Archive | March 2015

Maimonides’ prescription

photo by Timothy Stark

photo by Timothy Stark

Should I argue with someone acknowledged by all the world to have been a genius? Furthermore, why would I when I totally agree with him? Let’s face it, whenever people think as I do, I consider them geniuses anyway. (Ahem!)

The great philosopher, astronomer, scholar and physician, Maimonides, who lived from about 1138 until 1204, has been recognized throughout the ages as a real genius — which the guy certainly was. He moved in a prominent, important circle of society in Morocco and Egypt where he lived, and was a vital part of the history of Arab and Muslim sciences — which thrived then. And, yes, Maimonides was a Jew, but lucky for us, at that time he was a part of and worked closely with the top Arab thinkers around him.

Maimonides

Maimonides

In his medieval Spanish world, Maimonides, as a physician, recognized the importance of what today we might call ‘entertainment’ as a vital requirement for good health. He observed, and I quote: “Music, poetry, paintings and walks in pleasant surroundings all have a part to play towards being a happy person and the maintenance of good health.” Wow! He was a man after my own heart…

Maimonides' Statue in Cordoba

Maimonides’ Statue in Cordoba

Although I am nohow as clever as Maimonides, I’d add a few things I love to that list, but books were not that easily come by back then, and many people were unable to read and/or couldn’t afford them. I also spent years enjoying what I consider the ultimate challenge for actors — live theatre. It is impossible to beat the connection one feels with the actor on stage during a great performance. It is thrilling and remembered for years.

As someone who thoroughly enjoys the pleasures he believed in, I am

Maimonides' sculpture in U.S. Capitol

Maimonides’ sculpture in U.S. Capitol

committed to Maimonides’ prescription for well-being. The part of my income spent on such pleasures is, to my mind, an investment in my good health — surely as important as a visit to my fabulous and oh-so-clever and kind medical doctor. His list is also cheaper than and has less side effects than those provided by drug manufacturers.

Without a shred of guilt, I plunk down my credit card each year for season’s tickets to an eclectic and delightful ‘Music in the Morning’ concert series, as well as the ‘Live at the Met’ opera season coming directly to us from the New York Metropolitan Opera Company.

Both seasons are about over right now so they are on my mind, but I will be one of the first in line to purchase my tickets for next year. Can I afford it? Can I afford NOT to afford it? My health is at stake!

The health of my dear friends who share these pleasures with me is at stake as well! Besides, we go out for lunch afterwards for food and interesting conversation and what can give us more than that?

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Calling all virgins

Mom, smile 3After my piece about Doctor-assisted suicide, Steve suggested I write about wills. I started to, but decided two serious posts in a row would shock you. You know I like humour. In the as-yet unpublished post on wills, I suggest getting rid of stuff so loved ones won’t have to dig through all the many useless things we’ve accumulated through the years. Well, I decided to do that myself. What do I have a lot of? Papers… Copies of articles I’ve written, letters from readers, years of work by friends as well as my talented progeny. If you can think of it, I’ve got it.

Going through my files, I found an article I wrote in 1992 which made me chuckle. I had visited China in 1991 and by now, much has changed, so keep in mind this actually happened in 1992. Here’s what I wrote: ‘Calling all virgins” “According to a recent item in the Globe and Mail, ”Virgins only need apply: Air China demands trainee flight attendants be chaste — and no smelly armpits” by Andrew Browne, Reuter News Agency, Beijing, the call is out for virgins. Air China, it seems, is having difficulty recruiting chaste young women to train as flight attendants. Things are getting desperate! “We can’t have our girls fooling around with the passengers,” insisted Hao Yu-ping, director of Air China’s flight attendant school in Beijing.

Chinese Airbus, circa 1992

Chinese Airbus, circa 1992

Virginity is not the only requirement. There are other restrictions as well. Not only do you need to be a virgin aching for only chaste, pure adventure, you also have to have perfectly formed feet. Pigeon toes or what Hao calls “duck feet” are not acceptable, nor “knock knees, bow legs, pimples, warts, moles, dark skin, squints, scars and bad breath.” Smelly armpits, which Hao describes as “a disease” would also disqualify you. Seems lady Hao is an expert when it comes to armpits and has smelled more than a few in the course of her career.

Apparently no one told Ms. Hao that virgins are an endangered species. The only one still known to exist, rumor has it, will never do since she has all the disqualifying features described above, which may be why she has remained chaste. And, how, I wonder, does Air China verify a prospective female attendant’s virginity? Are they interrogated days on end without food or water under a bare light until hunger and exhaustion make them confess? Are families, friends, former teachers and schoolmates called before a tribunal to testify about the applicant’s sexual behavior? Or, is each hopeful subjected to a thorough physical examination? And by whom?

Air China flight attendants, 1992

Air China flight attendants, 1992

Then, I wonder, what would happen if a straight-legged, nice smelling, clear-skinned, attractive, virginal cabin attendant meets a similarly blessed young male and (heaven forbid) gives in to desire — in spite of all the rules? Would she then be tossed out a plane window over the ocean to become dinner for a crab? And, how would Hao find out? Will sex spies be planted amongt the passengers to watch for miscreants to give themselves away? Will these spies check for an unusual glint in the eye or a careless, telltale spring in the walk? Perhaps a ready smile when handing a passenger a meal of white buttered bread and a slender slice of preserved meat is a sure giveaway. In any case, Hao has a tough assignment and you, dear readers just might come to the rescue. Are there any virgins still out there? This could be the job for you.’

In 1992 I was surprised that my somewhat conservative, younger editor even printed it, and as for virgin readers, I got no response. Would I lie to you?