This Is How It Felt
This is how I felt nine hours after you were born. You are asleep on my chest, a fine little miracle in a striped swaddling blanket.
Of course you are a miracle. Parents always say that, and it’s trite, but triteness and truth are keen companions.
Humans are many things; we are users, choosers, planners, dreamers, and so much more. No one of these roles defines us on its own. We are a multitude of different potentials.
And many of these roles reveal us to be cruel and selfish. We are entropy’s agents—we undermine stability in pursuit of shallow, myopic things. Perhaps worse still, we hide our ugliness from each other (and ourselves) behind shabby delusions. For example: we tell ourselves that our selfishness is magically, even invisibly, conducive to the good of others. Or alternatively, we tell ourselves that our best intentions are sufficient to justify any number of ill-considered plans. Or alternatively once more, we assume that we know those close to us better than they know themselves. And so on and so forth. We are ingenious justifiers of our basest instincts. We are destructive dissemblers, though we rarely recognize it.
But—and now I’m finally getting back to you—we are best when we are creators. We have strange, unpredictable capacities for transcending our own petty selves and their concerns. From time to time, we astonish ourselves by making something that is unquestionably good. From time to time, we produce beauty that is almost wholly illuminated by the wild possibilities therein contained. From time to time we produce such shining potential that the daily grind of human life becomes not just tolerable, but comprehensible. From time to time, we produce miracles.
It is no accident that our most sublime moments usually burst forth from partnership. Human love is the only antidote to our selfishness. It forms the other option of our lives. We flit through time, living at turns for ourselves or for others…but our greatest triumphs always come with the latter. We are best when we love. Again, forgive me the cliché, when two people love each other very, very much…they create astonishing things. These aren’t always babies—love’s creations are more varied than that—but children are among the most profound things we can make.
And so here you are, you sleepy little bundle of future. Here you are, full of unsullied promise and staggering innocence. At this moment, you are blessedly healthy and wholly able to live out any one of a number of full, extraordinary lives. The bulk of the world’s doors are (still, briefly) open to you, you glorious little thing.
The tragedy is that it will not stay this way. Even in the best of all possible cases, your life will be amply stocked with disappointment. Those doors will start closing and pain will lurk behind your most careful decisions. Bad things will happen. They will not always be your fault—though they frequently will be.
But you are still here, and that is the noblest, best thing I have done with my life. Best of all, despite all of the furrows allotted for your brow, you have a reasonable chance of creating another unique, new, innocent child of your own someday. You may be just as flawed and mortal as your parents, but you (miraculously) possess the ability to beget a new, innocent life. We brought you, but you are here to create on your own behalf.
The best thing, in other words, is that you aren’t here to redeem my life’s mistakes (or your mother’s). You aren’t here to have the high school experiences we wish we’d had. You aren’t here to make the starting team or attend our reach college(s) or mend our missed chances or otherwise live out the faded dreams of our youths.
Nope. You’re here for yourself—to suffer your own defeats and build your own victories. You’re here on your own terms and for your own purposes, even though your mother and I brought you into this world. You’re here for you, and we’re here to help you grow, stretch, and strengthen your wings. And even though you’re here for you—not us—we’re far better now that you’re here. And that’s astonishing. It’s a miracle.