It is likely that the word “Erotic” in the title of this post intrigued you. I at least hope it did. I know it would for me if I saw it. We all have connotations and associations with the word erotic, likely many overly-sexualized associations. This word, this beautiful experience that awakens us, the erotic, is something that has been surfacing over and over again for me this last year, and I feel it following me into the new one ahead. It seems to be reaching out of me now onto the page to be shared. So here we go.
I am back in Ottawa this morning, after a visit to my parent’s home and land in Sackville, New Brunswick. I’m missing the wood-stove, property trails and closeness of their physical presence. I was fortunate enough to make it out there this year, especially with this new variant wreaking havoc in our communities. It is hard to believe we are entering the second year of living in a pandemic. But here we are.
I sit in the “papa” chair, (a name my housemate and I have given the wide, supportive, vintage chair in our living room), staring out the front window at the houses across the way, candles lit, coffee in hand, and some poems by David Whyte on my table next to me. It’s the last day of 2021. A day of reflection I find, and yet I find it hard to tap into that reflective space today. I just feel “here”. In my body. Touching the textures of my home and feeling the warm coffee trickle down my insides. This seems to be enough these days. A simple and sensual here-ness.
With a new year approaching, there are likely going to be a plethora of thoughts and advice on how to be a better you going into 2022. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to grow and evolve, to feel healthy and alive. I do think there is something wrong with the ingrained beliefs behind some of those messages that often drive us, usually unconsciously. The one’s that subtly sound like: you will be more loved, you will be more liked, accepted, attractive, successful, ultimately more worthy or significant if you do or accomplish or look like x, y, z…
The erotic on the other hand, feels like an antidote to these messages. The erotic, I have found, invites us into a depth of embodied feeling and knowledge, a wisdom that is accessible to guide our lives. To live liberated, in alignment with ourselves and to experience pleasure and joy. I have been enamoured by Audre Lorde as of late. A self proclaimed black, feminist, lesbian woman whose writing and voice liberated and continues to liberate women of colour, women in general, and the sacred feminine force that can be found in all of us. Lorde writes, “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.”
Lorde defines the erotic in this way,
“The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects — born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”
The erotic is a lifeforce. It is the energy within that allows us to experience vitality, depth of pleasure and enjoyment at a feeling level. Sure that involves our sexuality and sexual selves, but it also includes our mental, relational, emotional, physical, psychic, and spiritual selves. The erotic is not limited to our genitalia. This is where the erotic has been misnamed, “…we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic…pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.” (Lorde, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power).
I suppose what I want to say, is that the erotic is inviting us, all of us, especially those who have been marginalized, oppressed and forced to fit into a society that has tried to suppress and taint that lifeforce within, to tune in. To drop into ourselves and ask “where do I feel most alive?” “Where do I experience pleasure?” “How does this make me really feel?” Lorde continues, “The erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing.” This includes our work life, our relationships sure, but also, the very present moment. The eating and drinking, the preparing a meal, the soft touch of a beloved, the bathing our kids and watching a film. Pleasure, to be found in the simplest and smallest of moments.
The erotic is power. It is a force. It is the very energy within that calls out our self-respect, and demands that we settle for nothing short of a life of fullness and harmony within ourselves and within our communities. That our activism toward a more whole society, and more whole life, be rooted in the erotic, a sense of pleasure and enjoyment that can mark our lives. I think this is what Adrienne Maree Brown is really getting at in her book Pleasure Activism.
So, no matter what goals or aspirations you may have for yourself going into this new year, may I invite you, as I am trying to listen to the invitation in me, to turn your ear toward the erotic force within? If it doesn’t breathe a sense of pleasure, vitality or expansion within you, perhaps it isn’t for you. What will be for you, will not be for the person next to you. This requires courage, listening, and trusting yourself. This requires you tap into that power within that perhaps has been stifled, and warned against. No one can take this from you. It lives inside you. And you get to decide what to do with it.
This stanza from a poem strikes me, and I carry it as we cross another threshold tonight into uncertain days ahead,
We look with uncertainty by Anne Hillman
“We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
to a softer, more permeable aliveness”
May you enter this new year with a more permeable self, willing to experience your aliveness.