Saturday, December 15, 2012

For My Young Friend

Specifically my "niece" Alleah.

She has been highly disturbed by the deaths of the children in Newtown, CT. Enough that she has posted her feelings on Facebook.

I find myself dreading the thought of bringing a sweet baby into the world that I cannot protect from the world itself. I just can't fathom trusting the world to take care of my baby...not today.
I answered
:It has always been thus, Alleah. Maybe not with all the press coverage of the past, but monsters have roamed the earth since Day One. You wouldn't be here if your parents had been too afraid to try, and neither would I. 
And besides, I'm for thinking you and Dan would be wonderful parents to some lucky kids.
My niece was still bothered

How is it that babies I don't even have yet are enough to evoke the deepest of anxieties? 

Well, Facebook is ok, but it's not the venue for what I have to say to you, young lady. Perhaps this isn't either, but I'm gonna share my thoughts with everyone who cares to read it here.

You feel the way you do because of your compassion, sympathy and empathy for the underdog. You are particularly gifted in this area emotionally. Not many are. You also have a sense of responsibility for your actions. You have the innate ability to foresee the consequences of a particular action - and you use that ability frequently to help consider a course of action for everyday decisions. You feel the anguish and sorrow of the loss of innocent life. Couple that with your seeing that actually raising children is an awesome and solemn obligation. And you see your children would be no less susceptible to similar events.

And this scares the living shit right out of you. Enough that it will alter your life's trajectory. If you do or do not have kids, you will forever bear the scars and those scars will be there to remind you as long as you have two brain cells to rub together. Even though you are a fully grown woman, you are still learning and the world still shapes you. It is up to you to determine how.

I have no pat answer for this. All I can do is try to allow you to gain some perspective. And to do this, I have to be harsh. Life is cruel, unfair and cheap. It is.

The press is in full salivary flow about this story - it allows them to be crusaders against evil, profit from same, and pick at wounds before they can even scab over. All in the name of journalism - a noble idea that has become corrupted long, long ago.

Why aren't they covering the Middle Eastern schools (with kids inside) that are destroyed by our very own drones? Why aren't we outraged at the deaths of so many unborn children due to abortions?

Not our problem, apparently. Furrin' kids, maybe our enemies - no problem. Legal abortions - hey, stay the hell out of her womb, dammit. It's really not a human being at all, just a collection of cells, or something. Never had a chance.

Those murders, by the way, are state sanctioned. It's ok for the state to kill. So, we are let off the hook on the compassion front there.

And of course our human history is full of murder, as illustrated above.

I remember one summer harvesting near Altus, OK. Every summer, heavy rains would fall when we were trying to cut wheat. We'd go out and check the ground on a sunny day to see when we might get started again.

I got to poking around and walking out past the machines, looking at the little ponds of water in the wheat. There were hundreds of tadpoles newly hatched, swimming like mad, teeming. The next day, the pools had shrunk considerably, and the tadpoles were growing legs and arms, but it was a race they would lose, because the next day their little pond would be completely gone. They would dry out and die.

No doubt that was great news to a great many birds and whatever other creatures that might avail themselves of such a treat, but from a tadpole's perspective, that had to royally suck. Multiply that little scene by the hundreds per acre, and thousands of acres in the area, and that is a lot of dead tadpoles.

I also must admit to being influenced by this passage from The Sea-Wolf by Jack London, quoting a conversation between "Hump" and Wolf Larsen:

I halted. How could I explain my idealism to this man? How could I put into speech a something felt, a something like the strains of music heard in sleep, a something that convinced yet transcended utterance?
"What do you believe, then?" I countered.
"I believe that life is a mess," he answered promptly. "It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all.

Life is cheap. It is also prolific and abundant, but ultimately, the only life that is valued is when it is our own.

Now, truly, this is a rather bleak counterpoint, but it is the unvarnished truth. You simply must acknowledge that this is the way of the world, or you will drive yourself mad.

I do not mean that you should just fold up and blow away, no - that is not my ultimate meaning. It is how we face life's struggles that define our existence. It is how we defy the inevitable in an honorable way. It is Admiral David Farragut saying:  "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" It is also Gus saying to Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove:  "It ain't dyin' I'm talkin''s livin'."

 It's all about how you choose to define your existence. It is, after all, your choice. You have the gifts of empathy and caring, and you are a responsible adult. You have had little choice in the former, but you have in the latter - you and you alone decided that responsibility was an important goal. You certainly had a lot of instruction in that area, but you made that choice.

So, grieve for the little ones who never had a chance. Take your stand on the side of justice and prevention, however you can, because that is what you do best.

But don't let it color your future in a dark way - instead, use this as a tool to keep yourself sharp and vigilant. For you have a lot to offer this world in the future, kiddo, and there are certainly people out there as well as future folks who can benefit from your talents and gifts.


Lisa Paul said...

Great advice.

May I add the words of another great philosopher, Mr. Rogers, who always came through explaining the unexplainable in simple language:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

Earl said...

I would go with the raising a child in this uncertain world, with all your love, all your might and all your goodness. Fear must be fleeting, if it lingers it grows and consumes. There is no greater satisfaction than really loving a child, raising it right and knowing that is one more in the fight against inhumanity. Of my few accomplishments in my own life I stand most humbly proud of my family.

ahilker37 said...

My dad and Dan both tried to give me the same message, but not nearly as eloquently as you did. I have come to the conclusion that raising a family takes courage and conviction. I asked my dad if the anxiety you have regarding your children ever goes away. My dad responded that it does not, but that as we have gotten older, his worries about us have shifted.

This led me to believe that above all, you have to have faith - and lots of it. We rely on faith each day just to pull us through, even on the days when we are dangling by just a thread. I have to have faith that my children will be okay (I mean how bad could we screw them up, right?).

Thank you for writing this. Dan read it and said he couldn't agree more. I still find the prospect of bringing a child into this world absolutely terrifying, but I have a little faith and will continue my faith journey. If you don't work a muscle out, it gets weak - I imagine the same is true with faith. :)

Jeffro said...

I cannot help but think I'm in good company with Dan and your father. Of course, I've never been a parent, but I do have some experience not giving in to fear. It's a tough row to hoe, for sure.

Bob's Blog said...

Your "niece" is very lucky to have you in her life.