Note: This is one of my most cherished MyNotes on a book. It really shifted my perspective on this topic.

Image Credit: Good News Planet

While reading my twitter feed one evening (or was it early morning), I stumbled upon a book reference for Elizabeth Lesser’s Cassandra Speaks. I was intrigued by the context and that’s probably what moved me to get the book. After reading it, I knew I was on to something. I found the book engaging and highly recommend you read it. In fact, I’ve recommended it to everyone I’ve spoken to in the last few days.

This blog entry includes some of My Notes that I wrote in my notepad. I put them here so I won’t lose them and hope you will also be intrigued.


  1. Women know something that the world needs now. We know it in our bones. We’ve always known it.
  2. The stories that people have been absorbing for centuries…stories that tell false and destructive narratives about women and men, femininity and masculinity, and the nature and purpose of life.
  3. Eve: “Second in creation, first to sin.”
  4. Cassandra’s story is that of every woman who has been dismissed, gaslighted, or punished for having an opinion of her own.
  5. When the stories that have glued together a culture lose their potency, things begin to fall apart. But new things rise up.
  6. Turmoil and backlash ensue, but so do big leaps forward.
  7. We are living in a time when the stories that have provided meaning and structure for Western customs and institutions are being challenged.
  8. Some of those stories are beautifu, instructive, and worth saving. But many of our foundational narratives that pretend to be about and for all of us were told by only a few of us, and therefore have served a mere slice of humanity.
  9. They have set in store which values and temperments should prevail, what power looks like, and who gets to have it.
  10. Stories for men or patriarchy:
  • stoicism
  • warriorship
  • violence
  • father
  • ambition
  • confidence
  • authority
  1. Stories for women
  • home
  • hearth
  • empathy
  • care
  • mother
  • caregiver
  • feelings
  • communication
  1. “History isn’t what happened, it’s who tells the story.” -Sally Roesch Wagner
  2. Stories endure. They outlive the people who tell them, they jump from one continent to another, they continue to mold cultures for generations.
  3. Becoming famliar with our culture’s origin stories and tracing their influence is an effective way to take stock of our lives and to claim an authentically powerful voice.
  4. Many creation myths from earlier ancestors painted a different picture of the origin of women and men and their worth and roles.
  5. In many of those stories, neithr sex was created to dominate the other. Both men and women shared the responsibility to help the community survive, thrive, and connect with the sacred. These are not the stories most of were raised on.
  6. So many stories impart the same themes:
  • men are th emorally pure and noble
  • women are the ones who succumb to evil and tempt the man
  1. To grow up is to admit that life is challenging and that we are responsible for our own behavior and for the well-being of one another
  2. To be human often feels as if we arrived here without an instruction book, longing for direction
  3. We are lost, but can be found. We suffer but can grow wise. We can learn how things really work, and chart a noble path home.
  4. Our tasks is to become like gods–self-aware and responsible for choosing goodness over evil.
  5. “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot
  6. Both Eve and Pandora bring death into the world. This is a curious reversal of the fact that women bring life into the world, but it says something about the meaning of “woman” within a religion dominated by male gods. - Polly Young-Eisendrath
  7. Archaeologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists have been studying prehistoric cultures and peoples. They are trying to piece together, not only stories we have never heard but also the ways in which the scribes of history have rewritten reality to fit into their prevailing worldviews.
  8. Pandora means ‘all-giving’. Elpis is the spirit of hope
  9. It’s time to tell stories where no one is to blame for the human predicament and all of us are responsible for forging a hopeful path forward.
  10. “God has no gender because there is no God.”
  11. Sophia is Wisdom (in Sirach)
  12. “The hardest times for me were not when people challenged what I said, but when my voice was not heard.” -Carol Gilligan
  13. It is a great story, but it is a story about male conflict, male dilemma, male struggle…we have to be prepared to go back through all our books, films…and say, this is written by a male artist, not an artist. - Jude Kelley
  14. “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” Jose Ortega y Gassett
  15. Who chose violent conflict as the one human activity to laud over all others? Deny evil the attention it seeks.
  16. Women created most of the oldest known cave art paintings suggests an analysis of ancient handprints - Dean Snow, Penn State archaeologist
  17. History is often a distorted window into the past, the perspective of those with the power to tell it.
  18. “If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely, it is power that we need to redefine rather than women” -Mary Beard
  19. Basic assumptions about power that women must question:
  • Domination and violence are necessary to maintain order
  • Men are divinely or biologically predetermined to lead
  • The strong/silent warrior is to be revered while the emotional communicative caretaker is second rate
  1. Women must become protagonists in the stories that shape the world
  2. The single story of power–the excess of one value system and the exclusion of others–has left humanity in a bind.
  3. Women have internalized patriarchy and created unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive and prosper.
  4. “Whoever fights monsters, should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietsche
  5. Activism: Love made visible
  6. Innervism: love of oneself
  7. Bring the hidden parts of the self into the light, to understand them, to own them, to admit them, and to transform them
  8. “I see the repression of the feminine principle as the biggest problem on the planet, and since the planet has become a global village, power alone just isn’t going to work anymore. We will destroy ourselves.” -Marion Woodman
  9. Doing Power differently
  • Partnership model
  • interactive (not authoritarian)
  • Collaborate connectively
  • Values relationship, empathy, communication
  • Generous with praise and encouragement
  • Transparent about mistakes/vulnerability
  • Listens, processes, includes
  1. Love is the energy that cherishes
  2. First first responder: saving lives before they need to be saved
  • Teach emotional intelligence, skills, self-awareness, empathy, impulse control
  • Model how to ask for help, how to take responsibility and admit wrongdoing, how to value yourself so that you can love others
  1. Strong and silent vs Brave and open
  2. “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as sound, ends in a deed.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel
  3. “What will the writing of history be like when the definition is shared equally by men and women? Will we devalue the past, overthrow the categories, supplant order with chaos? No. We will simply step out uner the free sky.” -Gerda Lerner
  4. “Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. Most people can bear adversity. but if you want to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test.” Robert Ingersoll
  5. When we deny our stories they define us. When we own our stories, we gt to write a brave new ending. - Brene Brown
  6. Oprah Winfrey says:

