[Part 7 (cont’d) of Fighting For Hope by Petra Kelly]
Whenever love comes up against rules and restrictions, it is as though it were shut in a cage where it becomes the ugliest thing In the world. When lovers fight, the tragedy is that they demand too much of one another. Jealousy, possessiveness, suspicion and pettiness — all have their origin in an attitude of hostility to love and in the way society is structured on competition. An inner ideal of love is on a total collision course with the actual state of communication in this society. The trust we desire disintegrates in the face of fail-safe and fall-back strategies, and ways of thinking and responding come to the fore which are diametrically opposed to love.
Sexual fidelity in a relationship between two people can be a meaningful — and sometimes essential — decision, constructured in competition.
Sexual fidelity in a relationship between two people can be a meaningful – and sometimes essential – decision when consciously and freely entered into by both parties. But as an absolute principle, it can be just as destructive as promiscuity can. I believe that human beings are not exclusively monogamous, and that this should always be taken into account.
There is a world of difference between a free choice to renounce all involvement outside a relationship, and a ban on such involvement. The pressure to make rules, the suspicion and the need for guarantees, in other words the “jealousy syndrome,” has a great deal to do with a fear of being dispensable. This arises from the structure of our commercialised society where people value each other according to the qualities and abilities they contribute to the human market. Men and women are constantly being compared with potential rivals. They live with latent feelings of inferiority.
Nena and George O’Neill have come up with a new definition of fidelity. In its original sense, fidelity meant sticking to a duty or obligation. In the O’Neill’s concept of open marriage, it is not psychological dependence that welds the partners together, but rather a sense of responsibility towards the other partner’s growth, the integrity of self and mutual respect.
For myself, it has become abundantly clear that the more harmoniously and self-confidently one lives with oneself, the more one can love, admit to liberty and share in the growth of one’s partner. In a partnership where each is sure of his or her own identity and each trusts the other, there will always he space for additional relationships. These can always have a vitalizing and enriching effect on an open partnership.
If our aims as women are to make our own decisions and to find our own fulfillment, we cannot exclude sexuality. In 1886, Eleanor Marx-Avelling wrote, “There will no longer be one right for women and another for men. If future society, such as current European society, allows men the right to have a mistress as well as a wife, then we can be certain that this kind of freedom will be extended to women.” How few of us have managed to live in relationships that were truly free and emotionally and sexually fulfillling without fidelity. Love relationships must be liberated from the desire for possession and domination.
Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) is very dear to my heart. In her life and work, she demonstrated that complete surrender to, and love for, a man do not have to be the focal point of a woman’s life. The focus should be one’s own work, one’s own achievement and the self-confidence awakened by it. “The new woman does not want to be exclusive property where she loves. Because she demands respect for the freedom of her own feelings, she learns to permit this in other people . . . In the new woman, the human being is triumphing more and more over the jealous little woman.” She sums up her sketch of the “new woman” in this way:
Self-discipline in place of emotional outbursts, an ability to appreciate her own freedom and independence in place of impersonal submissiveness, the assertion of her own individuality in place of naive attempts to adopt and reflect the “alien model” of the loved one. The open display of the right to family happiness, instead of the hypocritical mask of imperviousness and relegation of the experiences of love to an unimportant place in life. We no longer have before us the “little woman,” the pale shadow of the man —what we have is the personality, the woman as a person.
Alexandra Kollontai’s stories and her life show that work and the desire for love can be combined in harmony with one another. At the same time, they reveal the importance for women’s liberation of inner freedom and independence. For me Personally, the harmony between passion and spiritual closeness, the accord of love with liberty and of friendship with independence are the greatest ideal. I know from my own experience that love can only flourish in the freedom and spontaneity of one’s own feelings, and that life may be rich in the experience of love, if men and women are both free to make their own decisions.
ALL TOO OFTEN, WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE TAKEN in by an abundant assortment of images in which love is ever more distorted. In our society, men and women are led astray by access to commercialised sexuality, escapism and jealousy. Loving demands a great effort on our part. We are all aware of this, yet so many of us find ourselves in flight together.
In our society, love — the mystical dimension of life where the worlds of the spiritual and the physical are united — has been absorbed into the mechanical world of production; love has been reduced either to performance, or to consumer goods. We have reached a point where people want to “have” without being prepared to “give,” or simply to “be.”
