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Weekly Review Issue No. 14
On the awkwardness of men talking about loss, the fundamental medical biases against women and the profound observance of death at the smallest scale.
Hello and welcome back to another Review. I hope you’ll at least one thing you find interesting, useful or enjoyable. If something particularly resonated, I’d love to know about it.
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What’s alive for me
I had two conversations over the course of this week that had a recurring theme: how men relate to loss and death. On the one hand it comes from the perspective of how so much of end-of-life care/bereavement/grief work is tended by women, and how those more ‘feminine’ traits (holding space, listening, containing) are just not in the life skills that men usually aquire.
But also that when men do talk about loss, its about what kinds of loss are acceptable to talk about. Inconvenient loss, or slightly awkward ones that bely a discomfort in how a man feels about people or things that are not socially-sanctioned. I’m thinking the loss of male friendships, or of other platonic relationships.
I would like to think conversations between men about how they feel about complicated feelings of loss are happening all the time, but I don’t think so. It does feel like touching a live wire. That’s whats alive for me this week.
Onto the links!
Research on the edges
The term ‘psychotechnologies’ is, I think, pretty neatly packed away with the type of people who read/listen/participate in the Emerge ecosystem. When i first heard it, I thought: “well, like meditation or whatever?” It’s a bit more than that, and this piece does a great job of categorising it. Emerge can (to me) drop into a bit laborious over-wording navel gazing sometimes, but most of the time it is has very clear, far thinking, intelligent ways of engaging with the complexity of the world we live in.
Humanity is at a point where we either have to heal ourselves, our relationships to each other, and our relationship to Mother Nature - or we are likely to perish. If we want to survive and thrive as a humanity, we have to adopt the psychotechnologies that will allow us to do so.
This is an old piece (2019) but I came across it as I was thinking about a lecture I’m giving next week to the Healthcare and Design masters about the difference between academic and design research. That topic is a whole thing in itself (and a lecture!) but one thing I’m pulling on is how the entire system of research is fundamentally baised, to the most basic level. In our age of correction, when so many people are trying to fix the fundamentals of discrimination and bias, to get a sense of just how titled everything in medicine is towards men… its staggering.
The reasoning went like this: since women are born with all the eggs they will ever produce, they should be excluded from drug trials in case the drug proves toxic and impedes their ability to reproduce in the future. The result was that all women were excluded from trials, regardless of their age, gender status, sexual orientation or wish or ability to bear children. Men, on the other hand, constantly reproduce their sperm, meaning they represent a reduced risk. It sounds like a sensible policy, except it treats all women like walking wombs and has introduced a huge bias into the health of the human race.
I loved reading about Euvie’s experience in her ancestral homeland as she calls it. Stephen Jenkinson talks a lot about being orphans from our own history and culture - especially the European settlers who came to North America. It feels like the opposite of globalisation - to re-connect with ancient places, often that are highly unremarkable but in their potent spiritual nature, and commit to just ‘be’ there and find a way to collapse time and enter into a different state of being. I feel lucky to have experienced some very ‘old places’ in my time (New Mexico, Montenegro, parts of Scotland) and this pieces resonates with the experience of feeling a different type of time.
I have come to realize that the way we think and the way use words in modern Western culture actually prevents us from being in touch with the deep mystery.
The Western notion of history, for example, is concerned with verifiable facts and linear progressions - a history that is essentially dead.
This story I am telling here is one that cannot be wrapped up neatly with a little bow. It is not the kind of history that belongs under museum glass. It cannot be pinned down, which makes historians and anthropologists uncomfortable in their chairs.
This is a very good piece on how to address the inherent issues in simplfying complexity (I suppose in healthcare but could be used much more widely) and - in terms of my interest this week - about how ‘evidence-based research’ can be misused and cause indiginity to a large amount of people, but how a ‘dignity-based practice’ can recitfy and help undo the ingrained prejudices that exist in the systems we live in.
We are all entitled to dignity because we possess certain ethically important features. One of those human features is that we are knowers. We know things. We learn. We make sense of what we know. We interpret our realities and the systems within which we have our being. If this feature is not respected, one’s dignity is violated. There is a kind of knowledge practice we may call dignitybased practice.
James Holden has been on a great musical journey. With his Border Community label, he brought Nathan Fake, Luke Abbott and others to a bigger audience, and I’m forever grateful for that alone. His 2014 album The Inheritors is a long-time favourite, and I ritually use The Caterpillar’s Intervention to gather my energy and focus for specific difficult experiences like job interviews or meetings with ‘important’ people. It’s a potent magic spell for me.
I love the way his music is developing. His 2017 live album The Animals Spirits (’spiritual jazz band playing folk / trance music’) was fantastic given his origins as a bedroom DJ. Holden has a new piece of music out, to preceed a new album. It’s mellow, a bit downbeat but with this forest of sounds that feels very alive.
🤔 Last thought
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this might be the most profound thing you’ll see all week.
What’s going on here?
It is a single-cell organism that is dying. It is a rare chance to see the smallest living thing go about seemingly trashing its way to its own (literal) dissolution. It is indisputable confirmation that death is ‘not the end’. Nothing dies, it just transforms.
But it is a scientist crying at the existential sadness that it evokes. It’s a simple functioning being forever immortalised and memorialised by inquisitive, emotional beings billions-of-times more complex than it.
As above, so below?