Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Wednesday, December 08, 2004  

Where is the love?

Paul Cella has a fascinating blog on Chesterton writing on contraception (please read the whole thing) which includes this passage:

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them, and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.

My greatest joy in life was in having and raising a child. The pleasures and delights afforded, the challenges posed, the enigmas to unravel, and the insights gained was an ongoing marvel like no other.

Yet, when I encounter parents and men who have become fathers for the first time, I don't usually hear them express much pleasure in their new found status.

For example, when I see a toddler at about 18 months to two years old, I'll tell the dad that this is when the fun really begins. I'll mention that I never laughed so much in my life as when my daughter was treading the ground from about 2 years to 5 years old.

The father looks at me blankly (even if his child is in the midst of those years), and will mumble something about all the trouble of them running around, learning "no", not going to bed, and so forth.

If they still have a baby, they tell me about 3 a.m. feedings, and their loss of sleep. I almost never hear these parents wax poetic on the pure joy of having a child. They only mention the difficulties or hardship with a "can't wait for this stage to be over with."

I become disgusted for their not seeming to notice the miracle they have in their lives (or else annoyed at their reticence to admit to the pleasure and love they have added to their being).

I used to tell my wife wht a wonderful child we had, and she would usually reply, "Just wait 'til she's a teenager."

Finally, one day I told her, "Stop saying that. She's going to be a wonderful teenager, too. There has never been a year or a month when she wasn't a fine person to know. The idea that being a teenager changes that is a lot of nonsense. Why do you expect her to become contrary and difficult?"

My wife had this negative attitude built into her of doom - "yeah, everything's fine now, but just wait."

I hate that attitude of always expecting the worst. Especially out of children. They are our products. They don't form themselves. Hormones do not make good kids bad.

Anyway, in many respects, my daughter was my glorious entertainment. She was more fun to be around than music, movies, TV, or books. Once she started sleeping in her own bed every night, I would lie down with her at bedtime and we would talk. She'd tell me what was on her mind, what her day was like, the problems she was having, and her accomplishments in detail.

I would tell her stories of my family and when I was a boy, or share observations about life, gearing everything to her understanding and intelligence.

Oftentimes we'd all rest togther, huddled in bed like simple mammals sharing warmth and comfort.

These are animal delights we were intended to enjoy; primitive, but satisfying exactly for those primary reasons. But the intellectual and spiritual delights are not lacking in this either. It is when we are most simple that we best understand ourselves, each other, God, and our own purpose for being.

It grieves me that I rarely meet parents who seem to be learning this or knowing it. Chesterton's complaint is mine, too. It's not fixable, though.

As an old professor of mine used to say, "on a bell shaped curve" humanity falls in the middle. Most are mediocre people - not especially aware of the significance of all their actions. That won't change although there may be an incremental growth of awareness overall through history. It remains difficult to prove that societies improve over the course of history; that what we call improvements are merely changes -- since change always occurs in life -- but not substantive alterations in our social psyches.

Well, that's another debate.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:40 AM |