Today I’m going to trespass where angels fear to tread…and probably devils, too. I’m going to put my booty on the line because, well, I honestly have nothing to lose. I don’t care if I piss people off. I don’t care if my massive platform here (ahem) implodes from an exodus of readership. I’m going to tackle the proverbial elephant.
I’ve got nothing to lose because I’m watching the world I knew and loved go to hell in a handbag bigger than my best girlfriend’s bottomless hold-all. I remember when my partner and I used to go for long hikes in the woods every other week in the summers without thinking about whether we could breathe or not. I remember dizzyingly starry nights and months of crisp winter days with bright snow sparkling in the sun. I remember when I could plan a backpacking trip through the mountains without worrying about getting incinerated by wildfire, and going out for a bike ride without having to check the air quality index. I remember delighting in the love of nature without an excruciating sense of grief and loss. I remember spending the summer outdoors….
Kids born within the past five years and raised in the American West (and many other places worldwide) may not have these experiences in their lifetime. You could say that you can’t miss what you’ve never known, and that’s true, but there’s also something else to consider.
Hurricanes, tornados, floods, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves, pandemics. These things have always been around, sure, but throughout human history they’ve never been all happening at once, and repeatedly throughout the year. What’s it like to grow up within such a context, with disaster and tragedy around every corner? (I also recall having an entire K-12 experience without even once fearing death from an onsite massacre…gee, could it have anything to do with the greater traumatic context?).
What’s it like for these kids? Surely, I’m not the only one shuddering to think?
One of the favorite aspersions cast in the direction of those of us who choose to devote our lives to things other than having kids is that we’re selfish. First of all, I want to mention that not having a conventional nuclear family leaves far more energy and flexibility, inside and out, for concerns far beyond that concentrated nucleus. Secondly, it must be pointed out that, at this point in time it can hardly be considered anything other than selfish to insist on having your own children in the current environment. It’s a statement that my genes matter, my lineage must persist, my desire to replicate outweighs the crisis at hand. So please–of all things, don’t talk to me about being selfish.
Needless to say, mine is a most offensive and unpopular view of the matter.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a booklet to educate us all about our most impactful decisions as consumers and to help us make our decisions more smartly and responsibly. The first thing on the list (ordered from most to least impactful) was having children. It was unequivocal.
The worst thing, by far, that any one of us can do for the global natural environment at this point in time, and has been for many decades, is to choose to produce children. (Of note, studies in consumer habits funded by retail behemoths refer to new and expecting parents as the holy grail of retail, saying there’s scarcely a more product-hungry group. And then of course there’s the next couple of decades raising them on top of that, not to mention the rest of their lives as they start making their own footprints across the planet.) Nothing else you do in your entire lifetime on Earth to mitigate and minimize your carbon footprint can offset that single decision (and we’re still just talking about one child). And yet…
The UCS still back-pedaled furiously when it came to actually urging people to seriously consider not having children. I was appalled, and I was also deeply disturbed. What that tells me is that producing children is the holy grail of our lives. To me, that’s sad because it’s a statement about the quality of our lives. (Yes, I mean that.) It says that, with all the world at our fingertips, with all our privilege and opportunity, we still can’t come up with something rich and fulfilling enough other than replicating ourselves (seriously?), and then distracting ourselves from our own troubles by worrying about the needs of the little rug rats.
But wait. There’s something wrong with that last statement. If we’re so worried about their needs, why haven’t we given more heed to the bigger picture going on? If we were truly concerned about the well-being of our offspring we would have never allowed things to get to this point (and to continue going beyond it). We would have forced ourselves to stop in our tracks and solve real, deep-seated problems–both personal and public–before barging ahead with babies.
Might this prove that the drive to procreate has nothing to do with selflessness, service to the greater society, contribution to the good of the species, or any of the drivel spun off about having children? Might it prove to us, rather, that it’s quite the opposite of all that, as in ultimately self-serving and ego-enhancing? Might it really tell us that having an all-encompassing distraction is more important to us than the children and their well-being? Might it show us that we simply want to avoid sitting still for a minute for fear of having to look into the face of our own deeper lack of well being?
It’s time to tell the truth around here. We shudder more about examining our own lives than we shudder at the mess our own children may inherit. That’s a level of irresponsibility unbecoming of adults.
And that’s the beast in the room. It’s utter sacrilege to ask ourselves to look at this fact of our lives. It goes against every grain in our animal brain. Didn’t a famous man, centuries ago, say that the unexamined life is not worth living? (By the way, I notice he didn’t say that a childless life isn’t worth living.) And did you know that some philosophers even denounce that statement to warn that people may become too exuberantly happy to keep society going? (Now that’s a jackass philosophy if ever there was one.)
I’d personally be willing to risk such a forecast, but then again at this point we’re running out of options, not to mention that the risk of extinction from ecosystem collapse appears to hit (just a little?) more close to home as the likely demise of society than the aforementioned threat of human happiness.
My solution (based on sexual humanism) is that we should all focus on healing our sexuality as a human community. We need to focus on the intimate pleasures of sex as a natural tool for healing self and society rather than creating a bunch of mini-me’s in our own desperate image. Then, of course, there wouldn’t be any need for such a costly distraction.
I mean, we’ve had reliable contraception for decades. Why not slow down a minute, examine ourselves, our lives, and our relationships, and try to really figure out how to be more happy, open to more pleasure, and just simply get along better around here before wantonly adding more entities to the mix? Think about how much more fun and free life can be just loosening up sexually without burdening ourselves and straining this poor planet with more and more hungry little mouths to feed! You still need a distraction or a greater purpose? Rescue a child through adoption. There’s still plenty to go around.
But please hear this: Children are not the meaning of life. Living is. Living well, with well-being. For that, we need restoration and sexual healing. Then maybe we can put all our extra energy and additional resources to good use figuring out how to really thrive as human beings (or how to be fruitful without multiplying), because we’re still not doing that and, honestly, I deeply believe that much of it has to do with our damaged sexuality.
Why not find out instead what it’s like to be really vibrant, juicy, connected, and enlightened rather than scrambling around trying to beat the clock and keep up with the rat race? That makes the most sense to me.
(This post is based on an excerpt from a personal interview with me by RainBarrel Zine author Robert T. Glen for his publication: Religion, Politics, Sex; Vol.3. Check out his Three-Volume series on Etsy)