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Caring for yourself

On the back of our toilet door at home we have this quote

We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.
— James Hollis - What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life

I'm an avid reader and admirer of James Hollis' work and his challenge to look within, in order to become more ourselves and have more to offer the world. In a world that seems to demand so much of us, it is often hard to find this time, or it may seem selfish, but as Hollis says, "the paradox of individuation is that we best serve intimate relationship [and any relationship] by becoming sufficiently developed in ourselves that we do not need to feed off others."

One of my favourite books is his book Hauntings - a challenging read, but well worth it.

What is strength?

In exploring the idea of having the ‘Strength to Care’ I spent a lot of time thinking about what our culture identifies as strength and what this leads to. Brené Brown, a social researcher from the University of Texas, explains that men “live under the pressure of one unrelenting message: Do not be perceived as weak.”

Learning to wear a mask (that word already embedded in the term ‘masculinity’) is the first lesson in patriarchal masculinity that a boy learns. He learns that his core feelings cannot be expressed if they do not conform to the acceptable behaviours sexism defines as male. Asked to give up the true self in order to realize the patriarchal ideal, boys learn self-betrayal early and are rewarded for these acts of soul murder.
— bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love

I remember reading “boys learn self-betrayal early and are rewarded for these acts of soul murder” and thinking, ‘wow! That is some strong language’. Too strong, I thought. That was until I began to look at the way my thinking and life has been shaped by our patriarchal culture that privileges ‘rational thinking’ and ‘achievement’ over other things like caring, making ourselves vulnerable, articulating our feelings, and really connecting with our fellow human beings. I know this has been true in my own life. While I grew up in a home where crying was never frowned upon, and I was encouraged to share my feelings, there is no escaping the cultural messages that surround us as kids. 

As hooks also says, we can’t teach boys that "real men" (and real strength) “either do not feel or do not express feelings, then expect boys to feel comfortable getting in touch with their feelings.”

My idea of strength has definitely changed – I no longer see anger as the ultimate display of strength but look for power in those around me expressing their joys and sorrows – seeing the ability to understand, process and express a full range of emotions as being deeply human and incredibly strong.

This has been very confronting as I have realised how disconnected I have been from my emotions – at times finding it difficult to process and articulate them. I don’t think this experience is unique to me. Being able to access our emotional/feeling side and all the different parts of ourselves – our ‘inner community’ if you like – is to live a fuller, more whole life.

If you want to read a little bit more here’s an essay by bell hooks. If you want to read more than a little bit more, bell hooks – ‘The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love’ and Brené Brown – ‘Daring Greatly’ are worth checking out.


Strength to Care

Strength to Care

Last year I was looking through some family home videos my mum had as Australian Story were after some footage. I was watching an under 10's rugby game I was playing in and one of the kids tackled with his head on the wrong side and someone landed, full bodyweight, on his head. The kid started crying - as you would at that age. The ref stopped the game to check if he was ok, and at the same time the opposition coach marched onto the field, stood over this poor kid and yelled, "Stop your crying! Be a man!"

I don't remember this incident - it's not something that had made an impression on me at all and don't think I'd watched that game again since.

We grow up with different notions, implicit and explict, of what it is to be 'strong' and I think that pausing to think about and maybe re-evaluate some of the views we have is really important.

I certainly grew up in a world where men were meant to be tough and not show any weaknesses, to keep going and just get on with things - I would never have been so sure of this until watching that video. 

I decided to be involved in the project because I've realised how damaging and restrictive this sort of worldview is and how it is our fears and vulnerabilities that make us human.

More short videos will be released over June that will hopefully explore a few more things around this idea of strength and 'Strength to Care'.

A rugby player and a water scientist walk into a room...

A rugby player and a water scientist walk into a room...

Where to next? David Pocock and Richard Stirzaker at the Sowing the Seed event

Where to next? David Pocock and Richard Stirzaker at the Sowing the Seed event

A packed Senior School lecture theatre listened intently on Tuesday night, as CSIRO scientist Richard Stirzaker and rugby player David Pocock talked about their friendship and their desire to assist small scale farmers in Africa. The Sowing the Seed event was designed to kick-start the annual student-led Dirrum Dirrum Festival.

In the end it became a massive brainstorming session, with those present asking questions and, in turn, being asked what questions they would take away with them.

A proposed live stream of the event experienced technical issues but the video will be placed on the Dirrum Dirrum website soon.

David and Richard have teamed up to test a new soil water device called the "Chameleon Soil Water Sensor” that is being used by small-scale irrigators in Africa.  Just as the bold young entrepreneurs from Thankyou took on some of the biggest corporations in the world in the cause of global poverty, David and Richard are inviting people to get involved in this venture. But it is not immediately clear to anyone what the next step should be.

In an email to Radford’s Director of Community, Fr Richard Browning, and the Dirrum Dirrum organisers this morning, Richard Stirzaker said:

“… What I saw last night was the very early stirrings of a ‘movement’.  Richard (Browning), through Dirrum, is creating an enabling environment for young people. David, through rugby on and off the field, has earned our respect.  Moreover he has a deep understanding of the African situation through 80:20 Vision and practical experience with the instruments themselves.  So the scene was set for me to talk about Chameleons.  Even Rosie’s story (video) is more compelling than it looks on the surface, because it potentially connects her to the women of Africa who carry much of the farming burden.

 Imagine if the Radford event was advertised as “CSIRO scientist to talk about measuring soil water in Africa”.  What size would the audience have been: 10 or 20?  I’ve talked to small groups like this countless times …

Building a ‘movement’ around this is still critical.  Soil physics is boring to most, but turning water into food for the vulnerable on earth is not.   So I think we need a social enterprise that nurtures the movement and builds the business.  I don’t have much aptitude here and welcome ideas.”

If anyone is wanting to continue the conversation, please email or use #dirrum on Twitter.

Dirrum Dirrum: Igniting Action is a major event celebrating the art of being and staying human and over a thousand delegates are expected again this year at various events in Canberra over the days of 29-30 July. Speakers for July 30 are: Nipuni Wijewickrema, Jessica Watson, Akram Azimi, Fr Frank Brennan, Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Rachael Stevens, Shirfra Joseph, Ryan Carters, Shea Spiering, Jackson Taylor-Grant.

The Dirrum Dirrum Festival is organised by students whose core business is about creating a climate of inspiration; fostering a cycle of responsibility and leadership development.

Visit the Dirrum Dirrum website

The above taken from the Radford College website