When I was 17, I bought my first 10-speed bike and named her Artemis. My rationale was that Artemis was the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, in the same way that Diana was the Roman Goddess of the Hunt. I found this to be a cool name for the bike I would ride on a bike trip up the Maine coast with friends.
In recent years, the name Artemis seems to carry with it even more significance. In an article entitled “The Artemis Effect” published in the Intelligent Optimist, Valerie Andrews speaks of how women are really making waves and changing the world. Personally, I find this ironic. In my view, women have been pathfinders and changing the world since the beginning of time. A few weeks ago, I wrote on this blog about women warriors, such as Maxine Hong Kingston and others. Last week, I had the chance to see Patti Smith perform live in Santa Barbara—another vibrant feminine force, not only punk rock’s poet laureate, but one of the most influential rock-and-rollers of all time—an ambitious, unconventional, challenging, and powerful woman warrior making huge waves in society. Like many women warriors, including myself, she was an outcast in school and always followed her own muse.
As a child of the 1960s, I watched the feminist movement blossom and women stand up for their rights. I have vivid recollections of Rachel Carson speaking out about water pollution in The Silent Spring and Jane Goodall introducing us to the language of the apes. In many ways, I was not an extreme feminist, as I have always loved me and embraced the feminine in myself, but I was a feminist in the sense that I believed in equality. Now, as I enter my sixties, and after reading Andrews’ article, I have a more mature attitude about a woman’s place in the world. Looking back on my life, I realize how I have always reached out to listen and absorb the wisdom of my elders. They were role models and helped guide me through life’s eventualities. As I glance around at my family tree, I notice that most of my elders are already gone. I have become the elder; the younger generation looks to me to bestow my learning and wisdom to them. This is the circle of life. At first glance, it seems like a daunting responsibility, but after some reflection, I have come to the realization that I am embracing being a role model with grace and love. In a sense, it is an honor.
Thus, in the same way that the name Artemis resonated with me as a teenager, I find myself connecting with her mission even more now, as I enter a different stage of activism. The circle of life reminds me of my new role; joining other Baby Boomers to share our wisdom and teachings with our younger counterparts. An article in a 2013 issue of the New York Times, called “Suddenly They’re All Gone” by Carol Mithers deftly states: “All the years I was young, the center of life’s drama, I barely saw these people. Now they were simultaneously disappearing and becoming unbearably real to me, heartbreakingly diminished and yet still powerful; deeply-rooted trees that against reason would not let go.”
Psychiatrist Shinoda Bolen suggests that the “Artemis Effect” is so named for Artemis’ strong sense of sisterhood. Often depicted holding a bow and arrow and accompanied by the forest nymphs, she was known as the protector of women and young girls, as well as the guardian of young children. Born one day before her brother Apollo, she supposedly helped her mother give birth to him and was thus seen as a midwife. She had other very powerful roles as well, such as protector and guardian of the wild animals and the wilderness—one of the first environmentalists.
As someone who tries to inspire and empower others, I find Artemis’ role very liberating and refreshing. In Bolen’s book, Goddesses in Older Women, she urges those over the age of 50 to share their wisdom and to serve as mentors to the younger generation. While this is great advice, it seems to me that this happens organically during the life cycle. In fact, Artemis joins all the modern day luminary women in being mindful and watching over the spirit of our world.
We Baby Boomers still have the health and vigor necessary to give back to those around us. As Andrews concludes in her article, “Giving back is good for your health, instead of feeling the world shrink as you age, you can become part of a vast web of relationships, broadening your collaborations and connections.” The changes and waves you make will depend upon your own individual passions and drives, whether they are literary, involved with human rights, or working toward world peace. As Bolen says in her book’s introduction: “Think of yourself as the main character in a novel or motion picture that is being written by the choices you make or the roles you play.”
This is the time in life to help you identify what has been stirring inside of you and what connects you to yourself at a soul level. In other words, it is the time to find your cause. Study what calls you and what you think about often, and/or what bothers you, and notice where you can implement change. Maybe it’s enough to be thought of as a caring and compassionate person, making ripples around you that spread into the world. Listen to your heart. One way to hear its voice is to journal every day and take note of the patterns in your writing. What do you write about most often? What are your dreams? Passions? Loves? Chances are, you will tap into an inner voice that will illuminate your calling to make waves for the next generation, whether it is within the realm of sisterhood or brotherhood. It’s all very positive.
This post was previously published on psychologytoday.com.
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