The main obstacle to love is its over-idealization. It is indeed one of our aims to find love, yet we doubt our own ability to achieve this. We must make a start on love and eroticism where they are a reality, where we actually appreciate them — in our daily lives. We must make love a reality here and now.
Even in progressive political circles I come up against barriers when 1 talk of the religious character of love, and the erotic character of genuine religious feeling. The inner relationship between religious mysticism, spiritual love and physical eroticism derives from the fact that, by its nature, the true erotic transcends the confines of the ego, leading to a transcendental, mystic experience. The supra-personal quality of love is communicated to us naturally, in the personality of the individual whom one loves. We should always remain aware of the supra-personal dimension. The erotic element released between two people who love one another creates something beyond either one of them, extending their horizons. All too often, I come across men and women in our movement who shrink from the freedom afforded by love and eroticism because of their own personal disappointments. The (political and personal) “ideology” that they espouse is not prepared to admit to anything that cannot be rationally explained Everything that is loving is suspect.
In today’s nuclear, militarized world, almost all human relationships are riddled with suspicion, anxiety and insecurity. Love cannot emerge triumphant and unambiguous in a system of “fall-back” positions and restrictions. Conformity and submission are just two items in the emotional currency of this materialist society. We will continue to fail in our ability to love until we recognize that it is the personal responsibility of each individual to learn how to love. As women we must vigorously oppose all attempts to deny a place for the imagination in love, and we must strive for the harmonious interaction of the physical and the intellectual and spiritual. In a world where practically everything is planned, where everything is seen and valued in terms of its utility, the erotic must become the spiritual dimension of our physical being.
Leafing through books on Tantra temples, art and Tantra yoga, and reading about love relationships in Taoism and the early matriarchal societies, I am struck by the fact that we have lost a culture of love, or what Adorno calls “the aroma of the erotic.” All too often, encounters between the sexes amount to nothing more than sheer sexuality — individual gratification, the impatience some men have about entering their partner, advertising of aids to increase stimulation, and sexual acrobatics. Creative attention to the form and force of our own eroticism is disappearing fast and relationships have lost much of their excitement.
Setting up as a couple can be a grave mistake when a selfish need for security means that one partner stands in the way of change and development. Love is not an isolated romantic act between two people; love and life are indissolubly linked with one another. Love must be an integral part of all areas of society, so that it can halt the forward march of isolation, separation and a hostile social order.
TANTRA — TA O ISM — LIBERATION
The erotic is an elemental revolutionary force. It can suspend existing forms of discontinuity so as to arrive at continuity, entirety and a fuller, deeper way of life.
The melting and flowing into one another of the erotic can take place at various levels of sexuality. It does not have to be exclusively male-female oriented. More and more women are rejecting heterosexuality either for a short period or on a permanent basis and are seeking to arrive at a new awareness of their own sexuality and their own bodies in their relationships. Some do not want to share this most intimate area solely with men, and include women in their emotional life; others do not want men to enter them during the fertile days of their cycles, or even at all. Some use the most natural contraception method of all. This represents a new form of sexuality. Mutual satisfaction and one’s own fulfillment, are not some kind of substitute; many of us enjoy them a great deal more. There are many parts of the body where you can have an orgasm.
We must be on our guard lest the ideology of “free sexuality and emancipation” and all the bland propaganda there has been for the Pill despite its dangers subject us even more to male pressures. We women have been brought up to conform and to take a passive role, especially in terms of our own sexuality. Our sexuality has always been defined in terms of the penis. Men, including liberated ones, are brought up to be strong, and to measure their potency by the size of their penis and the frequency and timing of their ejaculations. In the Western world, sexual togetherness is restricted to particular erogenous zones. What has happened to touching, to caresses? In the erotic, non-violent, loving society that I would like to see, people will expect more than a simple capacity for sex. The most common complaint that women make of men is that they are totally unaware of the fact that the woman is not experiencing or feeling anything — the man is always in too much of a hurry to enter the woman. And that men tend to regard intense complete sexual unison and spiritual readiness for love, as an unnecessary diversion from their own fulfillment. The tendency to regard sexual intercourse exclusively in penis-related terms, and to cut ourselves off from all other aspects of this “melting into one another” leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, and can have an increasingly destructive effect on the love relationship. In next to no time, the result is that one partner is being used and the ability to love is put at risk.
