Last night I had a long conversation with someone about an experience she had on a tour in Scotland. At the end of the tour, everyone was asked to present a creative piece for an after dinner celebration. This woman chose to present a serious piece justifying Robert Burns numerous affairs.
The woman argued that while Burns loved his wife deeply, and had no desire to leave her, their three dead and nine living children held his wife’s focus so completely that she could no longer be Burn’s muse. Consequently, he had to find his muse elsewhere. It seems that a string of affairs with sundry bar maids provided him ample inspiration.
Hmmm. I would have thought that if he spent more time at home changing diapers, preparing meals, cleaning house, and making clothes, his wife might have had a little more time in which to share his creative pursuits. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Mrs. Burns simply didn’t want to have sex anymore. Without contraceptives, it was more than likely she would conceive another child. So Mr. Burns, apparently, had to find his muse (or sex) somewhere else. Love just wasn’t enough.
Women don’t do this. They don’t go galloping around the countryside in pursuit of some sexual dalliance that will trigger the next artistic creation. Sex doesn’t usually do that for them. While it can be really great, I can’t remember ever wanting to jump up afterwards shouting, “That’s it! Now I’ve got it!” and dash off to my computer to finish whatever piece I happen to be working on. Mostly, after sex, I want to cuddle.
So where do women find their inspiration? And just what, exactly, is a muse? Odes to the Muses populate Western literature and art. Throughout the ages, men have made love to their muses, cursed their muses, and been abandoned by them. Somewhere, there is a famous line about a man’s muse who turned out to be “a fickle bitch.” These nine sisters from Greek Mythology are quite the busy goddesses with men all over the world paying tribute to them at the dark, rich shrines of willing women.
There is, however, another definition of muse. This one comes from French and Middle English. In this usage, muse means to become absorbed in thought, to turn over in the mind meditatively, to wonder and to marvel (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary).
Ah Ha! Now we’re getting somewhere.
Back in the hunter/gatherer days, men were hard-wired to “follow that deer.” They see it, they want it, they chase it, they kill it, and they bring it home. Then they do it again. Coming from the single mind set of hunters, men today are often easily distracted. They typically think only about one thing at a time. They seldom see meaning in ordinary acts or occurrences. Simply put, they are still following that deer.
Women, on the other hand, were trained to gather and nurture. This means they have to be able to multi-task and hold several pieces of information in their minds simultaneously. They might note that a berry bush will be ready for picking next week, that there is some lovely grass growing on the hill across the way that might be used for baskets, and that the mother bird is back in her nest so it is best to wait to get the eggs. While they are doing this, they are also gathering herbs, nursing a child, and talking with a friend. Women have remarkable memories and incessant curiosity. It is not uncommon for them to wonder what will happen if they put a new spice in the stew, or a new color on their toenails, and they are not afraid to try. In addition, women are exceptionally good at seeing the relationships between things and deriving meaning from the least likely places. If you doubt this, just ask any man.
The average man is absolutely sure that there is no meaning behind an insignificant action like turning on the TV while his wife is talking. The average woman, however, will muse on that action for days. While she understands that he is ignoring her, she wants to know why. Eventually, because she has the astounding mental capacity of a Nurturer/Gatherer, she will find an answer. Then, the man will be informed of her conclusion and be inspired to do things differently.
It seems that for men, the muse manifests as sex and women. The men see something they want, the chase it, they conquer it, and they go home. For a man, muse equals deer. Men get their inspiration from the object. Women get theirs from the subject.
Women don’t need to go galloping around the country side. They find their muse while doing the dishes, weeding the garden, and making dinner and they have inspirational choice. They can look in the mirror and marvel at themselves, or they can meditatively turn thoughts over in their minds, wonder about things, and become absorbed in their thoughts. No wonder the art market is so male dominated and competitive. Just think of the amazing output of energy men have to expend to find their inspiration and then do something with it. Their muses are few and far between. Women’s muses are always with them.