TEDWomen 2013: Invented Here

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Measuring the meaning of life

I thought of Mary Catherine Bateson, one of our esteemed TEDxWomen speakers, this weekend as I was reading this fascinating op-ed on measurement. Essentially, philosophy professor Robert P. Crease was arguing that we often try to measure things in quantitative terms when they are much better suited to be understood qualitatively. He advocates that some areas require, “the kind of measurement that Plato described as “fitting,” or “ontological measurement.”

This is something that Bateson, the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, has understood through out her long career of writing from an anthropological perspective. Perhaps her most influential book to date–Composing a Life–was a paradigm shifting study in the shifting shapes of a woman’s life. In it, she asked questions of deep import–what does a fulfilling female life look like? how do women make decisions about caretaking and career building? how do our environmental, class, and race contexts influence these choices? It truly opened the eyes and confirmed the complex choices of a whole generation of women. It didn’t rely on pollsters or cliches to measure a woman’s life; it relied on witness, deep interview, and thoughtful reflection.

Bateson will be bringing that kind of visionary, substantive material to TEDxWomen in December when she talks about how our world is changing in profound ways, and how it is women–particularly those of us with lots of experience and wisdom–that will be at the helm of the transition. Don’t miss it.

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