How to Make Better Things Fall Together
I would like you to meet two heroes today. The first is a fictional 13-year-old, Meg Murry, created by Madeleine L’Engle in her award-winning, hugely successful young adults book A Wrinkle of Time, published in 1962. Meg has a flaming hot temper, and her mental script runs along the uncharitable lines of ‘a delinquent, that’s what I am’. One of the few people who truly got Meg was her father, who has upped and disappeared. Spoiler alert. We go on to discover that The Black Thing (think the king of all dementors) or IT, is taking over the Universe, planet by planet. IT also has Meg’s dad imprisoned very much like a fossil caught in amber. Meg and the gang have your usual adventures travelling through time and space and are predictably successful in defeating IT and bringing dad back.
The second unlikely hero I would like to introduce to you is Jane Addams. Born to an officer who served in the American Civil War, Jane had congenital spinal difficulties that made her physically weak. After a failed attempt – due to poor health- to study medicine, she went onto becoming the founder of the social work profession in the United States. A woman’s suffragist and an ardent feminist, she believed that ‘women should generate aspirations and search out opportunities to realize them.’ This role model for middle-class women fighting to better their communities became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
There are several other ladies I can have you similarly meet and greet. You see, while the USA has bust – in a rather spectacular fashion – the myth long propagated by every Hollywood sci-fi, war, and fantasy film about America saving the world, I am holding on to another belief advanced by authors of dystopian fiction and proven by real-life examples. It is the women who will save the world. Or rather, mothers will. To be even more specific, thinking like a mother will, as advanced so brilliantly by Yifat Susskind in her TED talk In Uncertain Times, Think Like a Mother.
The world, as we know it, is changing before our very eyes. Stress levels are shooting through the much-molested ozone layer, and even when lockdown norms ease, even as we limp back to ‘normal,’ this anxiety is going to be our companion for a long time to come. Kavi Arasu, in his Lockdown notes on working, living, and loving from the Far East, writes that this anxiety is ushered in by the ‘tearing apart of every known playbook’ and that this anxiety is here to stay. This is where Yifat’s message comes in: “There is a way to face these big crises in the world without feeling overwhelmed and despairing. It’s simple, and it’s powerful. It’s to think like a mother.” She goes onto say that such a lens is available to everybody – regardless of their gender and whether they are a parent or not. Motherhood.. “is an understanding of the needs of the world.” It is about “practicing the root meaning of philanthropy: love for humanity.”
Remember Meg? That’s precisely what she does. Apart from an aptitude for Math, Meg doesn’t have any special qualities. Meg discovers that her superpower is the apparently simple human emotion of love. “Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.” Love is what she uses to rescue her dad and save the world. How do we apply this love in the context of our world? Yifat talks about justice being the public face of love and prioritizing the needs of the many over the whims of the few. The pandemic and its resultant fallout have exposed several fault lines and inequities when it comes to access to health, food, and to safety. Yes, the world is suffering, but the less equal, the minorities of gender, race, religion, those on the wrong side of the haves and have-nots are suffering even more. The hapless folks in these demographics have always paid the price. With the crisis, the price they pay is even higher.
Jane Addams advocates that ‘the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.’ The crisis has brought many of us a crossroads in our careers. Some of us are facing the loss of jobs and loss of income, forcing our hand. For others, the crisis has lessened the sheen off the corporate ladder. I submit that thinking like a mother, by seeing others’ needs, by working to narrow the gaps in equality, by loving with all our might, we will not only save others, we shall also save ourselves.
Good things are falling apart. By thinking like a mother, we can make better things fall together.
Author: Ekta Poddar