Monday, June 07, 2010

28 Months (part two)

That is an image of Monica Furlong, not Quinn, but I wanted to remember this woman for the impact that she recently had in my life. I just finished reading a book that she wrote called, "Wise Child". It immediately connected with my soul and it's a book that I am holding aside for Quinn. It'll be perfect for those tween years when life feels so unsure and trying to understand your place in this world seems like a monumental chore. I have complete faith in my children and their abilities but I am constantly on the lookout for beautiful messages that might reach their lovely ears.

The story of "Wise Child" focuses on the growth of a young girl at a transitional period of her life. Raised during the dark ages in Britain, Wise Child suddenly finds herself orphaned when her grandmother dies and both her mother and father are off exploring the world beyond their little province. The only person who has the means to take her in is Juniper, a strange woman who has many mystical qualities about her. At first Wise Child is frightened because all of the children think that Juniper is a witch and that life with her will be terrible, but she soon discovers that there is no one in town who is more welcoming and generous. Wise Child's life until that point had been deeply steeped in a devout interpretation of Christianity, administered by the local priest, a hateful man named Fillan. In that world there was no need for a girl to be educated beyond homemaking designs and only those with Jesus in their heart should be acceptable companions. Juniper's world is an entirely new perspective for Wise Child. She begins to learn about nature and her intimate connection to it. She discovers the lore of herbal culture and the benefit of working diligently to bolster the environment around her, which in turn helps them live more comfortably than most of the others in town. She also is educated on all of the arts of human understanding, just so that she may become a more fully realized individual.

For her entire life, Monica Furlong fought against the gender prejudice inherent within the Church. She was deeply spiritual and had an open seeking heart, but her foundation was rooted within Christianity. She sought to transform the culture of the Church Of England so that women were connected to a more equitable environment within those hallowed walls. She was a Christian Feminist and her understanding of religions and the way that they functioned was always grounded with a human touch.

Growing up within the Christian culture myself, I often had misgivings and was extremely confused by the inequity existing all around us that didn't jive with the message of universal love that stemmed from the teachings of Jesus. This book was a revelation for me because it showed that the true heart of the divine exists all around us, that it doesn't have to be constrained by any book or theology or culture. It is a natural breathing reality that we witness every day. Juniper understood that so much more than any of the so-called "Christians" in the book and it is this message that she tries to impart on Wise Child so that she may develop and help the world grow to become more in tune with that divine spirit.

There is a constant struggle within our culture about empowerment. We are forever being told that we have the capabilities to be the most dynamic and self-realized people then, in the same breath, we are reminded how limited those capabilities can be. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the lives of women. We have advanced so dramatically over the last hundred years, since women first were empowered with the vote, yet almost every message conveyed is one of subservience, of succumbing to the male gaze, of retaining an unequal role in life. Though it's true that more and more women are overcoming this debilitating burden, the dominating story that remains is one of enormous struggle and conflict to simply obtain a basic human right.

Monica Furlong didn't succumb to the pressure of a dominant persistent belief. Instead she continued to try and alter that belief for her entire life, even completing a third novel shortly before she died that continued to delve into Juniper's and Wise Child's world. Ms. Furlong is the type of role model that I want Quinn to admire and aspire to be. Not a model nor a film star nor a rock god nor a celebrity of any kind that will demand that she conform to an idealized version of beauty. Not a CEO nor a politician who doesn't believe that women should have ever gotten the right to vote or even serve in office alongside men. I want her to truly be empowered and to believe in the strength of every human being, to fight against injustice no matter where it may rear its ugly head. I want her to be a feminist.

Here's a picture of my little feminist.

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