Soft, Gentle, Pliable

by Christopher Lovejoy on February 9, 2014

Kanamara Matsuri is a Shinto celebration of all things penis.

The main festivities of this penis-venerating Festival of the Steel Phallus take place each year on the first Sunday of every April at the Kanayama shrine in Kawasaki, Japan.

The penis, the central theme of the event, is found in brightly colored penis popsicles, plastic penis noses attached to plastic glasses, wood carvings, candy, carved vegetables, illustrations, decorations.

Most notably, a very large black or hot pink penis, fully erect and robust, is carried and displayed with chanting in the Mikoshi parade.

It’s not uncommon to hear young nubile girls declaring, “I love penis”. One couple, when asked how they were enjoying the festivities, answered simply and joyously in Taoist fashion: “it blows.”

Tao Te Ching, Verse 76

What does the venerated penis have to do with verse 76? Let’s give it a read and found out …

We are born gentle and weak;
at death, we are hard and stiff.

All things,
including grass and trees,
are soft and pliable in life,
dry and brittle in death.

Stiffness is thus
a companion of death,
flexibility a companion of life.
An army that cannot yield
will be defeated;
a tree that cannot bend
will crack in the wind.

The hard and stiff will be broken;
the soft and supple will prevail.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

This verse doesn’t seem so favorable to the quivering, erect penis. What gives?

My Impressions of the Verse

At first, I didn’t question the wisdom of this verse, as it seemed to have much to recommend it. Upon further reflection, I realized that it might be one-sided in its bias against the vital, virile penis.

Still, I think it contains much wisdom (the verse, not the penis); we just need to see it from a fuller (and more fulfilling?) perspective.

We are born gentle and weak;
at death, we are hard and stiff.

No arguments here, if we persist in viewing ourselves as synonymous with our bodies, which, in a limited sense, is true; let us see what this part of the verse is setting us up to accept as good and wise.

All things,
including grass and trees,
are soft and pliable in life,
dry and brittle in death.

Stiffness is thus
a companion of death,
flexibility a companion of life.
An army that cannot yield
will be defeated;
a tree that cannot bend
will crack in the wind.

Yin and Yang describe how perceived opposites manifest as interconnected and interdependent. Where Yin is associated with what is cold, wet, and dark, Yang is associated with what is hot, dry, and light.

These associations can be extended to such dualities as water and fire, female and male, feminine and masculine, life and death, and, perhaps, the vagina and the penis.

Where the vagina can be cold, wet, dark, and soft, the penis can be hot, dry, light, and hard, but is it fair to say that stiffness is a companion of death where the penis is concerned?

If we view death and dying as necessary and complementary to experience life and the fullness of life, then yes, stiffness is a companion of death, even where the penis is concerned.

Let us count the ways.

A stiff penis can break the hymen; when it ejaculates, it sends countless sperm on a mission where all but one will die in vain, and when it withers and dies goes flaccid after orgasm, the man himself experiences a little death. The ever discerning French have a name for this curious phenomenon: petit mort.

The bulging, pulsating penis, though brimming with life and vitality for a short time, is also a lord of death, and then a companion of death in more than a few ways as and when the deed is done.

The hard and stiff will be broken;
the soft and supple will prevail.

Nature provides many illustrations of this contrast. Think of the old, brittle oak tree cracking under the force of a strong wind and then think of the palm tree bending flexibly under gale-force winds.

The urgency with which the penis pushes, penetrates, and pounds the object of its ferocity is a fair reflection of its wisdom when you consider what happens after the deed is done.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

I could launch into a discussion about the fulfillment of sexual desire, but I won’t do that here.

Rather, I’d like to draw attention to a prevailing attitude in modern life: “it’s my way or no way.”

Such an attitude is a confession of ignorance, expressing insecurity and reflecting a lack of maturity, spontaneity, and flexibility.

Like the quivering, erect penis, a rigid posture or point of view can seem the epitome of control, clarity, and certainty, but upon further reflection, we can also see just how dry and brittle it can be.

A stiff point of view rarely welcomes further inquiry and it can only go so far in its advocacy of a certain position. What if viable alternatives exist? What if a broader understanding or appreciation is possible?

To an extent, we create an experience of reality with our thoughts. If we hold fast to certain points of view in the midst of change or in the face of challenge, who knows what we’re missing?

A simple tweak in what we know to be true just might make all the difference to how we approach a perceived problem, confront a difficult person or situation, or meet a perceived challenge.

The trademarked growth plan, Access Consciousness, offers an effective technique for encouraging soft, gentle, pliable points of view. It’s called Interesting Point of View, or iPov for short.

Whenever we feel ourselves going into judgment or being judgmental in the spirit of “it’s my way or no way”, iPov can be used to loosen up the energy contained inside the stiff, stern, strict judgment.

When we start getting hot and bothered, heavy and oh so serious about something, we can declare to ourselves, as many times as required to feel lighter: “interesting point of view; this is my point of view.”

This technique can even be applied to fixed points of view that feel good to us, and can be supplemented with these questions: “what else is possible here?” and “how can it get any better than this?”

Penis or no penis, not only does Justan Ipov relieve us of our resistance and reactivity, opening us up to alternate points of view, it also clears our potential to enjoy expanded views of life, love, and light.

Next up: In Support of Equity (Living by Offering the Surplus)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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