Saturday, September 24, 2011

From here to paternity

My dad was an autodidact. He taught me about existentialism without ever using the word.

He was admittedly rueful about the terms of human existence - or two of them: that we have no choice at all about a) whether we are born, and b) whether we die. These are big decisions. It can't be right, my father thought, that we are excluded from them; having excluded me.

My great uncle George declared his own contempt for life in general and the human race in particular. He advocated infanticide whilst, to the best of my knowledge, never practicing it - to the best of my knowledge and the considerable relief of his only child, Bernard.

In existentialism - as in most things - I have been a late developer.

It has slowly dawned on me that the only things we can promise our progeny is that they will suffer, and they will die. Even taxes are not that inevitable. Our offspring may conclude that the joy of being alive has outweighed the pain, but they may not. We can never be sure.

The paradox is nicely summed up by that great existentialist Woody Allen: 

"Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."

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