Sparked from Mongolia

Mongolia snow scene

Photo by Jericho Burg

A friend posted today about her current situation teaching at a university in Mongolia. She shared that she’s been teaching as a part-time “temporary” lecturer (at the same university where she and I worked on our Ph.D.s together). She also pointed out that “most college and university courses are now being taught by a new majority of contingent faculty since universities save money from a steady supply of cheap, replaceable instructors.”

In contrast with her work at the university in San Diego, she wrote that Mongolia International University is a great teaching environment: caring, supportive and honoring.

After many international posts in exotic places – Egypt, Ethiopia – my friend stayed in the adjunct teaching situation in S. California for complex reasons – “aging parents, young child, economic precarity…”

I was reading parts of the post to my daughter in the bathroom – she knows my friend well, was nanny to her new born baby – and remarked that I was unfamiliar with the word precarity. In a very 21st century moment, she called back to me with the definition, “an emerging abandonment that pushes us away from a livable life, the politically induced condition in which certain populations suffer from failing social and economic networks. The social class defined by this condition has been termed ‘the precariat.'”

Of course, my daughter had her laptop in the bathroom with her!

I thought that the term was very fitting to what my friend described about the situation in US academia.

minoan-serpent-goddess128Later in the morning, I was at a lecture on the history of the goddess and how she was set aside, abandoning the balanced feminine to the masculine in old religions. My mind wandered to the earlier discussion about our previous university as I sat in the small seminar room at the college where I later took a Masters degree in depth psychology (depth in this case meaning including the unconscious and the spiritual with the psychological). I felt the great waves of my efforts colliding, not in a violent or disturbing way, but with new clarity.

It was very difficult to set aside my grand effort toward the Ph.D., to walk away from it, and it’s been hard to feel validated in anything I’ve done since, but moments when we circle back around, seeing where parts of our past cross over, can help give our efforts new perspective. I did the MA in depth psych mostly for healing. It helped bring balance, a balance that each of us needs to find, between the masculine and feminine efforts we make, the logos and eros, the nurturing of the soul and the stretching of the mind … To feel validated comes partly from those around us, in the work we do in the world, but it comes also in large part from our sense of our contributions and the meaning in our work.

Ironically, I’ve feared publishing my fantasy novel because it does not reflect the intellectual level I should be achieving. Working on the Ph.D. was, for me, an inculcation of the patriarchal institution’s influence. Indulging in my love of fantasy was a daring act of flinging that “not good enough” self right out onto the stage to be mocked or ridiculed. What brings me back around to a balanced point of view is the eros side of it – of wanting to bring to others a magical escape and perhaps an opportunity to live with Kay into extended realms. (Men who’ve read it identify with Baird which makes me happy, too.)

One thought on “Sparked from Mongolia

  1. Hi Marie! Thanks for sharing my photo, first of all. I really appreciate the connections you make here. I’m also healing from my experiences in the PhD and after. Academia is a very damaging and destructive environment. For me, lingering was a mistake, but I felt trapped and was focused on my daughter’s education rather than my own well-being. (Plus there was that pesky thing called health insurance.) Being in Mongolia is definitely helping the recovery. I’m very impressed that you’ve published your fantasy novel! It’s quite an accomplishment. Emma and I are looking forward to reading it. (Also love that your daughter had the laptop in the bathroom with her…)

    Liked by 1 person

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