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Thursday, August 2, 2007Gap Between Men And Women Is Closing?
Fisher claims that the gap between men and women is closing in 129 of 130 societies that she has analyzed; that is, gender differences in social goods like economic power and literacy are diminishing. Fisher believes that this process is a return to an earlier era of gender equality that existed before the advent of agriculture ten thousand years ago. Whatever advantages stemmed from agriculture, Fisher argues, it was a disaster for the social standing of women. Agricultural societies devalued women by declaring them to be less intelligent and competent than men, she argues, and by empowering men as the sole providers and heads of households. Women consequently became chattel.
However, technology and the modern world are reversing this cultural oppression. "Today we are shedding 10,000 years of our farming culture," said Fisher. "What we are seeing is a return to life as it was 100,000 years ago." What did she mean? Well, among other things, Fisher argues that modern serial monogamy is similar to what happens in hunting and gathering societies in which men and women often have two or three spouses over their lifetimes. In addition, the gender power imbalance is being righted. In cases where both men and women work from home, 25 percent of women make more money than their spouses. But even if we are heading back to the Pleistocene era, there are some things about human sexuality that Fisher believes will remain constant, chiefly "love."
Fisher dissects "love" into three components—lust, romantic love, and attachment. In both sexes, lust is associated with testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive, or a craving for sexual satisfaction. One can experience feelings of lust without having a specific partner in mind. Romantic love is passionate infatuation, or obsessively thinking about and craving for a particular person. Romantic love is associated with dopamine pathways in the brain. Dopamine is associated with addiction, and romantic love mirrors addictions to cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine all of which activate dopamine brain circuits in similar ways. People in the throes of romantic love are blind to the faults of the loved one. Fisher amusingly quoted George Bernard Shaw's cynical aphorism: "Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another." The final aspect of love is attachment. Here the sex drive moderates and bonds are established between the two partners. This long term affection is associated with the expression of oxytocin in women, and vasopressin in men. Fisher suggested that these brain circuits developed to enable people to tolerate each through child-rearing.
Since love boils down to chemistry, Fisher worries about the effects of neuropharmaceuticals on love. For example, she pointed to the deleterious effects that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants can have on romantic love. SSRIs can kill the sex drive and can also kill the ability to fall in—and stay in—love. Some people taking SSRIs can no longer have orgasms, and that means that they are deprived of the floods of vasopressin and oxytocin that strengthen pair-bonds. Fisher cited the case of a Dutch college student who began taking SSRIs for depression. He decided that he no longer loved his girlfriend, so he moved out. A few months later, he stopped taking the pills and realized that he did love her. As Fisher tells the story, he bought as many flowers as he could carry and went back to her apartment and asked her to take him back. The happy ending was that she did. (I should note that when I took Prozac a few years ago to combat depression of my father's death, I did not experience this side effect.) Fisher isn't saying that one shouldn't take SSRIs if depressed, but that physicians and patients should be more aware of the romance-killing downsides of these medications.
Fisher claimed that women are more openly expressing their sexuality, beginning sex at earlier ages, having more partners, telling their partners what they want from intimacy, and having more regrets. The "he's a stud, she's a whore" mentality, she said, is "finally disappearing." Fisher also asserted that male adultery is on the wane, and society is beginning to adopt a more female-oriented definition of intimacy, which seems to involve a lot of face-to-face conversation. She anthropologized that men's intimacy (if one can even call it that) developed as men sat side-by-side facing their enemies. She joked that this same male behavior is still exhibited during football season every Sunday afternoon.
What else has changed? In agrarian societies, people didn't believe that they needed love in marriage. Our chief preoccupations were our duties to God and clan. Now the central focus of marriage is intimacy. A recent survey of Americans found that 86 percent of men and 91 percent of women said that they could not marry someone unless they were in love with them (I wonder about the 14 percent of men and 9 percent of women who said otherwise).
