Monday, February 23, 2015

How are women changing the world everyday?

By Carolina Sagebin Allen, Big Ocean Founder

The Big Ocean in 3 parts:

Part 1:

Moana  Means "Ocean"

When my sister- in-law Moana passed away in March of 2012, my husband and I flew to Oahu for her funeral. Never before had I seen such an outpouring of love and respect. It seemed like everyone in Lai'e was in attendance. Many shared countless stories of her behind-the-scenes acts of love and compassion. We learned that she had once talked a fellow out of suicide. She had spent years volunteering at a rest home and a youth club after working two back to back jobs. One person even shared that Moana had given away her car and only mode of transportation so his family would not lose their home.  As a returned proselyting missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, she helped countless youth fill out their missionary paperwork and encouraged them to serve missions when no one else in their family would.

              Moana Allen                                                      Moana Allen as a missionary

Moana was a strong Polynesian woman. She was enthusiastic and humorous. She was bold in sharing her faith. She was generous with her time and love. She consistently served and lived the true spirit of Aloha. Although she was never married or had the opportunity to bear children of her own, she nurtured her entire community. She was dedicated and involved in building and uplifting everyone she came in contact with. Moana Allen loved unconditionally. For me she was the quintessential example of a powerful and influential woman. She was like a mother to Lai'e. But after a hard fought battle with cancer, she passed away.

The day of her funeral, a group of 7-8 of some of the fiercest-looking men I have ever seen walked into the services. They were physically massive and had a warrior-like presence about them. They walked around together in what seemed like a pack. There was talk that they were from Waianae, one of the roughest parts of Oahu. Just before the funeral procession began and the pallbearers were about to take the casket, these men silently walked to the front of the crowd onto a clearing on the grass for all to see. There was an audible silence, and what they did next is something I will never forget.

All of them began the fierce Haka dance as a tribute to Moana. They chanted the  Maori war cry that seemed to shake the very ground we were standing on. Their body language and posturing was powerful and gut wrenching. Their sadness seemed to echo throughout the quiet streets of Lai'e. I will never forget the strength of their dance and their cries. I have witnessed many Haka dances, but this one was the most passionate I have ever seen. It was a dance of loss, of utter masculine power mingled with deep heartache and loss. I will never forget the sight of these warriors weeping for their fallen sister. That scene will forever remain in my mind as a tribute of the highest level.

Later we found out that Moana had been their seminary teacher and choir director. She was deeply involved in their lives. She would drive to Waianae and teach them as a youth about Jesus Christ and His gospel. Her life had created tremendous change in theirs. The meanest, baddest men wept openly as they danced one last time for Moana.

After the funeral and family gatherings, I found myself slip away to gaze out at the the Ocean early one morning. The loss of Moana had compacted my previous feelings concerning female power and influence. For some time I had been yearning for a philosophical home that would rightly express what laid deep in my heart. The following is an experience I had in contemplation of Moana's life, and the influence that I, too could have in the world.

Part 2: 

By the Oceanside

The sun was beginning to stream through the horizon as I meandered barefoot along the edge where the sand soaked up the white ocean foam. Upon reaching a cluster of small black boulders, I climbed atop the nearest barnacle-encrusted rock and looked out. The vastness of the grand and mighty ocean was breathtaking! Mile upon mile of clear-blue water stretched into the horizon as far as my eyes could see. Contemplative wisdom began to sooth me like the warmth of the sunlight on my face.

I felt all unsettled thoughts and feelings escape me as I listened in stillness. The words “water" and "waves" surfaced in my mind. I watched intently as the persistent and gentle waves shaped and etched their stories upon the face of the massive rock. "Time.” It must have taken a lifetime of dedicated waves washing over the rough edges to slick-down the underbelly of the rock. Small wave after small wave, the collective efforts of the grand and mighty ocean had molded and shaped that rock until it glistened and shone deep black in the water.
My mind turned to the magnitude and frequency of the waves. I began to wonder what would happen to the rock if a large and torrential wave were to crash upon it one day? How would the shaping take effect? Would the rock be refined in the same careful way? What about a tsunami-sized wave? Could the shaping even take place, or would the boulder be removed from its place entirely?

Sporadic tsunami waves are destructive. They are a reaction to underground violence of tectonic plates in commotion. The giant wave is acted upon by this aggressive source and in turn is likewise violent. The powerful wall of agitated water grows to catastrophic proportions and obliterates the landscape.

As I looked out at the vast body of water, I realized that its collective power had been changing the landscape for millennia, one individual wave at a time. These seemingly small waves were powerful in their own right because they were creating harmonious change everyday. I realized that these peaceful waves were being guided by celestial bodies, the gravitational pull of the moon and regional trade winds. Their motion was also in harmony with the strong undercurrents deep below their surface.

All waves belong to the ocean and there is great power in both large and small because each type creates change. It was clear to me however, that the latter bore sustainable change that preserves life, whereas the prior did not. The polishing and refining, molding and shaping power in the smaller waves was deeply creative, affirming entire ecosystems and marine life. I realized that the individual energy output of a subtler wave may seem small, but as a collective whole, its energy output is infinitely powerful.

