Month: June 2014

On Gender Roles

As a child, I have a concept of what I want to be, and it wasn’t a lady. I liked Power Rangers more than Barbie, wore jeans everywhere, continued to climb trees and fight with boys until they suddenly had growth spurts and expanded to twice my size.

I was a source of vexation to my parents. They keep telling me that I should behave; that I should be a lady. How, I would ask, do I achieve that? They would provide me a list of do’s and don’ts that would make me a true woman.

This sets me thinking…what if I don’t want children? What if I want to be a journalist in war zones? Does that strip me off my status as a woman? Does that mean that I am a man, or something completely different?

Society has this concept about masculinity, femininity, and gender roles…like mass-produced clothes of the same size and style. It does not matter if they do not fit you. One’s own preference is of little consequence. People give us this pair of shoes, tell us to wear it, and like it. In this subject, at least, man and woman truly are equals.

I find this classification rather silly. Ever since the dawn of time, there has existed this taxonomy separating man from woman. There are so many differences in characteristics, expectations, and roles that I can’t help feeling that we are not of the same species.

Why do we have to be certain things? Wouldn’t it be better to be ourselves than to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’? After all, who’s to say that men can’t take care of babies and women can’t work? My uncle does perfectly well in raising his daughters. My mother is the most methodical worker I know. Why the labels, if we work better using shoes that fit?

Still, I see the charm of having this perfect image that we could aspire to be. Without it, most of us would not know what to do. The issue is not about having a certain view; it is more about forcing ourselves to be exactly like these ideals. For heavens’ sake, we are not perfect! We shall never be, no matter how hard we try, for the simple reason that we are human.

The image we have of the perfect man or woman is, for me, good when used as a handbook, not a prison. We are at heart a man, a woman, a child, and something greater we can’t hope to describe. Why should we strive only for one and disregard the rest, when all of them make us what we are now?

That Pale Blue Dot

Cassini's Pale Blue Dot

I find it interesting that when we look at the Universe, we learn more about ourselves. What are we, compared to the greatness of the cosmos? We amount to little more than a speck, but here’s the twist: each of us is a universe in ourselves, and together we make up a world. We make up a home.

I took an Astronomy class this semester, because I couldn’t get the class I wanted. The professor’s rating is really low and I didn’t know anything about outer space. I came to class worried, disappointed, and very unhappy; but as I learn more, I began to enjoy it.

Now, the professor often talked about this particular scientific show, Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey. I wasn’t interested at first, but as my first test approached, I realized that I needed everything I could get my hands on if I hope to get an A. So I started watching it. I learned new things and became more interested with every week that passed. It has been a life-changing experience.

One particular line called out to me. It went this way: nullius in verba. Take nobody’s word for it. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.

I ended my class this week, at about the same time that Cosmos aired its last episode. Watching it was a mind-blowing experience. There was this scene of the Voyager spacecraft leaving our Solar System. It turned back at the very last moments before its communication was forever severed from us to take a final look at our Earth.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

            It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

I couldn’t agree more. In sixteen mere weeks I have learned more about the Universe, about our own Earth, and about what makes us humans. When we consider the cosmos, we realize how small we are; how truly pathetic and insignificant our dreams, cares, and wishes. When we look at all those other worlds, we discover that there really is nothing like Earth for us; not since the beginning of our existence and not for ages to come. When I look up into the night, at the stars that are more numerous than all the grains of sand on Earth, I wonder why humans are so self-centered, each living in their own illusion that they are most important.

When we look at that pale blue dot, suspended in a sunbeam, let us take a moment to consider our irrelevance and our importance. Let us take a moment to think about all the mysteries we have yet to discover. Let us take a moment to remember that this is our world. We have a responsibility to our home. We owe allegiance to ourselves and to other people. We speak for the Earth. Let us never lose sight of this.

Measured in Numbers

Time, money, intelligence. Why is it that everything we ever want is measured in numbers?

Ever since the dawn of time, man has been obsessed with numbers. The kings of old would attack bordering kingdoms to magnify his territory. People would count their sheeps and their servants, and the one with most belongings are considered ‘to be envied’. We dreamt of living in houses and building things that reach the clouds. Thus they started counting…how much bricks, how much mortar, how high we can climb the skies. The brilliant minds would wonder at the phase of the moon, at the shadows on the ground, and start counting the years, the months, the days, the minutes, and finally the seconds of our lifetime. And while that has been a blessing, it also comes with a curse.

Man becomes the slave of numbers. Nothing is really important unless it has been measured.

We work and work to achieve numbers in a paper, which we consequently put in this place called a ‘bank’. Some believe that the more numbers there is, the happier you will be. We never stop because numbers don’t stop. There is no end to our search, and the more we have, the more we realize that they can achieve the impossible, the more we work.

We study and study to get the highest mark in our report card. The higher the number, the easier it will be for us to get money, and that will make us happy. IQs are counted, compared, and we are left displeased when we realize that our brother is cleverer, or our daughter is below what society claims ‘average’.

We count our days. There is a timer that is ticking for all of us, and while we used to never mind it, as we grow older we begin to hear the ticking. There are so much to do, so much to achieve, and so little time. We try to fill every single moment with things that will make our lives richer, but most of the time we forget that we live simply to live; not to meet the expectations that either we or other people have created, not to get as much money in our bank, and certainly not to count down the moments we have left. Rather than live a long, hollow life, it’s better to have a short but happy one. I recently lost a loved one, but she lived her life to the fullest…loved and was loved, wrote a book, and taught me many things I otherwise would never think of.

Don’t forget that there is more to life than numbers. Live and love to the fullest. Keep in mind that our days are numbered and that we have responsiblities, but never forget that life is much more than that.