Nevertheless, Fisher declared, "We can no longer say that we live in a traditional marriage culture." Today, the form of modern American marriages can be increasingly described as companionate or peer marriage, or a marriage between equals. She ended by pointing to some positive trends in marriage. American couples are working harder on their relationships. The divorce rate is down from 50 percent in 1991 to 43 percent today. Part of the reason is people are waiting longer to get married, and the later people marry the less likely they are to get divorced. Fisher ended by declaring that family is going to be around as long we live on this mortal coil, suggesting that we are never going to be able control the brain systems that govern lust, romantic love and attachment.
think over it...
Nuzi, or "women's characters", were found in Jiangyong, Central China's Hunan Province in the 1980s and amazed anthropologists around the world.
"Nuzi is the only women's written language found in the world," says Cao Xuequn, a research fellow with the Hunan Provincial Museum. "We have found about 700 nuzi characters."
During the seminar on women's role held in Guiyang of Southwest China's Guizhou Province, Cao gave a speech on the past and present standing of nushu, a special term including the literature and decorative items with nuzi.
Cao says that nuzi was created by and studied among the women of Jiangyong, most of whom had no opportunity for education. Such characters, which have been used in Jiangyong and its neighboring areas for centuries, were not known by men or outsiders.
In the past, women in Jiangyong often studied nuzi after spinning and weaving. They used nuzi to document local stories and write about friendship among women.
Cao and his colleagues at the museum have collected some copies of Sanzhao Shu or "Three-day Book", a kind of album sent to a young woman three days after her marriage by her close women friends, which documented their memory of growing up together.
Since the late Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), school education became open to women in the local area, and nushu was less studied and used.
The political movements from the 1950s to the 1970s had an impact on the practice of nushu as folk festivals and folk music began to decline, resulting in the danger of nushu's disappearance.
In the 1980s when nushu was discovered by the outside world, it was only used among some elderly women in Jiangyong. Yang Huanyi, who learned nushu in the traditional way, died on September 20, 2004 at the age of 98. To save nushu from extinction, Cao and his colleagues started the "project on documenting the culture of Jiangyong nushu".
Besides collecting nushu, the project also includes establishing a museum and website of nushu, renewing local festivals that are related to nushu and teaching locals the unique written characters.
"A product of local women's pursuit of equality and longing for culture, nushu has special meanings in the cultural history of women in China and in the world," Cao says
Kim Ung-Yong (born 1962) is a Korean former child prodigy. He scored a 210 IQ on the Stanford-Binet test according to the Guinness Book of World Records. At five months he was able to walk and speak and at seven months he was able to write and play chess . He began to learn differential calculus at the age of three. He was able to read and write in Japanese, Korean, German, and English by his fourth birthday. At the age of four years on November 2, 1967, he solved complicated differential and integral calculus problems on Japanese television, demonstrated his proficiency in German, English, Japanese, and Korean, and composed poetry.
Kim was a guest student of physics at Hanyang University from the age of three until he was six.. At the age of seven he was invited to the United States by NASA.. He finished his university studies, eventually getting a Ph.D in physics at Colorado State University  before he was 15. In 1974, during his university studies, he began his research work at NASA and continued this work until his return to Korea in 1978.
When he returned to Korea, his doctorate in physics and research work at NASA were considered worthless and he had to begin his studies again. He decided to switch from physics to civil engineering and eventually received a doctorate in that field. Kim was offered the chance to study at the most prestigious universities in Korea, but instead chose to attend a provincial university.
As of 2007 he also serves as adjunct faculty at Chungbuk National University.
This topic is a very subjective one, and I realise that there will be many disagreements with my selected 10 books. Feel free to add any additional books with a reason, to the comments field. You may even want to contribute a much larger list for future inclusion on the site.
In order of creation, here is the list of top 10 books that changed the world.
1. The Bible - Various Authors (circa 30AD - 90AD) [Wikipedia]
There can be no doubt that the Bible has done more to change the face of the world than any other book. A mere two hundred years after it was created, it brought about the conversion of the entire Roman Empire from paganism to Christianity. Since then, Christianity has become the largest single religion in the world (with 2.1 billion adherents). The oldest and largest of the Christian groups is the Roman Catholic Church whose membership (1.05 billion) is almost twice the size of all other Christian groups combined.
