Discuss

Posted: March 13, 2008 in Headspace, Pimp
Tags: , , , , , ,

My friend Jen posted an interesting entry today. Well, some of it was kvetching about the writing of a certain Miss Christine Feehan (and I observed that too! stoopid stoopidness), but later on down the entry there was this:

…something I read this morning struck me. I’m going to quote it in a second. This quote leaves me filled with thoughts and questions regarding life, and the goals of life. Marriage, and what’s the point when divorce seems to win out of working it out in more than 50 percent of cases. I felt like this was a good reminder as to why some people find a way to stick together, among other things. What’s your take?

“Love? That’s what this all comes down to?”
“No, not just love. I’m talking about the cycle of life. I’m taking about finding some alien creature and deciding to marry her and stay with her forever, no matter whether you even like each other or not a few years down the road. And why will you do this? So you can make babies together, and try and keep them alive and teach them what they need to know so that someday, they’ll have babies, and keep the whole thing going. And you’ll never draw a secure breath until you have grandchildren, a double handful of them, because you know that your line won’t die out, your influence will continue. Selfish, isn’t it? Only it’s not selfish, it’s what life it for. It’s the only thing that brings happiness, ever, to anyone. All the other things – victories, achievements, honors, causes- they bring only monetary flashed of pleasure. But binding yourself to another person, to the children you make together, that’s life. And you can’t do it if your life is centered on your ambitions. You’ll never be happy. It will never be enough, even if you rule the world.”

The quote is from “Shadow of the Hedgemon” by Orson Scott Card, and it now appears that I shall have to read it.

I understand the desire to want continuance for your lineage. After my uncle dies, there will be no more Charons from my grandfather’s line. The blood will continue in my sister’s boys, but the name will be gone (there are, of course, fifty seven bazillion other Charons out there, I’m talking about direct lineage). The threat of lineage die-out didn’t exactly prompt him (my uncle) to go forth and make babies – he was married and divorced twice, and now has a girlfriend who is RIGHTEOUS in her practicality. I love her. And she won’t marry him because she sees no reason to. It kind of makes me sad that there is no one to continue the Charon name, but there’s not much I can do about it, being a girl born under a different name and all.

Now. On to other points of the quote. It is, of course, humanity’s primary function to go forth and procreate. Perhaps the directive is less demanding now, with a global population of 6,656,471,511 (as of 18:02 GMT (EST+5) Mar 13, 2008 according to this), than it was in, say, the Middle Ages. Long time readers know that the question of having children has been discussed, and discussed, and discussed some more between Calvin and I. Mostly because we would like to bring to the world someone that is a combination of the two of us. We would like to see what that person would be like. And I, myself, would like to leave something of myself behind when I shed this mortal coil.

I can look at Calvin, and look at Michael and Marie, and see which parts they have in common. I can’t do that with myself and another person – my mother is gone, my half-sister and I are drastically different, my father might as well be dead, and I have no children that I can view myself in. So what would they “get from” me? I don’t know. I can only view myself in the mirror, never in someone else’s little face blinking back up at me. I don’t think I’ll “never” be happy if Calvin and I don’t have kids – I think we’ll just have a different kind of happiness. Being a step-parent and step-grand-parent is very fulfilling. Plus the lack of shared DNA lets me blame any idiocy on someone else. Aaaand when they do something right, they get it through me via the “nurture” side of the argument.

I win.

In referring to other parts of the quote above, I do find happiness in binding myself to another person, even though we don’t plan on creating more people between the two of us. I’ve never been motivated by “victories, achievements, honors, causes”; I’ve only, always, ever been motivated by the desire to take care of my family, and make them happy. I do think that any other success in life is empty if you don’t have your “family” to share it with. And I air-quote that word because marriage doesn’t have to be necessary to this happiness, it’s the people you bind yourself to that matter. Marriage is the most conventional way, as is having children, but there are many, many people out there who have a “family of friends”, or have a long-term relationship in which they aren’t getting married, or are widows/widowers who live for their children, or are single and alone but care so much about other people that they do something, great or small, every day to promote the general well-being of humanity. Permanent and real happiness is possible for all of them, too. It’s just a matter of looking beyond your nose and outside of yourself, and finding someone – close to you, or a complete stranger – to care about.

So. I was kind of all over the place in describing my thoughts on Jen’s entry. I would be very curious to see what you readers have to say about the whole idea. Leave commenty goodness!

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Comments
  1. Taoist Biker says:

    I agree with you fundamentally that the only enduring measure of a life is the impact you have on those you leave behind – a purposefully broad definition that allows lots of variation in the exact relationship between yourself and those behinds. Err, people you leave. Whatever.

    I have to disagree with the Orson Scott Card quote because it seems to me to reduce that definition to something akin to pure mathematics. Have children so they can have children so that ye be fruitful and multiply. By that logic, the morons in the introduction to Idiocracy are the happiest bastards on the planet. Somehow I don’t think so.

  2. Heather says:

    I don’t know, something about the quote rubs me the wrong way (Laura probably saw that coming). If I were to wake up with the overwhelming and powerful maternal ache and need that I’ve seen in some of my closest friends, that would be the only reason for me to ever want to bring another life into this world. I am positive that would be the only time it would make me truly happy. Husband, significant other or not, if I wake up with that uncontrollable ache, I’ll know it’s right. Thankfully, it seems as though I was born without ‘the clock’. I have always thought it was somewhat arrogant to think that I am just so darn special that I should feel need to leave something behind that says I was here.

    To my sweetie face Laura (who is a very big part of my ‘family of friends’), I don’t believe, with the way happiness constantly changes and the fact that it can be taken away in an instant, that it is permanent. However, I do believe that it is a renewable resource. There’s always more happy and that, in itself, makes me happy. 🙂

  3. Jayne says:

    You’ve summed this up very well. There isn’t any right or wrong in this because it’s up to each individual to decide what fulfills them the most. All I can say is that from my own experiene I married telling my husband that I most probably wouldn’t want children. (I was that woman in restaurants tut tutting and saying ‘Someone needs to control that child’). Somewhere along the way, also no doubt acknowledging that my husband *would* actually like children, I thought that it might be nice, so I went along with the flow around here (!) and had Samantha first, then Sophie. I’m *so* glad I did. Trite but true: Life, the universe and everything suddenly all fell into place when I had children. Yes, it is partly about a continuance of self and family line, but also the simple knowledge that we have raised two honest, decent human beings who I *know* will contribute to the well being of others. I did that. Me. For me there is no better feeling than that combination. Er… to precis all that down: basically having children makes me feel connected to and part of the web of humanity. It just feels right for me.

    I also have to say that you *never* have children just so that you have someone to visit you when you’re sitting in the old folks home, dribbling into your tea … but it *is* a comforting feeling!!!

    I don’t mind saying that family is everything to me and for me family is my own flesh and blood.

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