Quite a few couples in my circle of family and friends have had or brought into the world a child in the last couple of years. And being around them, seeing strollers everywhere choke up the streets of Lucerne, Zurich, Bern, has corroborated my [temporary?] conviction not to have any children of my/our own.
I do have a bit of an anti-conventional streak [or at least I like to fancy that I do, the way most people like to imagine themselves as special or non-conventional or non-mainstream though in the end they usually end up consuming and stereo-typing as ferociously as the next person], which would dispose me towards knee-jerkingly resisting any apparent majority trend but in this case I have come to the conclusion that that is not what is going on. Not totally.
[The first trivial objection, which can be dealt with in a sentence, is financial impossibility: the wallet is incompatible with another mouth.]
The second concerns the creature itself, the child. Staying around them a few times the cold but undeniable realization that set in is that, though they are for the most part indeed cute and adorable and all the other toddler-related adjectives, my personal sense of enchantment with pre-kindergarten innocence is always of rather short duration. To be perhaps a bit brutal, I also enjoy the company of a dog or a cat but after a while it becomes: boring, tedious, bothersome. In the case of children that means I can only toss it a toy or hear a meaningless phrase of babble that many times before it looses its luster of ludic innocence. My personal duration of [let me call it] infanto-centric intoxication lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before exhausting itself [This might well be amenable to a training regimen]. Perhaps I am an emotional colder person than I thus far have imagined myself to be or maybe my parenting genes are FUBAR, I couldn’t tell.
My sister told me to bear in mind that these are other people’s children and that the supply of fascination with one’s own children is near-infinite. So that from being around other people’s children I could impossibly make any logical inferences to having children of my/our own. And anyway, logic doesn’t come in to play very much, allegedly, in consideration of one’s own offspring.
Be that as it may, this brings me to my bifurcating second [and third] consideration: the unconditional love for one’s children. It is good, no doubt, it anchors the good in the world in a very pragmatic way. But it renders me a tad bit skeptical as well. If I set or am supposed to set no conditions on my love for a person [my/our child] then A) Aren’t I setting myself up for major, major emotional trauma? B) Am I not the automaton of some blind, evolutionary program playing itself out for the gazillionth time?
As for A, my individual truth is that I find it challenging and infinitely complex to love, in a meaningful way, people of my family as well as my partner. As it should be. I mean the type of love that means communicating one’s true feelings and doing difficult things for these significant others and relying on them and trying not to fuck up [too bad] and forgiving and being forgiven and all the other thousand tasks that the word itself, “love”, evokes and yet simultaneously mystifies. And so now for me to somehow muster or “hawk up” or conjure even more of this “love” stuff and attach it to this babbling little helpless critter seems like a terribly risky biographical move. To hitch my emotional welfare-star to a little being that is so totally dependent on me/us when I myself am so very unsure to what degree I can rely on myself, my willpower, my ethical convictions [thus far], [again, not to even mention finances] just seems very much to be begging for some foreseeable psychological cataclysm of the worst kind. In due time I will fail the little one or s/he will fail me and it will be ruination, which I want none of. You can call this either pessimism or realism, your choice.
B) At the level of pure evolution, pure genes to continue one’s species can almost certainly be called “the purpose of life”. However, it is a purpose defined by blind biology, that is, long before the evolutionary advent of the thinking animal homo sapiens. To me [perhaps still flowing in that non-conventional vein] there is something terrifying and sickening about mindlessly heeding the genetic duty to produce yet more of our kind. It would be a caving-in of a kind, acknowledging that, yes, yes, this is the final purpose of life, whereas I believe that I [and my significant others] should try to determine what that is, e.g. finding self-realization in the continued activity of writing and running. It is true that the one does not preclude the other [one can have more than one purpose], yet the other truth is that n) the “purpose of life” argument is very frequently wielded by child-bearers and n+1) it would be the pinnacle of irresponsibility to have children and NOT make them the absolute top-hole priority [i.e. the “purpose”]
And there are also sheer numbers that I want to consider. We are 7 billion strong already, I think that is more than enough. Plus the global population is growing, whether I/we add to that total number or not. The truth is that I am not at all enamored of humanity as a project, meaning I wouldn’t much mind seeing it discontinued. While I love my significant others on an individual basis and like or feel indifferent towards the amorphous rest, our planetary civilization as a whole is simply not very appealing. We enjoy calling ourselves the “thinking” animal but the fact is that there is not all that much “thinking” going on and the one that is tends to be technically/scientifically/intellectually ingenious while being socially/ethically primitive if not destructive. Thus the mental clip of a people-free planet is soothing to me and I should do my part in bringing it about by not having children. I’m asking myself: how can I despise humanity and then happily tag along in its continuation??? I can’t or at least I shouldn’t.
Ultimately, there is the matter of oblivion. In due time entropy or some type of nothingness will do away with all our civilizational achievements, I am convinced. This is nothing to be sad about or lamented as we live in our times and [should try to] do our best. Name one name of a person who lived ten thousand years ago. Imagine who might know anything significant about you as a person ten thousand years hence. Picture the gaggle of descendants to whom your face and name mean absolutely nothing. Yet we often persist in thinking that one’s/our children somehow continue “the legacy” and we subsequently stockpile our hopes onto them, imagining that the boat of fools called humanity will sail to the end of times. When it clearly will not. And so I don’t want to bring forth a further passenger as a fictitious, subconscious totem against the fear of oblivion. Or the thing itself.
[p.s. One of those posts where one fears that one might get more earfuls than one bargained for. And which one frantically hopes will not be misinterpreted all too monstrously or put any friendships in jeopardy or anything crazy like that the internet has developed quite a rep for.]