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Mod. 1.2 - Ritual of Regard; Change Frameworks

The late bell hooks was a pathbreaking black feminist, poet, scholar, and activist. Her incisive writings on race, place, and gender expanded the parameters of change by offering a worldview that pushed beyond the white, middle-class perspective that dominated early feminism.


In her book Belonging: A Culture of Place, hooks suggests that, ‘Communities of care are sustained through rituals of regard.’ hooks refers to regard as a means to watch or behold, not passively, but with care, wonder, intention, and attention.


Transformational change requires us to see (or regard) the world, each other, and ourselves in profoundly different ways. Over this course, you'll engage in weekly rituals of regard or exercises designed to enhance your ability to see from and with other perspectives. I encourage you to complete this exercise in a natural setting, if possible, particularly one in which life is thriving. This week, I invite you to reflect on the following prompts in your portfolio by whatever creative means inspire you:

  • Who or what do you genuinely regard? Why? What are the rituals by which you do so?

  • Who or what do you disregard? Why? What are the rituals by which you do so? If you were to regard this person or group more intentionally, how would it make you feel?

 

For me, who and what I regard is most often rooted in overcoming barriers, obstacles, and having a sense of humility. In the recent cinematic masterpiece Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, Ke Huy Quan portrays Waymond Wong, the seemingly bashful and cowardly husband to Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), the story’s protagonist and woman who wears the pants in the relationship. Towards the end of the film, Waymond has a beautiful monologue in which he talks about constancy, commitment, intention, and supporting Evelyn even when it was tremendously hurtful to him as his way of showing bravery and strength. I love this scene because Waymond reframes manliness, and how bravery and strength can be demonstrated as a man so differently from the traditional view. The traditional lens of the “Successful American Man“ offers specific occupations a man can pursue as an acceptable role in society: Businessman, Doctor, Military Officer, Politician, Quarterback, Rock Star, etc. Nowhere on that list is convenience store operator, the role that Waymond plays, which is what makes his insights so much more powerful.

Growing up closeted, I often found myself falling short of the traditionally accepted view of manliness. Whether it was playing the violin, prioritizing academics, or listening to Destiny’s Child, I was always the square peg trying to fit into a round hole. As a result, I regard those who have found the strength to forge their own path, to lean into their own unique qualities and point of view, and model what it looks like to live outside of the status quo or traditional view as very admirable. One ritual I take on to show my genuine regard is to “Stan” as the kids say. Whether it’s Ke Huy Quan, Serena Williams, Leontyne Price, Whoopi Goldberg, or my favorite high school teacher Baron Toumajan, I try to share their stories and the light they carry and shine to all who will listen.

Conversely, I completely disregard individuals who seemingly represent an alternative viewpoint or are celebrated within traditional frames as a model or someone worthy of praise, when the fruit of their lives and their lived experiences prove otherwise. Said better by Holden Caulfield, anyone who is “phony” really grinds my gears. There are two recording artists who come to mind as examples of this: Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Both embody privilege, aloofness, and celebrity while attempting to appear “serious” or “deep” in their artistry. This is not to say that they are not artists, but that it is very difficult for me to regard their art as anything other than artificial, because of how they choose to represent themselves and share their art with the public. Whether it’s the praise TSwift received for her bravery in taking a political point of view against Donald Trump, or Justin Bieber comparing the love Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held for America as equal to the love he has for his wife, both have massive influence and platforms and choose to use those platforms with very little intentionality or responsibility.

Regarding either of these two more intentionally would invoke within me the largest Liz Lemon eye roll the world has ever seen. If either one took on human rights issues and raised money for social issues, I still wouldn’t regard them more highly because they are still benefiting from the system of injustice that upholds them as the standard for millions of boys, girls, men and women, to aspire to. In addition to intentionality, and responsibility, I would also add accountability as a key value for those I regard. Without accountability, we will continue to see the proliferation of delusional youth pursuing fame as the ultimate goal and the continued rise of scam culture, because there are more and more examples of individuals demonstrating that you don’t have to worry about any negative consequences if you have enough influence, money and power.

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