In awe of Medusa

“What is wrong with some people?”

I hear that question often. It’s one I’ve also asked.

If it goes unchecked, it’s a problem.

In all my writing I’ve been committed to using “I” or at least “We” statements. Partially because I don’t want you to think I’m lecturing you and also because it’s the only way to spark legitimate change.

Sure, sometimes the issue at hand is not of our doing, however, for me, I like to make sure I’m not part of the problem before proceeding.

I can only reflect on my experience. I’m not pretending to be an expert on Sociology or Anthropology.

With all that being said, I pay attention to what is going on in the world and in my world.

Currently I’ve been reflecting on my treatment of women.

Despite the loving and honest communication with my parents and educational opportunities in my schooling, for a large portion of my life, I didn’t understand the complexity of my relationship with the opposite sex.

I was raised to respect women, did and still do, however, looking at women as objects was something I didn’t totally confront until I stopped drinking.

AA set the challenge, “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.”

Looking back on my life, it has been important for me to come to terms with my failings and their impact.

Sober or not.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, one of the gifts of sobriety is being able to look back over my day and know that even if I tried, I can’t escape responsibility. Nothing to blame but myself.

On this topic, I keep coming back to power and opportunity.

I know that being a white man in this world has afforded me advantages – power and opportunity – that I can’t fully comprehend.

How can I quantify continually getting the benefit of the doubt in various situations?

Acknowledging this undeserved place of power and presence of opportunity, I also know that in order for this to exist, it means many do not receive this same priority.

All these thoughts danced around inside my head as I gazed at Medusa.

Medusa by Mark Bradford

Growing up I only heard (or paid attention to) one narrative about Medusa. Her gaze turned people to stone and Perseus beheaded her and used this gaze as a weapon.

In his installation, currently at the BMA, Mark Bradford repurposes materials such as paper, paint and rope to send a message that redefines the Medusa narrative.

He invites us to focus on the life before her gaze was weaponized.

He challenges us to expand our minds when comprehending women and their experience. Particularly in this installation he focuses on African American women and their resilience.

For me, reexamining the Medusa narrative allowed me the space to reflect on my intentional and unintentional contributions to perpetuating a message of degradation.

A few weeks ago, I was in an elevator and a woman in hospital scrubs was in the back corner. Recently I’ve been trying to avoid just being on my cell phone during situations like this, so I decided to start some small talk.

After going back and forth about how we were doing, I asked,

“Are you a nurse?”

Graciously, she responded,

“Doctor, actually.”

Embarrassed, I apologized and it was time to leave.

She went on her way, I went on mine.

Did I turn her to stone? Maybe not fully, but damage was done.

If she was man, would I have led with, “Are you a doctor?”

Probably.

Why do I share this story?

Because Medusa was considered positive and beautiful before being cursed.

Power and opportunity – taken away from her.

This is not the only time I’ve perpetuated the perceived hierarchy.

Minor or major, my actions contribute to hearts being turned to stone.

I need to always remember that no person needs to do or change or be anything in order to earn dignity.

It is the purpose and the joy of my life to ensure and protect this dignity.

As stated in The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz,

All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us. There is no truth to find.

So what’s the takeaway?

It’s not about looking away.

It’s about looking back and looking inside, learning and listening.

When it comes to the gaze of Medusa, my focus is on awe, not avoidance.

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