The Bible comprises two books - the Old Testament (taken from the Greek edition used by Christ and the apostles) and the New Testament (written by some of the Apostles of Jesus after his death - including St Paul who did not meet Christ during His lifetime).
The Gutenberg bible (a copy of the Latin Vulgate) was the first book ever published on the printing press. The Bible is the most purchased book in the world.
Buy the Bible at Amazon.com
2. The Qur’an - Various Authors (650AD to 656AD) [Wikipedia]
The Qur’an is the holy book of the Islamic religion. The founder of Islam, Mohammed told his followers that he was given revelations by the Angel Gabriel. These revelations (spanning 23 years) form the basis of the Qur’an. After Mohammed’s death in 632 the Qur’an was recorded by word of mouth only; it was not for another 20 years that the various memories of his words were collected and combined.
The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to be the last revealed word of God (after the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible). In recent years much debate has occurred over the content of the Qur’an - with its opponents claiming that it advocates war and murder of non-believers. Muslims generally claim that this is not the case and state that opponents of Islam are taking the text out of context.
Buy the Qur’an at Amazon.com
3. The Summa Theologica - St. Thomas Aquinas (1265 - 1274) [Wikipedia]
The Summa Theologica is a multi-volume set of books which outlines in the most precise manner, the doctrines and beliefs of Christianity. It was held in such high regard, that second to the Bible, it was the book most used for reference at the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). Its influence was felt all across the Christian World as the reforms of the Council of Trent were implemented.
To this day, the Summa Theologica is the primary teaching tool used in Roman Catholic seminaries and its author is regarded as a Doctor of the Church (a title reserved for only 33 great thinkers in the history of Christianity). It is also worth noting that St Isidore (popularly considered Patron Saint of the Internet) is also seen as a Doctor of the Church.
Buy the Summa Theologica at Amazon.com
4. The Rights of Man - Thomas Paine (1791) [Wikipedia]
Paine, an English writer, influenced American Democracy and Democracy in general with his writings. According to Paine, the sole purpose of the government is to protect the irrefutable rights inherent to every human being. Thus all institutions which do not benefit a nation are illegitimate, including the monarchy (and the nobility) and the military establishment.
When the French Revolution broke out, Paine went to France where, despite his ignorance of the French language, he was promptly elected to the National Convention. His absence from England at this time was fortuitous because the publication of The Rights of Man caused such a furor in the country that Paine was put on trial in absentia and convicted for seditious libel against the crown.
Buy The Rights of Man at Amazon.com
5. Either/Or - Søren Kierkegaard (1843) [Wikipedia]
Either/Or portays the two lifeviews, one being consciously hedonistic and one based on ethical duty and responsibility, in two volumes. Each lifeview is written and represented by a fictional pseudonymous author and the prose of the work depends on which lifeview is being discussed. For example, the aesthetic lifeview is written in short essay form, with poetic imagery and allusions, discussing aesthetic topics such as music, seduction, drama, and beauty. The ethical lifeview is written as two long letters, with a more argumentative and restraint prose, discussing moral responsibility, critical reflection, and marriage.
This book, by the father of existentialism has been highly influential with other existentialists. Despite its great popularity, it was not published in English until 1944. Existentialism is a philosophical movement that claims that individual human beings have full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives. It is a reaction against more traditional philosophies, such as rationalism and empiricism.
Buy Either/Or from Amazon.com
6. Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848) [Wikipedia]
This tract, written by communist theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels at the behest of the Communist League, has become one of the most influential political tracts in history. The Manifesto suggested a course of action for a proletarian (working class) revolution to overthrow the bourgeois social order and to eventually bring about a classless and stateless society.
Perhaps the most famous quote from the work reads: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”
Buy the Communist Manifesto at Amazon.com
7. Experimental Research in Electricity - Michael Faraday (1855) [Wikipedia]
Faraday was an English chemist and physicist whose many experiments with electricity ultimately lead to his invention of electromagnetic rotary devices which formed the foundation of electric motor technology. Although he received little formal education and thus higher mathematics like calculus were always out of his reach, he went on to become one of the most influential scientists in history. It was largely his experiments that lead to electricity becoming viable for use in technology.
