world

Enantiodromia: Eyes of the Enemy Within.

 

The old man rarely surprises me, I usually sense his voice before he’s spoken.

A voice deceptively thin, coarse and reedy, as if weathered vocal fibers brush the air with imperiousness.

He hunts me, and I am one step ahead.

When I’m enclosed with him, he inspects the cut of my clothes and hair, surveils the half-moon rinds of my nails, always looking for a flaw in my mirrored armor, but I’m ready.

My burnished breastplate gleams and shows him his own beady eyes.

He can only take me unawares when he wears an unexpected face.

Today, the Senex wore the face of a woman.

I should have known, a prim expression peering above a fleur-de-lis face-mask with slate gray eyes narrowing as they saw me walk in. Just returning from a run, I wore no reflective armor, just dark running clothes and an armband for my phone.

I slipped into the lobby, old and patrician, meant to emulate great halls of anachronistic European glamour. Aristocratic and plush, full of reds and golds and cream. I felt those cool eyes upon me, and my body prepared for the cold hooked scythe of the word Sir before I was aware of what was happening.

The cool, steely S flicked around me in the air, austere and severe. I whipped around, eyes wide. I beheld a woman, possibly my age, but with an officiousness that I perceive as belonging to those older than myself.

“The restrooms are for guests of the hotel.”

“Oh, I am a guest,” I said smoothly, a slight gee whiz boyish lilt had crept into my voice that I reproached myself for. I had spoken calmly, even engagingly, as my heart began to beat faster, picking up after the post-run lull.

I could sense that I was betrayed not by my voice, but by the flush I could feel creeping up my treacherous cheeks, they’ve been rosily giving me away my whole life.

Then I remembered I was masked, the ruddy Judases were muffled, thankfully.

“No sir, you’re not.”

She spoke these words with such clear conviction that a flicker of doubt fluttered into my mind like a mad moth caught in a lantern.

A quick glance at the rather ostentatious surrounds reaffirmed that I was indeed where I belonged.

An upscale hotel, I’d checked in for my birthday and the surrounding days.

A reprieve from the rattling construction by my home, though I had planned on traveling the week of my birthday, current events kept my escape confined to SF.

“No, I am, I checked in late the other night,” I said evenly.

She continued to stare at me, her eyes reflecting the gray day behind me, mine returned her gaze in mottled, mossy shadow.

I could tell this would be a problem.

I had only my keycard, and my phone died on my run.

My eyes were sun-pricked, my face sweat-slicked, I could feel that I was being beheld without my defenses.

So consumed with freedom and flight this morning, I lost my awareness of social roles beneath the cold, opal sky.

“I’m the Superior Queen,” I said sternly, which I didn’t find funny until just now.

Her face seemed to falter, a momentary shadow of doubt registered in her eyes, before being coldly collected.

The Senex is Old Man Order, arbiter of structure and restriction.

He can be embodied by someone of any age or gender. As we have all seen recently, some white women are eager to enact oppressive authority, to take the raiment of patriarchal power and use it to subdue those perceived as possessing less agency.

As a feminist, I have often wondered how long this aspect of patriarchal presumption would take to be collectively unveiled: The Proud, Privileged Daughter of the System.

I think it’s a valid and timely question, when can a woman wield patriarchal power?

When does the relative prestige of race, education and class imbue someone with the lens of the oppressor? In such a nebulous nexus, could a woman wield more patriarchal power than a non-binary person of color?

A recent event in SF, where a White woman challenged a man of color for writing Black Lives Matter in chalk outside his own home (deceitfully saying she knew the owners, to the owner), painted this pattern for me with more permanence than the man’s pastels.

The woman at the desk seemed to become agitated, as if I was being impudent. In fairness, my chin faintly jutted out, my flame-cheeked face was thrust towards the reception desk defiantly beneath the black banner of my mask.

I was locked out of Europe for my birthday, I wouldn’t be locked out of my room.

