christopher hitchens talks of feeling sorry for his father in this weeks nytimes book review podcast, ‘not a nice thing to feel  for one’s father’ (paraphrasing) he says disparagingly.

i beg to differ. pops used to take me along to his squash league games growing up. like most boys, i assume, i grew up believing my parents were perfect flawless beings – especially my father who’s absence from my childhood lent him a distant air of mystery. i was devastated then to witness my father lose a league game for the first time. stunned, i dont think i uttered a word the rest of the night. my father didn’t notice my confusion, he had no reason to, he’d only lost a game of squash after all. what followed slowly but surely was the dissolution of all notions of perfection right up to a now that allows not even a semblance of perfection to be contemplated. my parents originally defined perfection. god, religion, science, mathematics everything that followed was a product of them or in more abstracted terms a product of humanity. and humanity was from then on forever fallible and incomplete.

a bit melodramatic for a squash game sure but the essence of that night was as my dear friend and mentor eloquently put to me a decade or two later the revelation of mortality.

peter singer wrote a great op-ed in the ny times a few days or weeks ago questioning the morality of having children. it has always bothered me that the general discourse on having children revolves around the parents’ wants and desires leaving the unborn child necessarily out of the decision- the only decision that counts, the decision to exist is not ours. some favorite bits from the op-ed that you should read in full:

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

South African philosopher David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” … To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her.

almost all of my closest male friends have by now either had children or are about to embark on the frankly baffling to me adventure. i say all that without taking away from the undeniable joy that fatherhood has brought these friends, a joy far deeper than money, power, fame and other successes which these same friends have achieved in spades.

father to son to father.

my dad is a beautifully flawed man. deeply beautiful. deeply flawed. our relationship has evolved erratically and often maddeningly into an intense and honest love. i celebrated him today alongside my father (and soon to be father) friends around the world.

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  • str82ais

    This is a moving post. I like that you come out with this strong declaration of love.

    The 'father character' – eh.

    I don't follow your “they didn't choose” argument; if anything, your post is an argument for procreation and propagation of species: for love, no matter how flawed.

  • http://avantcaire.com avantcaire

    parental love: consequence, not grounds.

    a lovely piece in this weeks new york by jennifer senior looks at the existential retrospective happiness parenthood provides vs the daily drudgery of child-rearing:

    “I think this boils down to a philosophical question, rather than a psychological one,” says Gilovich. “Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?” He says he has no answer for this, but the example he offers suggests a bias. He recalls watching TV with his children at three in the morning when they were sick. “I wouldn’t have said it was too fun at the time,” he says. “But now I look back on it and say, ‘Ah, remember the time we used to wake up and watch cartoons?’?” The very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight.

    It’s a lovely magic trick of the memory, this gilding of hard times. Perhaps it’s just the necessary alchemy we need to keep the species going. But for parents, this sleight of the mind and spell on the heart is the very definition of enchantment.



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