On Monday I read a commentary from the New York Times titled, “Should This Be the Last Generation?” which I found to be very depressing and pessimistic (including reader comments). While I agree that there are many important factors to consider when thinking of having a child (or any crucial decisions, like whether or not to marry, take or leave a job, etc.), I disagreed primarily with the part of the article explaining the thinking of philosopher David Benatar:
“…human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.”
What is the quality of life?
Personally, I believe that life is wonderful. As I was telling Baby during our run this morning, however, that’s simply my belief and not an actual fact or natural law. Others may believe that life stinks — which is merely a different belief. As I went on to explain to Baby, since we make it all up anyway, it seems to me that choosing the most joyful, uplifting, and positive view of life (without ignoring life’s pain and challenges) is the best choice to make. Thus, even though I cannot “prove it,” I say the quality of life is outstanding for most of us.
What is the state of the world into which Baby Lavender-Mulkey is being born?
Like the earlier question, I think the answer here is subjective. When we focus on the things we don’t like and wish weren’t present in our world (for me this list would include war; violence of any sort; environmental, human, or animal abuse; greed, hatred, and self-loathing, to name a few), we tend to think this world is a pretty shabby place. On the other hand, when we remember that we’re still breathing, have made it though challenges in our lives, and actually have blessings and abundance, we’re likely to say we’d like to keep going here on Mother Earth. I, of course, ascribe to the second way of looking at the world, and also believe that the existence of the things I don’t like helps me to refine my own values, choices, and life so that I help create more of what I want than what I don’t want. (Below is a video from one of my favorite artists that helps illustrate my beliefs.)
How does this affect our baby?
As I told him/her on our run, I want Baby to choose the beliefs that fit for him/her. Granted, Bruce and I will be sharing our beliefs which I hope Baby will adopt, yet I think it’s important for him/her to ultimately make that choice consciously rather than just because that’s what mom and dad think. Part of my goal in parenting our child is to do my best to live up to the commitment that Jubilee’s Minister of Ritual, Howard Hanger, asks parents to make during a baptism: “Will you raise this child to be who God made him/her to be, not just who Mom and Dad want him/her to be?” In order to do this, it seems that it is not in my mommy job description to play God, acting as if I know how everything should be. Instead I see one of my roles as helping our child understand that we get to choose what we believe, what we do, and how we are in the world, regardless of what anyone — parents, friends, teachers, culture — says is “right” or “wrong.” I hope that (a) I’ll be successful at this task most of the time (especially in living it vs. merely lecturing about it) and (b) that such an awareness will ultimately enable Baby Lavender-Mulkey to live a fulfilling and joyful life exactly as exactly who he/she was made to be.