When was the last time you hugged someone (someone not quarantined with you)?
I can’t remember. It was more than two weeks ago — Maybe it was when Karla spotted me at the most recent meeting of our new feminist discussion group. “The most recent” sounds a lot better than “the last”. Maybe it was when I dropped my friend off at her house after a 12-step meeting. Won’t be doing that for a while. All the meetings are online now, and I’m not to leave home, except to walk the dog and go to medical appointments. High risk for infection, me. So’s my brother, but he still goes to work. He builds fire trucks, though, doesn’t have to breathe right close to other people.
When was the last time I went out for a meal? Well, Su and I went out for tacos after the most recent meeting of our feminist discussion group (we plan actions, too. Or we will, once we can leave our houses again). The time before that, I went out for breakfast with my friend and former colleague (from when I was a university teacher). He’s tenured, a few years from retirement. I’ve thought of him so often the last couple of years — I admire him and enjoy his company. Though I was pretty being within a few days of starting chemo, I enjoyed our meal together. That time, the restaurant was empty. It was very early in the morning. Beautiful breakfast — soft-poached eggs, avocado on toast, yogurt and fruit. I was pretty sick, I remember. It was within a few days of the beginning of my 4th round of chemo. We talked about the idea of the “devil’s advocate”. He said, my friend, he said, “there is no place in the university for the devil’s advocate. Everyone must believe the same thing now.” He’s alarmed about this.
When the faculty of education hounded me out, he and another faculty member went to the faculty association, outraged, and wrote letters and demanded they do something to protect me. I didn’t know that then, not until it was all over, but it was sure encouraging to learn. He took some risks, in fact. He refused to chair a committee to evaluate and allocate courses to the sessionals (of whom I was one– though my file was ‘mysteriously’ left out that time) due to the lack of transparency, and the constraints imposed by the faculty on his and the committee’s leadership and judgments.
In true “Big A” Academic style, he looked up the history of the idea of, and value for, the devil’s advocate. He went back to the story of Job in the bible. He read it in Hebrew, Arabic, English and, for good measure, French. In each version, the story began with, “So the devil was strolling through God’s court. And God happened to meet up with him and asked him what he was doing these days….” They apparently had a pretty amiable conversation.
It’s true, they did. I looked it up in my grandfather’s bible, the little one that he got May 1st, 1927 from the Brynna Welsh Congregational Sunday School. Four days later, he sailed from Southhampton to Canada.
Anyway, back to the devil. and Job. and God. I guess the Devil could get a capital letter, too. Let’s change that to “Satan”. says so right here in the bible, too. So God says to Satan, “Hey! How are you? What have you been up to?” and Satan says, “Oh, I’ve just been roaming the earth, looking around, bumping into people, you know…”. God asks Satan if he’d run into Job on his travels. God was quite fond of Job and told this to Satan. He said, “That guy, Job, he’s one righteous man, loves his family, does right by his community, and he’s good to me, too.”
“Yea, I know that guy,” said Satan, and he continued, “Of course he is generous and good and loyal to you!” said Satan, “why wouldn’t he be righteous and on good terms with you and everyone else? He’s got everything! Lots of grain, many head of cattle, a pile of kids and grandchildren who all adore him and are successful and all that. It’s easy to praise your name when he wants for nothing!”
Well. God was kind of miffed, he had more faith in Job than all that. So he said to Satan, “alright, you go then, give him some challenges — you’ll see. Only you can’t put your hands on him, just his stuff”
Satan really gave it to Job, I tell you what. And Job, he was upset, of course, but he never gave up his faith, and he never cursed God, either. Ever, even when God gave Satan the okay to turn up the heat. Anyway, the point is, the Devil’s advocate is the one who helps the righteous become stronger; the one who points out the flaws in the arguments and helps the followers provide guidance to the leaders. How do you know you’re on the right track unless the Devil’s advocate tests you? God doesn’t come off looking too good in this story; and Satan, well, he doesn’t look as bad as all that, really.
At any rate, in the end, Job became more than he was before, and he had more, too. Lived to be about 140 years old, knew all his grandchildren — became a happy guy again. Would he have had as satisfying a life had he not endured all that suffering in the middle there? Well. Probably. Who knows?
I liked that story. Got me thinking. My professor friend, he does that for me. Gets me thinking. And now I won’t see him again for a long while. I am SO glad we got together that day. Covid-19 wasn’t even a whisper then, not one I was hearing anyway. That was February 26th.
The last public gathering was when we had Lee speak to our gender-critical feminist group about a history of the rise of gender-ideology and its effects on feminist organizing and women-only spaces. March 14. Great discussion. Anyway, since then, everything has been cancelled. So it’s not just feminists anymore, that’s kind of nice. It’s been a lot more peaceful around here. whew.
March 29th: three more days until chemo begins again. This week has been good; more moving, more writing (letters!), more outside time with the dog, and a ton of Zoom meetings. I miss being with people. A lot. But I am grateful for technology that helps us connect; I’m grateful that I feel well and there’s lots to do around here, still; I’m grateful that there is Employment Insurance (though I’m still REALLY angry there is no more Unemployment Insurance). I hope there will be increasing momentum for a Guaranteed Livable Income as we go on. We can totally do it.
In closing — I cherish the last times. the last time I saw my brother and sister-in-law (Christmas lots of food and laughter and cold); the last time I was at a big public gathering–that was when I presented to Vancouver City Council on behalf of our group to tell them to fund Vancouver rape relief and women’s shelter (they didn’t, of course. Self-righteous bullies, can’t let women organize ONE place just for women, not ONE). Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is a small, and mighty group of women who have organized a 24-hour rape crisis centre and transition house for battered women and their children for almost 50 years now. They have a global influence by this time. They are principled feminists, and they maintain a women-only organization. They are dangerous to the powerful because they are tenacious and brave, and they will keep trying out new tactics to reach women and offer opportunity as well as solace and real safety. We ARE that dangerous to the powerful, all us feminists. We won’t shut up in the face of their threats, dismissal and insults
— but now we have the Covid, and what will that help us do, in the long run? What will it hinder, in the long run?
I think the last in-person meeting I went to was when a guy celebrated one year. His story was inspiring and the cake was, too. Win-win. The last person to visit our home — Marusha. The last time I shook someone’s hand, when I left my volunteer shift and he took over from us. The last time I went for a coffee — Beaucoup on Fir — with amazing pastries as well. I hope these won’t be the last–the end. But there are always last times. We never know when they will be.
oh, I just came back in from playing my accordion when everyone was doing the 7 pm cheer for the front-line and health-care workers. One day, I promise, I’ll start an finish a post on the same day. Then it won’t be such a dog’s breakfast, possibly…