Monday, November 22, 2010

Having Children

by Richard Crews
How do we dare to bring children into the world knowing--as all of us must surely know by the time we reach young adulthood--that every human life has times of terrible pain and despair, of helplessness, hopelessness, and loneliness? By what sadistic or unconscious impulse do we grant ourselves the right to start another soul down that path of pain?

Several hundred years ago John Bunyan, about to be thrown back in prison for the heresy of refusing to renounce his commitment to certain Christian virtues, said, "The separation from my wife and my dear children has been to me as the tearing of my flesh from my bones--especially my poor blind child who, I must confess, lay dearer to me than all else I had besides. Thou must be hungry and cold, be beaten and suffer all manner of calamities in life though I cannot now endure that the wind should blow upon thee."

Abraham Verghese writes in Cutting for Stone: A Novel: "We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot."

The Buddha realized in his moment of enlightenment that every human life is inevitably a dialog with pain--the pain of being separated from things and people one loves; the pain of being attached to things and people one detests; the pain of illness and of decrepitude in old age.

I pose this question. It racks my soul. I have no answer.

Some would say there is a golden balance to be struck--that life can, should, and does have more love and joy than it has pain; that one puts all the good stuff on one pan of the balance and all the pain on the other and--voila!--the good wins out. This strikes me as a feeble and specious rationalization: the idea that there is or should be joy somewhere cannot be an excuse for causing pain.

Some would say we have no choice--that we are driven by instinct, fate, or culture. But it strikes me as despicable to plead helplessness.

Do you have thoughts (and feelings) about this question?