When I walked into our latest TCM lunch, I saw a few new members, two of whom were young women. That made me feel good, because there had been a flaw in most 20th century liberty movements, in that they never drew many women. Liberation movements of the past featured lots of women, many of whom showed more courage than the men.
So, I took it as a healthy sign that women were showing up at our lunch, as indeed they do at Bitcoin meetups.
The group discussed a new ridesharing service that seemed to be an improvement (Libre Taxi) and decided that they were worth checking out. Nikos volunteered for the job, and the rest of us gave him a list of things to look into. After that, we moved into a discussion of recent events in the cryptocurrency world.
But through all of this one of the young women, Esther, jumped in with questions, mostly directed to me, on side subjects. That was odd. And they were odd questions like, "Why do people care about beauty?" and, "Have you ever spent time with mentally challenged people?" She was polite and tried to avoid derailing the main conversation, but she clearly had some alternative purpose. So, I answered her as best I could and waited to see where she was headed.
I soon found that she was going nowhere I had imagined.
As the meeting broke up, she asked me to stay and talk, and so I did. We sat at the empty end of the bar.
"I had reasons to ask you those questions," she said.
"I was pretty sure of that," I responded, offering a small smile, which she returned ever so briefly. Then she handed me a card that read: Mueller Sanitarium for the Chronically Ill.
"That's where I live," she added. "Myself, my mother, and about dozen others. We want you to come help us."
I was lost and could only reply, "I'd be glad to help, but I'm not a doctor."
"That's okay," she said. "We're not really sick."
And if that wasn't enough to send my mind reeling, she added that the people at the sanitarium already liked me.
"How's that?" I squeezed out.
She explained that they had seen an article I wrote on children being tortured in schools a few years back. And for that, they trusted me.
"That's very nice," I said, "but I'm entirely lost here, Esther. What is this sanitarium and what would you like me to do? And I should add that I have very limited time these days. It's stretching it for me to make these lunches."
"I know," she said, "but once I explain, I think you'll make at least a bit of time."
I nodded and waited for her to continue. And what a story she told.
The residents of the sanitarium, Esther explained, had once called themselves "The Rejects." I immediately stiffened, displaying my objection. No one should accept such a verdict; it's an offense to human dignity itself.
"They no longer use that," she added, "but I want you to understand this. These are people who are very homely or physically deformed… the kinds of people who were tortured in schools, pointed at, and insulted all their lives. Either that or tucked away in an asylum, where they'd simply be housed till they died."
"And they really have their own place, where they live together?"
"They do," she assured me. "The sanitarium sign, even if it's false, provides protection for them. Behind it they're not bothered, and they can live without torment."
She was right; I very definitely wanted to help these people. I immediately made an appointment to see them, but I needed more information. This was a wild story, and I needed to understand it.
Esther began by explaining herself. "My mom," she said, "is a very homely woman. She never once had a man who was interested in her."
"I'm sorry," I injected.
"We all are," she said, "but there was nothing to be done about it, and so, after decades of crying, blaming God, hating the world, and hating herself, she found that she was still a human being with choices, thoughts, and dreams. She decided that she could either wallow for the rest of her life in the same old pool of pain or she could start living out of her inner self, which wasn't ugly if she didn't want it to be.
"And that," she said with her first real smile, "is how I came into the world."
Esther's mother, as it turns out, had been one of the early customers for in vitro fertilization. She had always wanted a child and wasn't yet past the age limit for pregnancy, and so she decided to do what she wanted. She found the appropriate doctor, picked the best looking sperm donor she could find, and had her baby. (Here I should add that Esther turned out to be an attractive young lady.)
Esther was raised at the Sanitarium and mainly homeschooled there. She went off to college for a few years and then returned. Now she's setting up businesses for the residents… which became necessary because their bank account, after nearly 30 years, was finally running out. But even more than that, Esther told me, "They've learned, slowly, that they can do most of the things pretty people do… and now they want to do them."
More to Come
I'm already running long for a weekly post, so I'll stop here. But there is definitely more to come.
* * * * *
A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I've read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people's conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
* * * * *