During his lifetime, Faraday rejected a knighthood and twice refused to become President of the Royal Society. He died at his house at Hampton Court on August 25, 1867. He has a memorial plaque in Westminster Abbey, near Isaac Newton’s tomb, but he turned down burial there and is interred in the Sandemanian plot in Highgate Cemetery.
Buy Experimental Researches in Electricity at Amazon.com
8. On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin (1859) [Wikipedia]
This book by Darwin is considered a seminal work in the field of evolutionary biology. It proposes that over time, through natural selection, species evolve. It was a highly controversial book as it contradicted many religious views on biology at the time. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and expanded through continuing investigations and experiments since his return to England.
The book is readable even for the non-specialist and attracted widespread interest on publication. The book was controversial, and generated much discussion on scientific, philosophical, and religious grounds. The scientific theory of evolution has itself evolved since Darwin first presented it, but natural selection remains the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. The at-times bitter creation-evolution controversy continues to this day.
Buy On the Origin of Species at Amazon.com
9. The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir (1949) [Wikipedia]
The Second Sex is the best known work of Simone de Beauvoir. Beauvoir wrote the book after attempting to write about herself. The first thing she wrote was that she was a woman, but she realized that she needed to define what a woman was, which became the intent of the book. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and often regarded as a major feminist work. In it she argues that women throughout history have been defined as the “other” sex, an aberration from the “normal” male sex.
Simone de Beauvoir (a pioneer of the feminist movement) argues that women have historically been considered deviant, and abnormal. She submits that even Mary Wollstonecraft considered men to be the ideal toward which women should aspire. Beauvoir says that this attitude has limited women’s success by maintaining the perception that they are a deviation from the normal, and are outsiders attempting to emulate “normality”. For feminism to move forward, this assumption must be set aside.
Buy The Second Sex at Amazon.com
10. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand (1957) [Wikipedia]
Atlas Shrugged was Rand’s last work before she devoted her time exclusively to philosophical writing. This book contains a variety of themes that would later become the core of her philosophy Objectivism. She considered it to be her magnum opus and is it the most popular of her non-fiction work.
While the book was largely a critical failure, it had an enormous poplar success. As far as influence in the world, the Objectivist philosophy gave much to the Libertarian movement which has enjoyed great popularity around the world.
In a three-month online poll of reader selections of the hundred best novels of the twentieth century, administered by publisher Modern Library, Atlas Shrugged was voted number one. She has a large following in the celebrity world, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who have been selected to play the two main characters in a trilogy of films that aims to bring Atlas Shrugged to the silver screen in the near future.
I started sewing my wedding dress when I was 14 years old. Most girls would never think of marriage at such a young age, but some of my peers were already wives and mothers. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was married off, just like my mother had been, to a man who would eventually have three or more wives.
Tell us what you think >
By Kathy Jo Nicholson with Jan Brown
I was one of 13 children raised by our father and three mothers in a fundamentalist Mormon community in Utah. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is not associated with regular Mormonism (LDS). FLDS followers practice the “Principle” of polygamy, which is now banned by the mainstream Latter Day Saints. The idea behind polygamy in the FLDS is that a man must have at least three wives in order to go to heaven. Young girls are “placed” with husbands by the church leader, or Prophet. These spiritual marriages are not legally binding, but in the eyes of FLDS members, they are sacred. If a woman serves her husband faithfully, he may invite her to join him in the celestial kingdom of heaven. But should a woman disobey the Prophet and refuse a life of polygamy, she will be damned to eternal hell.
My mother is the second of my father’s three wives. On the surface it appeared that everyone got along, but there were always underlying tensions. I sometimes get a kick out of watching Big Love on TV because the rivalrous wives remind me of my mothers. (The Big Love characters’ racy sex lives, however, do not ring true; in the FLDS, sex between a husband and wife is meant to be strictly procreative.) The first wife in a polygamist family is traditionally the husband’s closest friend and confidante, but sometimes her preferred standing is usurped by the wife or wives who can still bear children. This is how it was in my family. Take my father’s first wife, “Aunt” Barbara (we were taught to refer to our non-birth moms as aunts, so that outsiders wouldn’t suspect our family practiced polygamy): Aunt Barbara was hard-working and efficient. You could count on her to bandage your skinned knee or quiet the tears of a screaming infant. But my mother was younger and prettier. She would dance on top of the picnic table or pretend you were a princess waiting for Prince Charming. She made my father feel vibrant and alive, and I could tell that he gave her special treatment for many years—until he took a third wife. In the polygamous ceremony, the most recently wed wife places the hand of the new wife into her husband’s hand. It was painful for my mom to give way to a younger wife. She rarely laughed after that.
