultures, we often judge and find fault based on conclusions reached in our culture of birth. Inner harmony can quickly fall apart with such dynamic experiences that perhaps portend change.

Change is a catalyst for us to reevaluate how we may live more harmoniously. Cross-cultural travel is a wonderful way to question our ideas about what harmony really looks like. I was recently privileged to learn some of the basics of life in the Pacific Northwest. There are clans of indigenous people that include Native Americans known as Tlingit (sounds like “Clink-it” emphasis on the first syllable) aka People of the Tides (tides of change perhaps?). The Tlingit people have a matrilineal kinship system in which the women are the property owners and the heads of the households. Children take the last name of their mother. Mothers and aunts arrange marriages as property and hereditary roles are passed through the mother’s line. In short-women rule! That turns the dynamics of a dominant male culture, such as the one I grew up in, upside down.

It was quite surprising to learn that the Tlingit culture esteems females more than males. I felt excitement stir in my belly in response to my first thought “finally the feminine gets a turn”. As I examined thoughts and feelings further, I began to recognize a culture that takes shelter in women while most other cultures familiar to me are patriarchally sheltered and likewise value men most highly. Both systems are arguably flawed and imbalanced. Neither system works in my current equanimous paradigm. I believe real harmony arises when there are equal respect and equal esteem for all facets of life.

As I continued to observe my inner responses, the feeling of excitement quickly turned to genuine dismay. The let-down feeling was further accentuated when I learned that this culture, run by women, strongly valued slaves. They were beyond angry when President Lincoln declared an end to slavery. I’m told that their ire is often expressed in totem pole carvings that are prominently displayed in communal spaces. (Such carvings culturally depict clan stories.) My idealistic view of how women are naturally gentle, loving, compassionate and nurturing was shattered by the very idea of slavery. As I delved more deeply into myself, total disappointment surfaced. Certainly, there ceased to be inner harmony for several days as I integrated this cultural information.

My insight today is that neither a Matrilineal nor a Patriarchal system works for true harmony. What can lead to real inner peace and collective harmony is found in equally shared familial partnering and leadership. It all begins at home. It is in our homes that an all-encompassing “Godness” awareness can be first claimed and enjoyed. Peace prevails and harmony reigns in the here and now as we expand beyond our familiar to embrace the countless diversities of life all around us with appreciation, acceptance, equanimity, and equality. We can adapt to a more collaborative model as we are willing to examine, and, yes, change our ideas, thoughts, and cultural habits. Thank you Tlingits for being the catalyst of my own personal clarity.

Below is a photo I took of the Tlingit Longhouse in Haines, Alaska. It is said that they built longhouses as communal shelters. The three expertly carved totem poles tell their ancestral stories.

Haines, Ak Longhouse

To further whet your appetite for information about the Tlingit culture check out a short video by the former Mayor of Ketchikan, Ak, Joe Williams, titled The Tlingit History in Southeast Alaska.


Wanda Gail Campbell

Photo by Carol Zukosky

Wanda has served thirty plus years as a healthcare professional. Currently, she serves as a Minister of Peace ordained by The Beloved Community. In July, 2007 she completed her PhD in Philosophy focused on Intercultural Peacemaking. For her own spiritual nourishment, she enjoys reading both contemporary and ancient spiritual writings.

 

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