As I stood upon the rock and looked out, I saw my daily actions in a new light. Like so many small waves, my life reflected the ebb and flow of significant and beautiful contributions. My life was in alliance with the big ocean itself and my daily toiling and work as a mother and nurturer was deeply life-affirming and grand. The creative change and impact we make as a collective whole is not small, rather it is profound and generational. I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude for my place in the big ocean because I knew I was a part of something truly powerful. I thought about my many friends in all different parts of the world, women that I so admired and respected. They too were in alliance with this vast movement of change. I felt an unparalleled kinship to past women-nurtures because they were  like those deep undercurrents that move us still today. We have all been doing good in our own unique ways since the beginning of time. Water is symbolically female because water is peace and water gives life, and this is tremendously powerful!

With my feet firmly planted on that rock, its solid face in juxtaposition to the fluid water, the two archetypal elements side by side made intuitive sense to me. As I stood their beholding God’s creations, I knew in my spirit  that women and men's unique differences complimented each other in the highest sense. These feelings weren't casual stereotypes, but rather eternal archetypal truths that needed no explanation. I saw both elements as interconnected and working in harmony.

That early morning as I beheld the ocean, my place and power in the world had been presented, and it was beautiful.

Part 3:

Big Ocean, a Women's Movement

What is the upshot of it all? Power. What type of power? Internal power. From my experience with Moana and with the small ocean waves, internal power creates powerful and lasting external change over time.  Like Moana, the most powerful person will harness and cultivate goodness, which will then begin to positively change the lives of others. Ofttimes we don't qualify what kind of change. Internal or external change? Sustainable or temporary change? In an increasingly impatient world of instant gratification, change is seen as something immediate and drastic. However, the most effective and sustainable change has been and always will be internal changes that stem from within. True and lasting power is rooted in service, selflessness, virtue, and compassion. These internal characteristics of goodwill harness internal power and consequently create positive life-affirming change that gradually flows outwardly impacts the external. One individual, one small wave, can affect a family, a community, a nation, and generations into the future. This is creative power. This is sustainable change.

Upon coming home, I felt a need to share my experience and establish a philosophical home rooted in this knowledge. I felt that for me, a woman and a mother, my archetypal uniqueness needed to be celebrated. This experience led me to question the status quo egalitarian foundation of modern feminism that seemed to so frequently bleed over into an ambiguous philosophical sameness. I was tired of the oppression-based flavor of egalitarian feminism that was endlessly at odds with the “patriarchy.” It was clear to me that the ocean and the land are essentially different elements which needn't be incessantly compared as negatives because both are mighty in their own unique ways. Both are necessarily and positively different. For me, there had to be something more out there, a bigger philosophical home founded upon this intuitive knowledge.

Upon coming home I stumbled on Dr. Christiana Hoff Sommers' work. It was remarkable for me to hear her outline two historical veins of feminism: egalitarian feminism, as well as what she describes "the long lost continent"of maternal feminism. According to Sommers, the maternal feminists of their time, women like Hannah More and Francis Willard, were revolutionaries that embraced their femaleness and femininity. Through expanding their maternal empowerment in behalf of home and family, they unified countless other women to do the same. Their feminism met women where they were. It spoke to them internally and encouraged them to grow their sphere of influence for the betterment of society. Like small waves identifying as an ocean, these women shaped their landscape effectively. They were the driving success in the temperance, suffragist, and pacifist movements.

I always knew there was a lost continent somewhere! Having a name to what I felt must be out there has meant a great deal to me. It has given me a framework from which to build a philosophical revival of maternal feminism today;  that's what Big Ocean Women is all about. We aren't just another wave of feminism, we are the countless women who have protected and safeguarded home and family from the dawn of time. It is an archetypal reality that we embrace. We are a grassroots collective of interfaith and international empowered mothers and mothers-at-heart. We are gathering our efforts in behalf of our children and families and sustainable and peaceful societies. Far too many corrosive social policies are being made that have direct impact over our sphere of influence. As we gather together our presence and influence will expand to make the creative changes that can grow goodness. Because we are life-affirming, we will not stand idly by as destructive changes take place (such as in national and international policies). We wish to highlight to the world that the internal power that we cultivate is indeed tremendously powerful, and what we do everyday within the walls of our homes is deeply valuable. We are united with women from all parts of the world that care, safeguard, protect, and sacrifice.

Our foundational pillars are: 

1.) We believe in God and are women of Faith. For many of us worldwide women. We believe in a higher power. It is what gives us our internal strength and courage as we face life's challenges. It is an integral part of our identity and it is powerful.

2.) We  embrace our life-affirming biology. To be a female means that we we have a unique and powerful life affirming anatomy. We celebrate this.

3.) We are each unique and innately worthy of respect. Every individual is worthwhile and special.
4.) We seek after wisdom and knowledge. We have each been endowed with an internal compass that when used can magnify our wisdom and knowledge for the good of humanity.
5.) We have the freedom to choose, and choose wisely. The freedom to choose is inalienable. We choose life-affirming and non-violent paths.
6.) We reach out and serve others in need. We are the innate healers of suffering, and do so with great compassion.
7.) We follow our conscience with integrity. We speak truth amidst confusion and  we follow our intuitions with faith and confidence.

8.) We cultivate wholeness and harness our creative power. Our virtue is priceless and we guard and cultivate our wholeness.

The solutions we are seeking lie within each of us. Every wave that washes up on shore  is unique and so very needed. Our different life stories hold within them specific solutions and ideas that will grow goodness. By focusing on our families and children, we are healing the world one wave at a time, together.

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