Of my 12 brothers and sisters, four are full siblings. They were my best friends, my companions and my world. We fought like regular children, but we bonded together as outcasts in our town, enduring the taunts and stares of other kids who made fun of our strange Little House on the Prairie clothing and funny braided hairstyles. I still recall the pain of hearing them yell “Polyg! Polyg!” (slang for anyone who came from a polygamous family) as I walked down the street, but having my siblings with me made it easier to bear. I have fond memories of cuddling together with my sisters and whispering late into the night.
My father repeatedly reminded all his daughters to “keep sweet,” but that sugary fundamentalist slogan carried bitter implications. In order to keep sweet, you could never admit to emotions such as jealousy, anger or uncertainty. The key to living the Principle was unquestioning obedience. Never question Father. Do as he says. Never question the Prophet. When I was a child, the Prophet for the FLDS was Leroy Johnson. We called him Uncle Roy. He was a frail but animated old man who prophesied that he’d live until Christ’s second coming—and then he’d be literally lifted up to heaven. If I kept sweet, he explained, I’d be taken with him. So I tried—I kept my questions to myself, prayed every day and did my best not to disappoint my elders.
Then, in 1986, Uncle Roy died and my world fell apart. He was 98; I was 15. “Why did Uncle Roy die?” I asked my father. My father responded that the Prophet was weary of our sinful ways. “But didn’t he promise us that he would live until the second coming?” I wanted to know. “How can you trust the Prophet if he doesn’t keep his promise?” Enough questions, I was told. We must trust Uncle Rulon, our new Prophet. He is God’s mouthpiece.
But I refused to place my faith in Rulon Jeffs, an imposing gray-haired old man. Where Uncle Roy had been loving and gentle, Rulon seemed gruff and stern. He banned the dances and sporting events that had brought the community together. Disheartened by these changes, I no longer accepted the aspects of the Principle that didn’t make sense to me. Why did the Heavenly Father require men to have three wives in order to get into heaven? Why were women required to share their husbands, but not the other way around? Why did the Prophet need more than 50 wives? Increasingly, as I stitched my dress, I felt as if the needle were piercing my heart and soul. Who would stand beside me when I wore it? Would I be his first wife, his second or his third? Nobody could answer me. My fate had yet to be decided.
Angering my elders
My siblings and I attended the private Alta Academy in Sandy, Utah. The school was led by the Prophet’s son, a tall lanky man named Warren Jeffs. Warren taught math, history and church history and led devotionals every morning. Some of our lessons were slightly modified versions of the truth. We were taught that man had never landed on the moon; it was all a staged show similar to the movie Capricorn One. Why teach us this strange fiction? Maybe because FLDS members believe that after death, worthy men may become the gods of their own planets; it threatened the order of things if non-Mormon astronauts could visit the moon.
Warren constantly warned us about the wickedness of this world: “I want to say to you young people: Leave television alone. Do away with videos. Do away with headphones and listening to radio. Hard metallic music is the devil,” he said. Righteousness, he preached, meant wearing long underwear even in the blazing hot summer months. We girls were made to dress like women on a wagon train heading west and were constantly being groomed for marriage. “Learn how to keep a house, behead a chicken and cook it up for your husband!” Warren demanded.
The rules Warren laid down for us were always changing. Wearing certain colors was evil one week but perfectly OK the next.