A view of sexuality as a “technical acrobatic performance” is most certainly not the nub of a genuine love relationship; the nub is rather the ability to achieve a living, mural relationship, one that is anchored in the spiritual, where the erotic may rise above the confines of sold and thus lead to a mystical transcendental experience. I agree with David Cooper (On the Need for Freedom) that “The simplistic view that the man is there to penetrate the woman is a culturally conditioned belief that is easily refuted by experience.”
For example, Tantric yoga is based on mutual penetration, and the conflict between penetrator and penetrated is removed. There is a very great need to touch and hold and explore one another, instead of just penetrate!
We must not be ruled by our heads and our polluted perceptions. We must experience the mystic dimensions of life, in which mind and sensuality do not stand in one another’s way and are, in fact, indissolubly united. We must find our way back to a way of life we thought we had lost.
In erotic ecstasy, the intellectual and the sensual can never be separated. According to Tantric yoga, man is a never-ending spiritual creature and the melting together of man and woman is akin to the divine act of creation. It is thus possible to achieve the supreme state of existence through an intense act of physical love. Tantricism not only contributes to an appreciation of individual sexuality, it also shows the way out of the fragmentation of modern man by means of a complementary conception of body and spirit (man and woman).
If love predominates at all levels, man will no longer be pre-occupied with attempts, motivated by contempt and hate, to change people and things by means of punishment. Love which leads to ecstasy also leads to clarity and peace. It heals the wounds of separation and lends man dignity.
What once amounted to nothing more than a manipulation of organs now becomes an awareness of love — love that indeed transforms, but is not demanding, allowing us to develop our own awareness of the meaning of life. Being back in the world again, after this free melting into one another, gives a feeling of inner security. We are no longer “a thing in the world;” we have become the “embodiment of the world.” Tantricism seeks to lead man to his real being and has several possible levels: intensively lived love; physical eroticism; eroticism of the heart; holy eros! Yearning for wholeness!
This is expressed in exactly the same way in ecstatic Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. In the latter, the central symbol is the revolving wheel with two fish-shaped sacs within it: yin and yang. Unlimited endlessness. Each of these two forces carries some of its opposite within itself.
[Part 5 (cont’d) of Fighting For Hope by Petra Kelly]
THE CHILDREN’S PLANET
My sister, Grace Patricia Kelly, was not yet eleven years old when she died of cancer. She suffered from carcinoma of the eye, Grace came through four operations. In one of them, her right eye was removed. During her three years of radiation therapy, she spent many weeks in cancer hospitals, far away from her mother, her father and her sisters and brothers. She was on her own, surrounded by adult cancer patients with little sympathy for the sufferings and fears of a dying child.
Following the death of my courageous sister, I began campaigning for improvements in the situation of children suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases. Whilst discovering the dangers of radiation treatment for cancer became increasingly concerned about the wider menace of nuclear power.
Splitting the atom; uncontrollable emission of radioactive toxins; the insanity of the nuclear, bacteriological and chemical weapons build-up; unrestrained economic growth spreading commercialisation to every aspect of our lives; overconsumption of goods and raw materials; the erosion of the individual’s right to free speech; anti-human architecture, transport, technology and food production; increasing indifference and irresponsibility on the political front — these are the conditions of modern industrial society, and these are the factors responsible for disease. In an epoch characterized by “gorging to excess” all sense of responsibility has disappeared. Cancer has become a fitting symbol for the disease of civilised society. Shall we let ourselves be turned into cancer cells, gorging our way to self-gratification, all caution thrown to the winds?
Since following and experiencing my sister’s suffering as a cancer patient in those cold, loveless hospitals and radiation clinics, time and again, I have witnessed the way in which “medical progress” is itself a cause of illness. Ivan Illich has already proved that in the industrialized countries life expectancy is stagnating, or even falling, despite the cost explosion in the health services.
One of the main features of modern science, including medical science, is a tendency to reduce reality to a level which can be calculated in a laboratory or predicted by the computer. People have been reduced to finite objects, and human characteristics, such as creativity, imagination, hope and disappointment, simply do not figure any more. There is almost no better place to observe this reduction of human beings than in a modern hospital.
While there has been an over-emphasis on technology in medicine in the last few years, at the same time there has also been greater public awareness of the psychological causes of ill-health. The growing trend towards homeopathic medicines shows that, especially in the field of health, people want a more human approach to science and technology, one that does not separate body from soul.