Then, something strange happened, the Senex shifted, moved quietly beneath the gaudy chandelier and raucous wallpaper, with an ugly stealth that belied his ancient form, he crept across the marble floor. Faster than the morning light could catch his silver hair, he slipped between the meniscus of bodies, and found a new person to stare imperiously from. Behind my mask, the blush receded from a resolute jaw.

I didn’t notice him move, of all the surprising faces the Senex wears, the one that is invisible to me in the moment is my own.

A haughtiness stole into my voice, a prideful arrogance that I find loathsome in retrospect, but still etched itself in the grand foyer, at home among the old, ornate decor.

As unlikely a home as the woman at the desk had been, she was perhaps more obviously accommodating than my strange form.

She was aggressively average. I don’t say this with malice, I mean she knew that she was the median, the proper distillation of averages in society, and she brandished it. Her hard, pretty eyes gleamed like pebbles in a cold lake, her roundish face and auburn hair more at home among the stilted European environs than my odd oval face and wild, dark head of coils.

She was an easy read, and I never have been.

My beige body was taut as a bowstring and lightly perspiring, eyes crowned with coal arches that shot up and down while hers were framed in a slender, linear edging that seemed as static as the banisters gleaming beside us.

The Daughter Of The Patriarchy and the mercurial exile of Europe. A strange Eurasian interloper facing off with the besieged defender of a stifled jewel box preserving the past.

The gold light of midday was beginning to illuminate a scene of enantiodromia: I had become my enemy.

The archetype of the Senex, Old Man Time, Saturn, order and structure has a nemesis. The Puer, the free and eternal adolescent.

I see the Puer aspected in my life and thoughts, but as Jung has said, “Enantiodromia. Literally, “running counter to,” referring to the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time.

This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.”

As much as I despise the enclosing grasp of the Senex, his tyrannical desire to attain power through hierarchical order, his mad hunger to put others in their place, I have embodied him. I have been challenged, and instead of meeting the gaze of my challenger with understanding, the tyrant gazes out from my eyes.

Perhaps the cultural discourse has encouraged more intensity in me, but truthfully, I’ve always been this way. At a bank, when smug derision glides my way over smooth mahogany desks, the Senex comes unbidden. At an art show, where an image of my naked body hangs on the wall yet I’m denied entry, he’s there. He is my unseen paradoxical figure.

When I am told I don’t belong, he comes and shows others exactly where the lines are.

I have a strange face, implacable, often othered, but through it he hisses hoarsely when I’m denied.

Soaking in a bath in the room I finally won access to, I ruefully reflect on the new moon in Cancer opposing Saturn, signifying emotional self-protection facing rigid authoritarian impulses. I’m more of a cosmic hindsight enthusiast than an amateur astrologer, really.

It hasn’t been since this new moment we live in that I’ve seen clearly what I do.

The Daughters Of The Patriarchy attempting to use hierarchy, authorities and lies to bend people of color to their will, and subsequently are shamed, having the power dynamic shift in reprisal. Having bloodless apologies wrung from them.

Witnessing it all has shown me clearly that this tension exists in my own experience.

I play all roles.

While I recognize the importance of these trespasses being seen, and of the seeming revelation that women too can use Whiteness as a weapon, I also want to acknowledge the futility of needless power struggles in my own life.

I want to speak to the ways that the collective power plays have fueled my own imbalances, and given more sway to my own shadow figures.

I don’t want to be so consumed with the convulsions of society that I allow myself to act blindly, to permit my actions to be usurped by my own unseen actors.

I will always support the perpetual revealing and evolving of the collective, but I aim to relinquish my role as a reactive avatar in its growing pains. As someone who parses myself and others into mere parts to discern power and dominion.

All the unmasking and questions that are coming up are valid and have a place in the dialogue, but I believe that it is only by integrating our opposites that we can individually evolve.

Seeing ourselves in our enemies, and seeing our enemies in ourselves.

***

Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.

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