Pope Francis recently issued a new teaching on the “Joy Of Love.”
In it, he didn’t seek to change the thoughts, the doctrine of his church, didn’t seek to offer new rules that would change the intellectual stance that is held by conservative minds.
Rather, he sought to speak of the value, importance and joy of treating other humans with love, compassion and grace.
The way I see it, doctrine is a masculine approach to life, trying to codify, separate, define, quibble and apply imposed structure onto the mess of pain and suffering we call life, while love is the feminine approach to life, trying to approach others with an open heart to help them find their own power and footing in the community.
The heart without the head can get lost, certainly, becoming too soft and forgiving, not demanding the discipline of understanding and structure.
But Francis leads a church which has shown that the head without the heard can get lost, becoming too bean counting, too legalistic, addressing problems by playing the angles and cogent denial rather than opening to the big picture and using our heart to do the loving thing rather than the pragmatic thing.
This tension, a strong between hard rules and tender hearts, has always been where the best in human behaviour. We need people to follow the building codes, putting up the structures we live within with discipline and formality, but we need to occupy those structures with human compassion and love, working to make the best out of each community member.
Every faith system faces the same challenge: the world is a place full of pain and suffering where too much emphasis on selfish motives can leave others exploited and abused. The world can suck, so what do we do about it?
We can demand compliance, obedience to a structure of rules that work to codify ethical and compliant behaviour as defined by our society.
We can express love, helping others see the beauty and grace of acting with humility, understanding and compassion towards each member of society.
Both of those approaches have benefits, real good reasons to follow them, but they also both have weaknesses, ways that the system can be played and perverted by those who believe that their personal gain is the best and correct outcome.
The tension between head enforcement and heart inclusion has long been the theme of conflict in human societies. I don’t think it is going away anytime soon, because it is precisely in that ongoing struggle that the power and grace of humanity lies. Without smart rules and enforcement, we cannot come together to do big and fair things, but without open caring and inclusion, we cannot come together to do small and loving things.
Anyone who has ever gone to church will understand this. There are leaders who preach about the structures, doing the proper things and enforcing the rules and there are leaders who act with compassion, doing the loving things and making safe space for the messy, human power of our hearts.
This apparent division, between the masculine enforcers and the feminine includers, though, has always lead to healthy and vibrant communities when we approach each other with respect, knowing that the whole circle of humanity is required to keep rolling forward.
There is a reason that the coming together of the masculine and the feminine, the yin and the yang of humanity with respect has always been at the centre of healthy families and communities.
Pope Francis knows this and sees the need to bring the joy of love back into his family, his community to create a healthy and vibrant balance. He doesn’t want to turn his back on the teachings of his church, but he also needs to curb the excesses of those who used those rules to act in a self-serving, organization-centric way rather than with love.
When I watch other transwomen, one of the first things I do is see how they are trying to find the balance between their own masculine training and their own feminine heart.
Those who come out at a somewhat older age have had to try and create a masculine front, using masculine tools to keep their feminine knowledge hidden from view. They have developed structures which help them deny their own queerness, trying to fit in among the rules of men.
Trying to use these masculine habits and traditions to own the feminine often creates a real struggle. Being a woman isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise. full of defence and rule codifying, no matter how much spaces on the internet seem to demand and validate that battling behaviour.
The strategies we used to try and make change impossible when we needed to maintain our socially assigned role are not really useful when we need to become the change we need to see in the world.
Effective change, most people find, doesn’t come from quibbling the rules, rather it comes from opening our hearts. Leaving the masculine requires entering the feminine, finding a new balance between love and thought. We need to claim the joy of love, as it has been called.
“In societies where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.” I knew that was my mission statement when I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it so long ago.
Finding a balance between structured discipline and open compassion has long been the challenge of every human culture. When that gets out of whack, we lose the safety of being ourselves, be that by masculine organizations that manipulate by legalistically slicing the salami or by feminine organizations which value group compliance over sharp thought.
The world can suck, no doubt. We are all born to suffer and die. What gives us hope though, what empowers the real ability to be the change we need to see in the world? Is it muscular discipline or tender vulnerability?
In my experience, the power comes from a considered and conscious blend and balance of both of those approaches. It comes from the power of tapping into continuous common humanity, not from one bit or another.
In a finite world, tension brings out the best in us, but only if approached with respect and grace. We may stand one way or another, but when we come together we help each other find the best.
Joy of Smarts or Joy Of Love?
For me, Joy of Balance.