Shannon Hayes wrote an article for Yes! recently called The Kid Question. A brave woman. Not only brave enough to endorse having kids, but brave enough to give us the real reason she did it. Because she wanted to.
A few years back a friend of mine came to the conclusion that we rarely think through the factors and make an informed decision in life. Most of us just function on instinct or desire, and then gather evidence to support our decision. I think she’s right on. That is what Shannon Hayes basically admitted in her article, which I found amazingly courageous.
But then again, why shouldn’t we follow our instinct? Why do we value an “informed” decision made by our brains over an instinctual decision informed by our pure animal selves?
About three years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, I was out walking with one of my oldest friends who also happens to be my ex-lover. We were together for 6 years, at the very budding of our Selves, and so we understand each other in ways no one else can, for better of for worse.
She asked me, point blank (I’m not paraphrasing), how I could justify having kids when the world is so fucked up.
Ouch. For so many reasons I can’t even explain here.
But, knowing her as well as I do, under my initial offense I understood the genuineness of her question. And so I thought for several minutes trying to formulate a genuine answer.
We are animals. As much as we try to pretend otherwise, here we are. Animals, every one. You can search high and low for the meaning of life, but I’ll tell you a secret. It’s no secret. Every living thing lives for one purpose. To make more living things.
There is a reason men think about sex 24 hours a day. There is a reason childless women hitting their 40s often have sudden and overwhelming panic attacks. And it’s simple. Like every other living thing, with legs or leaves, we are designed with a drive which cannot be conquered. Make babies.
Although I understand every inch of reasoning, I find it not a little ironic that back-to-the-Earth types would end up being in the No Kids camp. How can you spend your life respecting the Earth and trying to be more like the (other) animals, but deny your most basic animal instinct? How better to bow to Mother Earth than to give in to (and even be honored by!) the fundamental drive she has designed in you.
Now, bear in mind that I could as well argue the other side. How can we bring more souls into the world, to consume more and more resources, to oppress more and more of the Earth and her creatures, to live through a time I cannot rejoice and a future I have no hope for?
It’s true. I don’t have much hope for our species. In the passion of youth I used to be sometimes consumed by a debilitating depression imagining the future wreckage of the Earth. But at some point a few years back, I realized that I was looking through just human eyes. So maybe we’ll kill ourselves off. Maybe we’ll drag several thousand species down with us, leaving a wasteland of toxic sludge. But some Life will survive. The cockroaches, the molds, the swimming sea of bacteria. Why do I value these creatures less? When I step back and squint my eyes, I can have hope once more, even faith. The Earth will survive whatever we dish out. Who do we think we are that we could actually destroy her?
It’s all well and good to realize your faith in the Earth’s endurance. But how do you balance a hopelessness for your own species with bringing a baby into the impending ruin?
That one I have yet to work my head around. Except that we just have to keep on keeping on, because what the hell else are we gonna do? Ever hear that Dylan song (I know, twice in one paragraph?) “I will not go down under the ground, till somebody tells me that death’s all around. I will not lay myself down to die, when I go to my grave my head will be high. Let me die in my footsteps, before I go down under the ground.”
And I guess I just want to see more footsteps than my own.
Maybe, secretly, I really do have hope for the human race after all.