My dad used to say that every generation thinks it is living at the end of the world. The Romans complained that civilization was going to be destroyed by gossip.* Growing up, we were afraid that the apocalypse was going to be ushered in by a new world order run by the UN. There is nuclear holocaust, World War III, North Korea, climate change, flood, asteroid, plague, water shortage, or some combination of the above. Never mind the breakdown of civil discourse, celebrity worship, willful ignorance, the breakdown of social fabric, the robot takeover, government overreach, unwashed hordes of immigrants come to undermine all the good work of the enlightenment… Pick your poison.
I live there too. After the latest round of catastrophic news, whatever the catastrophe of the day is, I find myself thinking about having children. About thrusting an unsuspecting soul into this madness, and I wonder why you’d do that. Why would you bring something into the world in order to suffer the end of potable water, a world without polar bears or mercy or antibiotics that work…
But the last bit of sunshine we saw here in DC included an evening walk in a quaint part of the city. Ice cream and sunshine and good company and pizza for dinner. After the ice cream. There are stories and connections and affection and jokes and joy.
Everything costs something. Nothing comes for free. So maybe it isn’t selfish to bring an innocent soul into this mess after all. There is still beauty in the mess. Curiosity. Discovery. Humor. Meaning. Connection. Purpose. If I’d never been conceived, I can’t imagine that absence of self even being an absence. It wouldn’t have mattered, there wouldn’t have been any disappointment in an unplanned pregnancy that never occurred in the first place. There would have been no perspective to feel the loss of rainbows and cuddle-monster nephews. I’m not sad that I live in an age of anxiety. Maybe humanity has always lived in an age of anxiety. Maybe that’s just the price. For access to simple pleasures and a little joy here and there, maybe it’s not that bad of a deal.
*I read it somewhere, but google can’t find it. I didn’t make it up, but perhaps someone did.