Personal Process in the Questioning

In the spirit of the New Year and in timing with recently highlighted social issues, I’d like to give some space here to Daphne Merkin in her attempt to provide some context and a wider perspective. I’ve often appreciated her subtle and keen observations on human experience, including her in-depth, honest considerations about long-term depression. But beyond this, I find it admirable that she takes on such a socially touchy subject with great courage and elegance, knowing full well in advance that it’s not going to make her life or career any easier.

In this sense within my own frame here of creative personal development, I consider her observations and manner of expressing them to be an accomplished performance of many of the themes, qualities, and specific skills I’ve addressed here in this blog over the years (including the undercurrent of support for rigorously researched, creatively thoughtful perspectives on the female experience that strives for more inclusive sensibilities and considerations). It’s not the answers she may allude to as much as the qualitative personal process in the questioning, including the underlying willingness to reach beyond reactive, common opinions in the search for a more expansive understanding. I hope you can take a few minutes to read her article…

“For many weeks now, the conversation that has been going on in private about this reckoning is radically different from the public one. This is not a good sign, suggesting the sort of social intimidation that is the underside of a culture of political correctness, such as we are increasingly living in.”

“Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.”

“These are scary times, for women as well as men. There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost. Next we’ll be torching people for the content of their fantasies.”

– Daphne Merkin

“Although I found the article you linked from Daphne Merkin to be intelligent and somewhat insightful, I also felt that she – and by association, you – is being insensitive to the very real abuses that some women have been suffering through, for which the #MeToo movement has helped to bring to light and also give them a forum to express their struggles. You have a reputation for being a strong defender of women’s rights, and I don’t quite see why you’ve taken on such a position and role within this issue.”

Thank you for writing in. I understand what you’re saying here.

The position and role I’m taking are one of highlighting and supporting “the qualitative personal process in the questioning, including the underlying willingness to reach beyond reactive, common opinions in the search for a more expansive understanding,” as I mentioned in my blog post above. I admire Daphne Merkin’s courage, honesty, grace, and genuine attempt to provide an independent, wider perspective — all qualities my work and this blog seek to encourage and support (as well as the subtler aspect of taking on any negotiation from a perspective that tries to avoid intensified polarity with an enemy to unquestioningly blame).

As she mentioned in her article, this is a “bona fide moment of moral accountability,” one that can perhaps develop a momentum sufficient to cause a shift in male abuse of power in general and sexual abuse specifically. But for that to happen, the conversation has to include a deeper willingness to really listen on all sides, as well as a developed skill to openly, and creatively look into the complex subtleties in play, historically and presently. These are the more difficult aspects of personal development needed in the art of conversation. This is true for all kinds of challenging negotiations, personal and social, and is excellent practice to take on when we come upon a subject that ignites polarization.

I’d also like to take a moment here to thank the impressive women who responded to my blog post — and Ms. Merkin’s article — with enthusiastic support, some of whom I know have suffered through male power abuse in their lives. Your willingness and ability to stretch out beyond reactive outrage to seek a more nuanced, balanced, graceful cohesiveness in the conversation is sincerely appreciated and a guiding inspiration. You are the ones we should be listening more to, and I intend to do that.

Painting by Edward Hopper

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