My wedding dress was white. I knew I could be summoned to wear it at any moment—a few days or even a few hours before the event. There would be no engagement parties or bridal showers. I would simply be whisked away and quietly married by the Prophet to someone I probably did not know, someone who might be twice—maybe even three times—my age. I remember the day a friend from tenth grade called me to say she had received her Placement. She had never met the man she was to marry, but she knew he was old. Her voice quivered over the phone. “Kathy Jo, I don’t think I can do this!” she said.
“Of course you can,” I assured her, but my stomach churned.
She promised she would stay in touch, but she became a “poofer”—FLDS slang for a girl who suddenly disappears (“Poof!”) from her home to be married off and moved to another polygamous community. She showed up a year later with a baby in tow, acting like she barely knew me. But I was sure her eyes sent me a warning: Don’t let them do this to you.
My friend’s marriage coincided with the beginning of my troubles at school. My long blond hair and warm brown eyes were a problem. Boys were not supposed to notice girls, but they liked to look at me and talk to me. I tried hard not to look back. But sometimes I did. Warren sent notes home to my parents: “When around boys…[Kathy] outwardly show[s] [her] cuteness.”
You must put a stop to this, Kathy Jo, my parents warned.
Then I was caught committing a grave sin at school: I had a water fight with several boys and a girl at the drinking fountain. We were all disciplined for misbehaving, but no one so drastically as my female classmate. Almost overnight, she too became a poofer. For some reason, I was not expelled or married off—not yet, at least. A few weeks later someone reported to Warren that I had been passing notes to a boy. I would be permitted to finish the year at Alta Academy, but I would not be allowed an education past the tenth grade.
Angry and more disillusioned than ever, I stuffed my wedding dress in a closet, vowing never to wear it. I didn’t know how or when, but I would find a way out. A boy named Matthew became my opportunity for escape.
A bride at 18
That fall I was sent to work at a company owned by the Jeffs family, and that’s where I met Matt. There were many kids working at the factory making medical machine parts, assisting in the office or packaging the products. We were all polygs, mostly outcasts who had been expelled from the Alta Academy or from the polygamous enclave that bordered Arizona and Utah. Matt was seven years older than me, tall and handsome, with broad shoulders, blond hair and blue eyes. We laughed and talked, and for the first time since I’d been kicked out of school, I was really having fun. Matt was worldly, or so he seemed to me. He had traveled to Canada and back to work in the FLDS enclave of Bountiful, British Columbia. More important, he openly admitted to doubting the Principle.
Since my father would not approve of our blossoming relationship, we met secretly after work and discussed our misgivings about our religion. Matt was the first person who ever told me it was OK to doubt. If something were true, he believed it could stand up to our questions. If it were not true, then why bother to live your life according to it?
Over time, Matt and I fell in love. He wanted us to marry. “Will you go to Uncle Rulon and request me?” I asked. This did not sit well with Matt; Uncle Rulon, the Prophet, was his grandfather, and Matt’s relationship with him was uneasy, to say the least. Several years earlier, he had gone to the Prophet to request the hand of a young girl I’ll call Linda. “Ah, yes, Linda,” Matt’s grandfather had replied. “I’ll let you know in a few days if you can marry her.” But within a few days, the Prophet had placed Linda with another “more worthy” man. She was quietly married to him, leaving Matt heartbroken and unwilling to trust the leader again. “If I go to Uncle Rulon, he will give you to someone else,” Matt said. “If we go to the Justice of the Peace, he can’t take you away from me. We can seek the church’s approval later.”
Over the preceding years I had been angry and bitter. I had inwardly challenged my faith. But now that I was faced with the opportunity to break away, I was scared.
I struggled for days with my decision. To say yes to Matt’s proposal would mean a life free from polygamy—happiness on earth but eternal damnation in hell. To say no would mean a marriage arranged by the Prophet—a life I dreaded, but one that still held out the hope of being invited to heaven by my husband. Matt listened to all my fears and logically addressed my concerns one by one. I remember him saying that God would not send us to hell, he would forgive us; we would remain in the church and eventually earn everyone’s blessing. “Eventually” won out.
We were married quietly by the Justice of the Peace in Salt Lake City. There were no friends at the ceremony, no family, no rice or wedding cake or presents. And no God. What should have been the happiest day of my life was one of the saddest.
