The Woman’s If

“The New Janus”
painted in concord grape juice mixed with tapioca flour and gum arabic on handmade paper dyed with concord grape juice and hand blocked with weld plant dye.

The Janus of Roman mythology was the two-faced god who looked in opposite directions, East and West – to the past and to the future.

Albert Einstein proved that time is relative and asserted that the past, present, and future are manmade perceptions of one timeless state of existence.

Perhaps the new Janus looks in one direction at “now” and is not two in one but as one, an embodiment of timelessness and the true equality of “Man,” i.e., “Hu-Man,” the trinity of the Divine, Man, and Woman, all equal in being and in expressing the nature of the universe, albeit in different ways.

The hands in the painting, palms together, fingers upward, show the añjali mudrā, a common hand gesture used for centuries throughout Asia / India as a greeting and a sign of respect but also as a form of physiotherapy (and indirect psychotherapy), in representing the union of opposites: Human and Divine, male and female, conscious and subconscious, and harmony of the two hemispheres of the brain.

Since the 1970’s, the neuroscientific theory of left brain-right brain division of functions has been popularized as a means of determining behavior in the sexes and personality in the individual. Since then, new research has indicated that we humans do not, by nature, perceive, think, feel, or act from any one brain location or isolated neural area; rather, the brain, like time, is but one physical dimension of the whole mind and thus is relative. A person’s perceptions, moods, and self-concepts are, in fact, self-created and therefore always at liberty to be re-created.

The poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling endures in its fame because of its timeless truth, applicable to both sexes and all ages, though the poem’s last line implies literal address to boys and young men and figurative address to the motivating masculine spirit of enterprise and endeavor. My feeling is that Kipling meant the advice of “If” for everyone, and only because Kipling himself was a man, of a certain era, did he conclude his poem as such. Nevertheless, I have taken the liberty of adapting Kipling’s poem for women, particularly women of “now.”

The Woman’s If
– Mary Jo Magar –
If you can keep your self when all about you
Are others naming you by names not you,
If you can be these names – mom, daughter, wife, shrew –
And all the while fulfill your real self too;
If you can know your limits yet exceed them
Or make them known without apology,
Or lower them with pride, not self-condemn,
Yet free yourself from false biology;
If you can learn that no one cares how you look,
Yet you are judged and misjudged by your looks,
And truth as beauty can serve as queen with rook
To end the games of arch industries’ crooks
Who sell us potions, lotions, makeup, bras, heels, . . .;
If you can see that sex appeal is health,
And nothing less or more; what else appeals
Must complement simplicity as wealth;
If you can understand romantic notions
As human hunger for ideals to hold,
But hold not things or people or emotions,
And act with warmth when circumstance is cold;
If you can do as you must, not as you please,
And not please others yet be pleasant too;
If you can be distressed, a damsel, with ease,
Then don your knightly armor and save you;
When Feminism and Tradition call out,
If you can hear them as two voices, same
In patriarchal pitch, effective as shout,
But hear your own voice most in soft reclaim;
If, like a sculpture, you can suffer time’s cracks,
Yet gain in luster with each day’s rebirth,
You not only are a woman, more than facts,
You will birth the spirit of self-made worth.

– Rudyard Kipling –
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!