Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A feminist reflection on Solstice

On December 21st of this year was the longest night of the year, and many cultures around the world celebrate this time by gathering and telling stories, honouring the dark and cold space that allows us to go within ourselves and welcome the light as the the Earth begins to spin closer to the Sun, stretching the days out longer once more.

As a feminist scholar, Solstice is a time when I contemplate the intersections between feminism and spirituality. While many feminist schools of thought oppose religion as the strong arm of patriarchal power that has historically oppressed people and in particular reinforced gender binary systems that have positioned womyn as subordinate.

Still, I do see both a revolutionary and emancipatory power in having a spiritual life, which for myself takes place outside of organized religion. This path of spiritual growth has in many ways been a lifeline for me as a grad student in some of my darkest moments of discouragement and despair.

Since becoming a graduate student in September 2009, I’ve also had the pleasure to meet my spiritual teacher and connect with a variety of feminist allies who have supported me on a spiritual path and in turn, sustained me through my studies. Graduate studies can sometimes be a very dark and isolated place where you are alone with your work. Solstice night reminds me of the long and dark stretches of time where I sit facing my computer, waiting for the light of inspiration to dawn on me and bring me the energy to write about this work I am so passionate about.

I had a conversation with a friend who recently defended her thesis and confided how inspiring and humbling it was to see her complete her work. She had always seemed so disciplined to me, which positioned her as a role model for me. When I confided in her how impressed I was with her completing her work the conversation evolved into a discussion on how grad school is sometimes beyond a question of capacity and ability to do the work. Indeed, we both agreed that we had never doubted our own capacity, passion or commitment to the work. But what comes to the surface in the isolation of writing a dissertation is the struggle with your own inner demons.

Solstice night reminds me so poignantly of how these demons can obscure the spark of inspiration and sometimes make you believe that you will never see the end of your project. But even the longest night does come to an end, and as the days begin to get longer from our limited perspective on this planet, I know that with patience, dedication and belief in myself I will be able to complete my degree.

As a feminist, I have found tremendous empowerment and inspiration in turning to the immutable laws of the Universe to remind me of my place in the greater scheme of things. Ultimately, this paradox requires both that I believe in my capacity and also surrender myself to a higher purpose. In other words, while these long hauls in isolation facing the inner demons challenge me on my path as a graduate student, I know that once I complete this process I can make important contributions to social justice, inspire those I meet along the way to do the same, and do my small part to making the world a better place, hopefully sharing a bit of light and joy along the way.

Happy Solstice.

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