When we returned to our families as husband and wife, they were broken-hearted. Matt and I assured them that we would stay and live the Principle and try to earn back the approval of the Prophet—to have him “seal” or sanctify our marriage—but our words fell on deaf ears. My mothers cried. My father turned away from me. (Years later, he would rejoice at the marriage of my younger sister to a man old enough to be her father.) My older sister Barbara was devastated by my decision to marry outside the Prophet’s direction. She had been my dearest friend, and now she kept me at a frozen distance. It hurt me deeply, and our relationship was never the same afterward.
Secretly, I believe, Matt had never intended to remain in the religion. He gave me time to adjust to being married, then began talking to me about moving away and starting a new life. Deep down, I knew he was right—we didn’t belong in our polygamous community anymore. I’d had enough of the condemning stares, the righteous attitudes. So we packed our things and quickly informed our family that we were leaving. They didn’t try to stop us—we were already lost to them.
At first, life in California seemed the answer to our dreams. My experience at the factory helped me to land a good job as a receptionist, and on the weekends I could wear shorts and let my bra straps show. When I caught someone staring at me, it was in admiration and not because I was some polyg freak. Matt also found work, and we rented a cozy apartment.
Our newfound freedom, however, proved overwhelming. I’d never been allowed to make my own decisions growing up, and now I needed Matt—who was equally adrift—to validate every one of my choices, from what to wear to whether I should polish my nails to when would be a good time to do a load of wash. And I still felt terribly conflicted about leaving my family; I wanted to help them see that they were being manipulated by the Prophet, but I feared—perhaps irrationally—that they would try to take me back against my will if I contacted them. So I didn’t. Trying to appear carefree and “normal,” I began staying out all night, partying with work friends or strangers I met in bars. I kept my past a secret; if anyone asked, I’d say that I wasn’t interested in talking about it. And all the while, voices in my head screamed at me: “You’re an idiot for leaving! You didn’t stay sweet and obey the Prophet! You’re going to hell!” I felt as if I were becoming insane.
Matt and I began to argue and grow apart. We’d married too young, too soon, and our fragile relationship soon collapsed altogether. By 20, I was divorced and alone in a world I didn’t feel prepared to face. With nothing in my life to keep me focused or grounded, I fell into a lifestyle with no boundaries, numbing my sadness with drugs and alcohol. My binges could last for days on end. Strung out, I’d miss work and sit at home, obsessed with the idea of returning to my family, but unable to face going back to that kind of bondage.
Last year, eight teams took on a NASA-sponsored challenge to build a so-called space elevator. No one won.
Now, another round of 20 teams will try to win $500,000 from the space agency for building a robotic climber that can hoist itself up on a thin carbon tether, under its own power source, 100 meters within 50 seconds. (Last year, a Canadian team lost the race by 2 seconds.)
The Spaceward Foundation, the nonprofit group that organizes the space elevator competition, said Tuesday that its third annual contest will be held October 19 to 21 in Salt Lake City. It's part of NASA's Centennial Challenges, a series of government-sponsored competitions that support space exploration by encouraging private industry and universities to develop related technologies for cash prizes.
"It'll be twice as hard this year, but we expect someone to win the money," said Ben Shelef, CEO and co-founder of the Spaceward Foundation.
Extra: China's golden cyber-shield
NASA doesn't officially plan to build a space elevator, but the underlying technologies could ultimately be used for future space missions, Shelef said. For example, scientists have discovered water ice in craters on the moon, but to explore these dark cavities would require technologies that don't rely on the sun, such as laser-tracking rovers. To compete in the space elevator competition, teams must race a climber that's powered by beams of energy from the ground, rather than fuel or batteries.
Several teams are building climbers that are powered by microwave and laser beams for this year's competition, Shelef said. Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan and the University of Alberta are among the contestants.
The Spaceward Foundation also said that this year it will host a Light Racers Championship, which calls on kids and young adults to design and build a beam-powered lunar rover. The prize for that contest is $10,000, and it's also sponsored by NASA.
"Reaching out to the scientists and engineers of the future is the most important thing we can do," Meekk Shelef, president of the Spaceward Foundation, said in a statement.