That morning the sky was bigger than usual and made me feel like exploring Tucson, the flattest town I’d ever seen. It certainly wasn’t the Tucson that Jack Kerouac wrote about. Huge asphalt parking lots and cheaply constructed buildings all so far away one from the other. I was staying in a motel while my car was being repaired after a breakdown on Interstate 10. Hungry, I left my room to go get something to eat. Standing next to a stop sign was a woman panhandling. She must have been in her mid-fifties and looked weathered and worn. It broke my heart so I blatantly went up to her and offered her a meal. There was a Taco Bell not far away and that’s how Barbara Mor and I wound up eating a fluorescent lit Burrito Combo #3 together.
Barbara was the co-author of The Great Cosmic Mother, a book that explores the history of women and their relationship with the earth. After years spent struggling to write it, the book finally got published. But so far she hadn’t seen any of the royalties and was having a tough time economically. Barbara had moved to Tucson in hopes that the publication might get her a lectureship at the University of Arizona. But it hadn’t. The University wouldn’t even hire her as a cleaning lady. Unable to get a job, she wound up “broke and living in back-yards and nefarious drug-dens.” She was 51.
So I had Barbara come stay with me at the motel where we spent a lot of time talking. She grew up born in California “before the freeway, before plastic & fast food franchises”. At the age of 17 she married some dude from Las Vegas just to get away from home. Obviously the marriage didn’t last. She bounced around boyfriends even had a couple of dates with James Dean who, claimed Barbara, told her that it was important to him that she continued to write. Six days later he died in a wreck. Some years later, Barbara started studying at San Diego State College. Here she discovered ancient matriarchies and Neolithic cultures. And that was the beginning of The Great Cosmic Mother. There was an element of rage in Barbara’s voice when she discussed her book because, she explained, she feared that the female consciousness risked being obliterated by the patriarchs.
My car fix, I left Tucson. Of course I got a copy of The Great Cosmic Mother and read it. Or rather devoured it as it gave me a whole new insight to myself as a woman. Years later I learned that Barbara had gotten herself off the streets and was living in Portland. She’d written another book, The Blue Rental, based on her years as a “bag lady” trying to survive in a culture particularly hostile to women who are poor. It reminded me of an abridged female version of Finnegan’s Wake, a cryptic narrative. Barbara died in 2015.
The Great Cosmic Mother led me to ask myself: what’s the difference between men and women?
One hot afternoon, researcher Giacomo Rizzolatti and team, were working with monkeys when they decided it was time for a gelato break. In the lab, joyfully eating their ice-cream, they totally forgot about the monkeys. The monkeys, still hooked-up to brain activity monitors, registered pleasure as they observed the pleasure of the ice-cream eating researchers. And that’s how, serendipitously, mirror neurons were discovered.
Mirror neurons are brain cells that respond, with mimicry, to the actions of others. This reaction is known commonly as empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and understand the feelings of another.
The female brain is wired for empathy whereas the male brain is not. And for one simple reason: women, and not men, have babies.
Empathy permits women to better care and protect their offspring. For example, how could a mother and a non-speaking baby communicate otherwise? Thus empathy and maternal instinct have much in common.
Maternal instinct is not limited to one’s own children. Anyone who has nursed a baby knows that whenever you hear a baby cry, yours or not, the breasts automatically leak milk. And maternal instinct is not limited to humans. Think of all those tender Facebook posts showing animals of one species nourishing animals of another animal altruism.
Empathy, a means of inter-relating, is fundamental for our survival and evolution. It is an awareness that we are all dependent one upon the other. Empathy is the basis of a sense of community, of a healthy society. Without it, there is nothing civil about civilization.
A chain is a chain because its links are united…the links alone serve nothing.
The Earth is a Mother. And we are her children. Unfortunately, many of us are ungrateful and bite the hand that feeds us. But it hasn’t always been this way. Many ancient cultures worshipped the Great Cosmic Mother. Because adoring a mother meant adoring life itself.
But, around the fourth millennium B.C., everything changed. With monotheism, the goddess cultures were destroyed and patriarchs obliterated the maternal values within the community.
Elsewhere warriors from the north began to invade peaceful cultures. These Indo-Europeans were violent and on horseback. Their aim was to invade, pillage, plunder and annihilate existing customs and beliefs. Male gods began to appear. These gods were angry, vindictive, jealous and punitive. And, above all, they hated women.
With force, these invaders dominated and sought to obliterate nature’s plan of having males and females exist in synergy and solidarity. Our complementary roles were lost. With the concept of ownership, the world was “materialized” and spiritual needs were substituted with dogma. The priorities of these invaders were not the priorities of women. Or of nature. As a result, our planet now is in great difficulty.
In the past 100 years, the world population has quadrupled. This means more people and fewer natural resources to go around. Alarmed, in 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” which starts off with “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” It was signed by about 1,700 scientists including many Nobel Prize laureates. Despite the warning, things are getting worse. Our greed and lack of respect for nature is going to kill us all. Monotheism continues and the god’s name is Money.
Ecofeminism is a response, an attempt to repair the damage done. It is an expression of empathy for the environment. Ecofeminism is a mother nursing her child.
Even though the situation is desperate, we need to maintain a female consciousness. And to do so, we can contribute with daily acts of awareness that nature must be respected.
Here are a few examples of what we can do:
Follow the three R’s of reduce, reuse, and recycle and limit the amount of natural resources that we use.
Honor water as it keeps us alive. To help conserve water: keep a bucket in your shower to collect water and use it for your plants, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, fix leaks, don’t flush the toilet at night, use less electricity as power plants use water to cool off.
Make your own cosmetics. Clean your skin with olive oil. Use aloe vera gel as it is antibacterial and has skin healing properties. That’s why Cleopatra rubbed it on her face every day. The gel can be used as a shampoo as well as a toothpaste. And put some of the gel in your smoothies if you have any kind of stomach disturbance (including ulcers).
You can also mix baking soda with water to use as a shampoo. You may want to rinse with vinegar afterwards. Baking soda mixed with salt can help whiten teeth.
(from Cool Breeze, aka The Age of Reconfiguration ©)
Related: Barbara Mor’s “The Blue Rental:” Rooms Outside Hollywood, Hell, USA By Edgar Garcia + Barbara Mor reads from “The Great Cosmic Mother” + READINGS from THE GREAT COSMIC MOTHER (1987) + An Introduction: Barbara Mor +