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The Thinking Woman




If I could do my life over again, I would like to become a leading thinker.

This idea had never occurred to me until I started reading this book called What Should We Be Worried About?, which I have already mentioned. I refer to it as my “worry” book. Everyone should have one, in case you’re running out of ideas. The description on the cover says that it presents ideas by “Today’s Leading Thinkers.” 

The book is edited by John Brockman, who is described as a cultural impresario and “One of the great intellectual enzymes of our time.” Maybe I could be an intellectual enzyme too.

Anyway, Brockman established an international literary and software agency specializing in serious nonfiction. He also has a web site called www.Edge.org where great minds gather in an online salon to discuss a particular question. The resulting brief and brilliant essays are collected in a yearly book that Brockman edits.

The focus is on science, but Brockman is searching for individuals who can combine literary and philosophical gifts with their knowledge of science.

If I had known that being a member of such a group was a possibility, I could have started working on qualifications early. The science thing would have been a challenge though. I entered college thinking I might go pre-med until I nearly flunked biology. All that XXY stuff, you know. “Say what?”

After reading this book, some of which is admittedly way beyond me, I nevertheless felt as though my presence was needed. When I say “my,” I’m thinking of the feminine presence. The participants come from all over the world, so I wasn’t always sure of the sex of the name. Out of 153 writers, it seems as though only 25 are women.

Of course becoming a leading thinker has not long been a feminine ambition, and we’re still lagging a bit. I was reminded of that fact by an article in the paper yesterday describing a new trend among women–asking to have their feet surgically altered to make these new architectural, high-rise heels comfortable. Some of us need to get more serious.images

I have to say that, among all the topics featured here, the feminine focus was often a relief. The concerns were down to earth, even though our heels often aren’t. The men were into deep science and technology, but the women chose topics more nurturing in nature. Their concerns included things like the damage done by stress, the effect of electronics on children, the danger in losing the use of our hands, and the importance of death to the well-being of humanity.

One essay in particular caught my eye as especially revealing about the difference between the feminine and the masculine perspective. The author was Gregory Benford, professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine. His worry is that humans will be stuck on earth like “rats in a spherical trap” and forego an age when we might “govern the fate of stars.”

The problem he foresees is worldwide conflict over competition for food, energy, metals, etc. To avoid this, he imagines the development of space stations from which rockets with robots could be launched to mine the stars for resources depleted on earth. The vision is of the development of an “interplanetary economy for the benefit of humanity.”

It made me feel sad. The same old thing, you know. After ruthlessly pillaging the earth, we would do the same in outer space.

Please feel free to disagree, but I think the feminine perspective is very different. As a result, I see the need for a more than a one-to-six ratio of influence regarding worthy human goals. In fact, it is my personal opinion that the greatest remaining resource on this earth is the largely untapped feminine intellect. That would have been my topic: Concern that we have so far wasted about half of humanity’s intellectual potential.

I guess I’ve done about as much as I can with my brain, but I am hopeful. I have two young grandnieces coming along who seem to be empowered in very promising ways. Move over, guys. The coming competition for the leading thinker slots may intensify.





2 Responses to “The Thinking Woman”

  1. Priscillla

    Beautifully written. I long have fought the battle of going upstream in a downstream male world. I often shake my head in amazement. For example, softball practice commenced on top of the newly sown city park last week. I saw one student twisting his shoes in the compost-seed mixture on the ground. Two parents were standing by watching. I asked the mother if she could do something for me, please ask the coach (he was pitching) to tell the students that there are baby grass seeds under their feet and be gentle to them. The father interrupted and said angrily that they had permission to be there. I explained that I was not trying to remove them from the park, only to ask the students to care for the seeds. He glared, the wife cowered. As a teacher of over 25 years, I do know that children care for the earth, if given a chance.

    • judi hendricks

      Priscilla–Sadly, I knew before I finished reading your comment how it would end. As a writing teacher once told me, clichés are clichéd because they’re true…