A couple years ago after a speech about ecological healing a man came up to me to ask a question. With a warm, friendly smile he drew me close and put a hand on my shoulder. “You mentioned in your speech that you have four children. What makes you think you have the right to bring four humans onto the planet to consume resources for the next 90 years, you arrogant, entitled, white male asshole? How do you justify that?”
I'm lying here in bed on a snowy morning, reading your essay, with my little one kicking now and then inside. My little love-gift to the future. Thank you.
When I read your words, my mind quietens. You weave a magic spell with your writing that brings me back to my own inner and interconnected wisdom. I feel still and calm and warm. I feel that I have touched again what it is to be human, what my purpose is. However pointless, worthless, hopeless and anxious I have been feeling, when I drink the mystical potion of your thoughts, distilled and encoded in the symbology of letters and paragraphs, I am instantly healed. It feels like a letter you have written just for me. And that I am suddenly not just me, but everyone else too. If I would entrust children to anyone on this planet, it would be you. I am grateful that you are a father, and I am curious as to what your children would be like. Most of us seem to have only known a harsh, frightening, disempowering and grossly authoritarian sort of up-bringing, which is possibly why we so easily fall into the trap of societal control “for our own good”. Conditioned to repeat the same patterns of powerlessness. My parents were somewhat unconventional, but no less authoritarian. I see it now as unconsciousness, innocence….and yes, love…. And as I have woken up out of the nightmare, so have they to a similar extent.
I just wanted to thank you, and offer a piece of myself to add to the fractal mystery of our existence.
People have confused parenting with farming — farming people. It’s not that at all at any but the most superficial, missing-the-point level. Parental experience is qualitatively fundamental to humans and to humanity.
In common social interactions there is still (rather sadly) a large transactional component: we very often give to get. That’s at least partially true even of marriage. And maybe some people even have children with some tinge of that motivation.
But as every devoted parent knows, there’s something different in the parent/child relationship. It’s a primer in unselfish, unqualified, unlimited love. Now that’s a tall ideal, and for most of us it’s a journey more than a destination. But that’s really the point.
A part of that journey, so seldom recognized, is learning to bestow that unstinted love on our “neighbors”. I think the Bible, as one example, makes mention of that.
But it doesn’t require a religious text to tell us that the more people genuinely love each other in an unselfish way, the less conflict, the less crime, the less hardship, the less alienation and loneliness there will be.
The ideal parent/child relationship is the relationship of the universe to the individual in microcosm. The universe may seem cruel and uncaring to those who dwell in unloving darkness, but the benefit of decades of loving others unconditionally and unselfishly is, or at least can be, a gradual awakening to the eternal truth of the infinite love of God.
I had two completely different reactions to this essay. One - to be recognized for the love and work I gave my children felt affirming. Thanks
The other - how I am like that man as I silently judge others for not making the same choices I have made for the environment. How I feel like I pay for other's choices. Not as good a feeling yet again thank you for helping me to see ways I can grow.
“But sometimes I visit a dark place where it seems all these years of labor have been for naught…”
I have these moments of doubt myself, as we all must, but then I am reminded of Gandhi’s wisdom regarding our life’s efforts: “What you do is of little importance. But it is important that you do it.”
Seems to say it all. My two cents: Sharing our gift is the Universe’s gift to itself. And that is purpose—and reward—enough.
The flower that blooms in the deep of the meadow strives not to change the world or impart its will upon the field. It blooms for the only purpose it knows — because that is its Divine gift; its birthright. And the Universe would be lesser for the absence of its color, the loss of its fragrance, the void of its own singular becoming.
Charles, I have heard you say, on more than one occasion, that witnessing the birth of your four children have been the greatest moments of your life. For me, being pregnant was the best I've ever felt in my entire life and having my daughter brings me overwhelming joy. Creation loves creating. We look around the natural world and that is abundantly obvious. We are here, in large part, to celebrate these creations. I know a fair number of virtue signallers who, for reasons pertaining to unmet needs within themselves, feel appointed to cast judgment. And while that is not ours to hold, it is ours to offer love back into this hurting world. And that, you do so well.
Maybe there is something more going on in your desire to have children that just can't be rationalized. My husband and I started married life 56 years ago with a deep commitment to married life as a "Sacrament"....a visible sign of a greater Love of which we were a part. We assumed that we would have children so that the "more Being" we felt in our relationship would spill over into the world. It never happened. We were unable to have children. And so we adopted three. The gift of them over the years is too great for a few words but the greatest gift they brought is a more inclusive understanding of what constitutes family and the way in which, different as we are, we support one another in becoming the best version of ourselves and in the process we are contributing to the greater good of society and humanity.
Wonderful piece. I feel that I my soul grew and I have evolved because I am a parent.
When the world is reduced to numbers it is dead. Your questioner is equally culpable by not curling up and dying himself!
I want to live in a world of life and love.
I see what you mean about offering love to the world but what about alternatives to bringing more children into the world like adopting children or taking good care of dogs, cats, or wild animals? Seriously, non-human animals need a lot of care and attention and they are innocent. I truly feel sorry for children growing up now as the chaos and destruction in the world is only going to get worse. But I'll take good care of creatures who are already here on earth, and give them intense love.
Thanks Charles, I love this. As you said, evaluating our lives and our world by the numbers leads to both misdirection and loss of soul. "Lies, damned lies and statistics" are poor guidance for living, compared to love and kindness.
Just what I needed to read, as usual. Thank you for sharing your gift.
WOW!!! What a great essay. Every child is a message.....a message of love from creation. And it is not about overpopulation or limited resources. Lots and lots of room in this world. It is about how resources are used and what technologies are unused or unexplored because they would upset the status quo.
The thing I find so interesting is that the world we live in seems to have this self-correcting mechanism built right into it. Natural resources just seem to flow towards some while flowing away from others. Some exude natural graces while others are just naturally abrasive.
Those who request others to provide justification for their actions believe justifying oneself is a virtue when it is clearly a vice. Some have gone so far as to point out that it is an abomination (Luke 1615)
Lovely. Beautiful. True. Number-thinking is left-hemisphere thinking; lopsided, crippled.
Wow! that guy obviously hit a spot Charles. There are many valid angles to this most tricky of topics, nevertheless, I am surprised you would stoop to this. For one thing, how anthropocentric can one get? when I last checked, most, if not all life on Earth is driven by the strongest impulse to care for its young so as to perpetuate its genes. It's natural. Yet human parents have the need to be elevated to martyrdom for doing this? Who am I to say how many children is a fair number? have as many as you like if you think it's fair on them. One way or another, the population is going to crash way sooner than 2050. That's how populations work. But people should do so because it's an enjoyable pastime , not out of duty or service to Earth. or how about adopting? now there is a real love gift.