One never knows, does one? One goes through one’s life one day at a time, one step at a time, dividing one’s expectations by one’s resources, subtracting one’s limitations from one’s ambitions, hoping one’s outgo will not be too small a fraction of one’s input. And that’s only one. Once one adds another one and begins to multiply, the equation becomes really incalculable.
Bravo to the Pope and his recent plea that abortion should never be deemed a “human right.” There is no more grotesque construction than positing the destruction of an inchoate human being as a right intrinsic to one’s mature condition as a sentient human. There is an animal right, I suppose, for big fish to eat little fish, including their own gullible offspring, but that is hardly the sort of behavior humanity should strive to emulate.
The Talmud asserts that before the Bible was given, people were expected to identify the noblest traits among animals and apply those paradigms to their own moral choices. We should admire the cleanliness of the cat, the fidelity of the dove, the honesty of the ant (never stealing a morsel touched by a peer). This despite the fact that most animals do not adhere to these codes. Human seeking for truth and beauty should guide us in choosing role models from the animal kingdom.
I humbly submit that this is the Bible’s intent when it admonishes: “If you chance upon a bird’s nest on the road…with chicks or eggs…do not take the mother along with her children.” (Deuteronomy 22:6) The message is: think about why you see bird’s nests on the road when you travel but you do not see fish. This is designed so you can study the magnificent mothering of the bird, not the self-indulgent indifference of the fish. So don’t kill the messenger; learn the lesson instead.
There is no greater irony, perhaps in all of history, than the modern “liberal” persona being associated with abortion. In ancient Rome, the paterfamilias had the right to kill his newborn if the tyke did not fit in with his plans. When Tacitus wants to demonstrate how offbeat Jewish ideas about morality were, he cites their disapproval of this practice.
The Jews, then the Christians, worked for two millennia to prompt humanity to care for the defenseless. When they finally succeeded, all that progress collapsed on itself, trapping the fetus inside. The modern liberal made a ghoulish bargain with Mother Nature: “I will be kind to all your creatures, including the poor , the handicapped, even the animals, but in return I demand sovereignty over any potential life that has not yet emerged from inside my body.”
Benedict makes another novel point when he says it is time to stop regarding a child as a “form of illness.” In jarring, unstinting language he goes straight for the cultural jugular. No one can deny that even among the most refined people today it is acceptable to announce that “I choose not to have children.” Neither open derision nor silent disdain greets such a pronouncement. Contrast that with the Bible stating that the first, most endemic, responsibility of mankind is to be fruitful and multiply.
“Fruitful” is a wonderful image, one the English language relishes in such corollary words as fertility and fecundity. A child is a fruit that grows from your tree, with external beauty and internal substance that somehow emanates from your own inner essence. If you own a tree, you should feel an obligation to coax its fruit out into the open air. And once you taste how delicious it is, you shrug off all the hardship of the tilling and the upkeep.
Far from being a form of illness, far from being an uncontrollable piece breaking off from your soul and drifting into the aether, your child is your arrow flying forward through time. Having children is a way of smuggling your soul out from inside the hangman’s noose in manageable installments. There is a real inconvenient truth for you, one that definitely affects our future, even without dubious computer projections.
My mother died 39 years ago on Sept. 12, 1968, aged only thirty years. She was just a nineteen-year-old newlywed when I was conceived, so I imagine I was a nuisance from Day One. But she stuck with it, and today she lives on, in these words, on this page.