“Over the years, I’ve interviewed thousands of people…and I would say that the root of every dysfunction, every problem I’ve encountered, has been some sense of a lacking of self-value or self-worth.”

  1. New stories and more authentic values are inside of us, in the depths of who we really are, beneath the usual brain chatter, under the conditioning or confusion or fear that holds us back.
  2. “You are the sky. Everything else–it’s just the weather.” Pema Chodron
  3. All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love.
  4. “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” -Brene Brown
  5. “To make deeper connections with each other, we need to be willing to be disturbed.” -Meg Wheatley
  6. We live in a society conditioned to privilege only some kinds of people.
  7. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Rumi
  8. “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne Lamott
  9. “One person plus one typewriter constitutes a movement.” Pauli Murray
  10. “The poorest and most backward societies are always those that put women down.” Isabel Allende
  11. “There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples, my philosophy is kindness. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama
  12. Beware of “schadenfreude:” taking joy in the failures of others
  13. “Our role in life is to bring the light of our own souls to the dim places around us.” Sister Joan Chittiser
  14. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” -Marian Wright Edelman
  15. A student asked, “What’s the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?”

“When you have knowledge, you light a torch to find the way. When you have enlightenment, you become a torch to show the way.” - Sister Joan Chittiser

What an inspiring book to read, full of quotes like the ones above. What the author, Elizabeth Lesser, does with each quote is expand upon it, often using it as the grain of sand to build a pearl of life experiences and insights around it. I highly recommend the book, not only because it’s eye-opening, illusion-banishing in a way that’s the same but distinct from Greg Epstein’s book, and because it offers a different path forward.