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Desperate measures for desperate times…

funny lady at computer

Life during COVID:19

There’s a saying: Man plans and God laughs. If ever there were truer words, find them for me.

My children live in a different country. I’ve been an avid reader forever. I’ve owned many books. I decided if I got rid of them, it would be easier for my kids when I need to move or pop off. If I decide to do something, I usually do.

I gave away books — many books.

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Well, I’m hunkered down for the duration of COVID:19 and the libraries are closed. I’ve finished the few books waiting around to be read, so what next?

Going through my half-empty shelves, I saw ‘Zhuangzi: Basic Writings’, a textbook from a Chinese philosophy class I audited at UBC some 20 years ago. What the heck. It had been interesting, so I decided to revisit it.

FriedrichNietzche1844-1900

Nietzche, 1844-1900

What I found most fascinating were my own notes. This class had followed another I took about Western Philosophers, which included people like Freud, Nietzche, and even a contemporary well-known Canadian thinker, Charles Taylor.

 

‘Woman was God’s second mistake.’ Nietzche.

CharlesTaylor1931

Charles Taylor, born 1931

In my  notes on Zhuangzi, I’d noticed how similar  his written thoughts and those of Nietzche were, who came along hundreds of years later. Could it be? Had Nietzche read the ancient Chinese thinker and borrowed from him? Perhaps. Probably. Well, I, for one, thought so….

We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us.

xunzi

Xunzi, maybe 310 BC

 

‘The noble person uses things, the lesser man is used by things.’ Xunzi. (Actual birth date unknown.)

The fight is far from over….

Muriel2017They’re talking about brilliant female scientists on the radio. It reminds me of an experience I had in approximately 1971 when I was planning to enroll daughter Susan (age 6/7) into a summer program at our local community center.

Identified as a highly gifted child, Susan was totally into science. She loved learning about insects, snakes, lizards, shells, rocks and dinosaurs — you name it.

susan:Carrie in tree

Susan (front) about that time

Reading the available programs, I saw a cooking class for girls and a science class for boys. I recognize that cooking is a science, but it wasn’t Susan’s thing and I knew it. I was  upset. Would I accept that? Of course not!

angrywoman

Would I accept that?

iwomenrights

I threatened to march outside their doors

I visited the center, had a discussion with the program director and threatened that if they didn’t allow my daughter into the science class, I’d march outside their doors with signs complaining about their old-fashioned thinking. Yes, I WAS really angry.

The female program director caved. Susan was allowed into the class, however, I hadn’t foreseen what followed. When she turned up for the class, the surprised boys loudly complained. “Yuck! A girl!’ ‘You’re not allowed in this class.’ ‘You don’t belong here!’

bully

You don’t belong here!

The poor kid. I’d placed Susan in a position where she was not welcome. The boys bullied. They pulled her hair. They saw her as an intruder. I didn’t argue when Susan very soon didn’t want to go anymore.

hairblkwht

They pulled her hair.

I also still wonder what that terrible experience did to her. Would she have followed a different career path if it hadn’t occurred? What did I accomplish after all?

What I do know I accomplished was I did convince the community center to change their policy. I told them they were unfair and outdated. They changed their future description of classes for children and no longer classified them according to sex.

freecutegirl

I’d like to think things improved later for girls

I’d like to think that later perhaps one or two girls, luckier than Susan, had the opportunity to become excited about science in a class — and who knows? Maybe one or two of them has or will win a Nobel Prize after all. (However, the fight is far from over.)

P.S. Susan has found her own way of using her scientific interests and ability in her life’s work in any case.

I owe an apology to my mom…..

Muriel2017

How interesting to look back at childhood from this vantage point. I currently see things so differently. Does that mean there’s hope we garner a little wisdom with age? Perhaps… I now realize I owe my mom an apology.

I was the youngest of five children. We lived in Quebec when birth control was illegal so our family wasn’t considered that big.

Ruch Muriel 5 yrs. approx

finally five

I was finally five and expecting to go to kindergarten. All my siblings attended school and I could hardly wait to go too. I was so excited. Woweee!

 

crying girl

they refused to accept me

Mom dressed me up in a starched dress for the occasion and we walked hand in hand to our local school to register. They refused to accept me. Why, I’ll never know.

Perhaps they had too many students or something at the time because the next year they put me directly into first grade. They surely didn’t ask me what my opinion was about their dastardly decision. All I knew was they said NO!!!

childgreendress

I cried….

I howled

I didn’t cry, I howled

My mom probably tried, but was not prepared to argue for too long. I was heartbroken. I cried all the way home. Actually, that’s not at all true, I didn’t cry, I howled in five-year-old frustration and despair. It just wasn’t fair!!!! Everyone else (in my family) went to school. My poor mother tried her best to comfort me, but it wasn’t possible.

Now having raised children myself, I realize what a break those few hours each day would have been for my poor mom. She was probably looking forward to having some time to herself even more than I was looking forward to going to school. Being older today, I can’t help but imagine how disappointed SHE must have been herself.

poormom

The poor soul had to wait a whole year before having me at school

After all, I don’t think we ever had a babysitter — preschool may not even have existed yet, so my mom had to wait a whole year before having a few child-free hours.

I feel I was cheated out of the kindergarten experience I never had, however I also wish I had thought to apologize to mom…..