The stubborn attitudes encountered in many hospitals underline the inhumanity of medical science. It has long been known that four out of five children react to being separated from their parents by being disruptive, towering, bed-wetting, having nightmares or loss of sleep and appetite. But hospitals will only permit mothers to stay on with their children in exceptional circumstances. Shortage of space is one reason for this; the absurdly high daily charges another. Some of the hospital administrators I have spoken to responded to this miserable state of affairs by saying that patients will just have to learn to live with it. Just as we have long since got used to hostile tower blocks and a polluted environment?
Cancer patients in particular are treated as though they were the lepers of the modern age. Take a man who has had a heart attack to illustrate the point. He is often regarded with something verging on admiration because he has obviously been working too hard, and that really counts for something in our work-mad society. But none of that applies to cancer. The word “cancer” arouses almost medieval fears of the awful, the unknown, the terrifying. Cancer sufferers often encounter ignorance, fear and tepidity. The uncaring attitude and the unconscious prejudices many people have about cancer victims are often more painful than the condition itself..
Given that after accidents, cancer is the second most common cause of death in children in Europe, various organisations have put forward the idea of special centres for children with cancer. These include a working group in the European section of the World Health Organisation and the private organization I founded, the Grace P. Kelly Association for the Support of Research into Children ‘s Cancer.
The need for these centres hinges on the way body and soul are separated in methods of treatment and therapy such as operations, radiation treatment and chemical therapy where important questions are left out: how are cancer wards furnished? what effect does the general arrangement of the room and the daily routine have on the small patient? are there enough properly trained nursing staff on hand to tend lo the child’s emotional problems?
My sister Grace often told me about the tears that were shed in the neighbouring beds, and how other young cancer patients suffered boredom, bouts of anxiety, apathy and withdrawal Her example of a child’s courage and honesty has given me all the inspiration, strength and energy I have needed since her death to found and publicize an association, a European action group, which aims to improve the lot of children with cancer.
After my sister’s death, I helped found a European association which aims to represent the interests of children suffering from cancer or other chronic illnesses in the increasingly depersonalized atmosphere of the hospital. The Grace P. Kelly Association uses its funds not only to promote cancer research, but also to encourage cooperation across Europe. We hope to construct a European model of cancer treatment which stresses the social aspects, both in psychological and paediatric terms. We call our project the Children’s Planet, and it represents an autonomous world of children, with no white coats and no hierarchies, where children need no longer feel like outcasts.
The idea of the Children’s Planet is based on the world described in The Little Prince by St.-Exupéry. A team of very committed planners and architects have drawn up plans for a Children’s Planet of this kind, in consultation with doctors and psychologists. We have spent years closely examining the specific problems of children with cancer and other chronic diseases, and I have visited many children’s hospitals in Europe and the United States to learn from other examples of clinical care, nursing supervision and leisure activities.
The Children’s Planet’s main concern will be research into the various ways in which chronically sick children can live with their pain, how they behave and react. It will consist of the following areas: firstly, a large work-space for outpatients where group therapy can take place and therapies can be supervised; secondly, a model “rooming-in” area where children who need time to adjust to their treatment can be looked after by their mothers or fathers; thirdly, a home dialysis training centre where children with chronic kidney disorders should be able to develop a degree of independence; and fourthly, a hospital school, with a large play and activities area. The first three areas will all be grouped round the fourth, a centrally situated play and activities pavilion. In this area, sick children will be able to do craft work, play in the sandpit, splash around in water, make and listen to music, read, act in plays and so on. Children will wait for their treatment here, and children who have already been admitted to hospital as in-patients will come over to play. It will also be a kindergarten for the children of hospital staff The play area will consist of a large, flexible hall with distinct spaces within it and a pyramid-shaped superstructure. The hall will be lit by natural light through a large number of windows to the outside world. Team games will be played in an adjacent open play area as well as in the central play/activities area. The visual impression will be of an open hall and a distinctive play and work shop.
The small patients’ active involvement and participation in the Children’s Planet should help them to bear their dreadful suffering and to take an active part in their own therapy.
To the Adult Reader:
“Looking after children
You are right.
“Because we have to
stoop to their level.
Climb down, lean down to them,
bend, make ourselves smaller.”
You are wrong.
That is not what’s tiring. What is,
is having to clamber up to their feelings.
Clamber up, stretch out, stand on tip toes,
to avoid hurt.