When John Berger said that men act and women appear, I imagine it felt like something might shift as a result of the insight. But, as much as ever, men look at women whilst women watch themselves being looked at.
If we leave value judgements out of this predicament and simply pay attention to the habit, it seems to bring itself back to the nature of desire.
Joanna Mitchell talks of love_desire and need_desire. Need-desire seems to be what underpins much of our functioning. Men, arguably, want to occupy, possess, capture, own the female. Consumers, less arguably, want to acquire, possess, own, consume. Need_desire underpins consumption.
But if we spread desire out like a tablecloth, then there can be love_desire. What's that? A desire to give, to share, to be generous. And where could this lead? Well to other forms of desire.
Suppose we take the four mudras seen on the first four levels of Candi Borobudur:
- The Vara mudra invites giving and generosity. This can be love_desire.
- The Bhumisparsa mudra calls us to witness ourselves and our surroundings. This could be something like witnessing_desire. When desire takes the form simply of a growing desire to see, notice and relish that which is around us - the landscape in its many forms: geography, countryside, people, ideas, culture and so on.
- The Abhaya mudra invites us to 'make less the fear'. This could be courage_desire. The growing desire to stand up against all forms of oppression without transmuting ourselves, in the process, into the new oppressors.
- The Dhyana mudra suggests concentration and meditation, as well as receiving the blessing. This might feel more like need_desire, but it's about receiving without needing; about simply standing in the path of the wind, stream, sunlight and receiving it.
So, the skillful elaboration and cultivation of desire can become a competence of the person of tomorrow - a way of dancing at the edge.
Ways of Seeing - John Berger
Sunflower Centre - Joanna Mitchell
Dancing at the Edge - Graham Leicester & Maureen O'Hara