(Chicago; Loyola Press, 2010)
I can think of several reasons why it was good for a woman to read ‘daily meditations for men.’ I bought this book for a friend and had a (careful) speed read before wrapping it up – so glad I did! This book is for men who are prepared to take a moment to engage themselves. The questions are searching and the reflections sometimes surprising, gathered from Rohr’s work with, and writing about, male spirituality over many years, and gathered together in this format for daily meditations. I am thrilled to pass it on to my friend.
The question of male and female sexuality is a vexed one in my corner of Christian Church Culture. Are men and women essentially different beings or are our differences ‘mere’ social constructions? In part the conversation is hindered by our culture’s insistence on individualistic self-fulfillment, in part it is our tendency to reduce who men and women ARE to what men and women DO. So before I go any further, let me offer this quote from postmodern, feminist theologian Luce Ingaray, which has begun to direct me through that particular maze of objections: “Essence is not a given, behind us, but a collective creation, ahead of us, a horizon.”
To address the question of male/female distinctiveness we must think about human beings as irreducibly complex and inter-related. If it is important to distinguish gender, it is in order that we might embrace our finitude, the limitedness of human beings who are not complete until we are co-joined with others. In Christian theology, it is the Church as a unified whole that represents Christ on earth, not Christians as individual parts. Apart from the necessity to understand human sexuality for its own sake, coming to terms with male/female difference enables us to live with human uniqueness in a way that leads to love and peace. Hence, Rohr writes:
authentic masculinity is the other side of feminine energy. It’s the complement, the balance, the counterpoint, the needed energy to create a lovely whole. Together these two energies are always new life and new beauty. Separate they are overstatement, imbalance, sterility, and boredom.
Richard Rohr believes that there is a unique masculine spirituality which has been lost in western men. (David Tacey also writes about this brilliantly in relation to the Australian male – will post on his books eventually.) The masculinity we see in culture is over-cooked, from the shadow of the human personality, an ill-fitting suit of armor. Our culture does not encourage men to take the time for self-reflection nor does it offer enough diversity in the expressions of masculinity honored. If consumer media culture has created problems for women in regard to body image, our media has created problems for men in regard to ego and the inner life.
So how does Rohr define masculinity?
By the ‘feminine principle’ I mean everything vulnerable, interior, powerless, subtle, personal , intimate, and relational. By the ‘masculine principle’ I mean everything clear, rational, linear, ordered, in control, bounded, provable, and hard.
I am aware of a discomfort in myself each time I read this quote. It’s a discomfort I am keen to befriend because it is a guide into further understanding of myself and the constraints of culturally constructed notions of sexuality. Its a post-it-note from my soul to explore further!