We were back at my mother’s house after her funeral sitting around talking and eating for hour after hour as you do. After the number of people around the dining room table dwindled to a precious few, the conversation bounced between memories, travels, the difference between pizza and a tomato pie. And more serious things, at which point a cousin remarked, “This sure isn’t the country or world I wanted to bring my kids into.”

Despite my own privileged life I understood exactly what he meant and felt my anger and disappointment rise at what I then thought were the truth of his words.

On the drive back to the hotel, I repeated his remarks to Sue and again felt my mad.

So I planned to use this week’s post to expand, enumerate, and rant about all the shitty things we have going on in the US and around the world.

But a funny thing happened on my way to this post. Days later I no longer feel the same hot rage despite the horrors that beset *most* of the world’s population and our insane politics and violence. John Coltrane’s rendition of My Favorite Things ( started to rattle around inside my head and just wouldn’t let go. Wouldn’t let go until I realized what he was trying to tell me, which had nothing to do with teardrops and roses.

Coltrane was telling me to look a little deeper. Or at least ask myself the question: What would our children have missed had they not been brought into this world even with all its horrors?

Obviously you can’t miss an existence you were never introduced to, but what about these losses?

A parent’s love, caring and tenderness–whatever culture, however offered, touches, looks, and warmth, those early moments, years–even in the most dire of circumstances. And maybe even more mindboggling, the opportunity to feel that love and caring for a child.

Friendships. I know that my life would feel close to nonexistent without them. Might even have preferred the nothingness. Again there is the pleasure of seeing this richness in my kids’ lives. I watched how they and their friends played, comforted, helped, and were there for each other. And still are. There’s beauty in sharing your life with others. A beauty which I expect will continue throughout my life and theirs.

No, love is not all anyone needs. We know that. But it really is something that nothingness never delivers.

Learning, of all kinds. The opportunity to learn about people different from ourselves, cultures different than our own, clothes, styles, faces that we find unusual and exotic. The opportunity to realize again and again that the world is wildly diverse and yet people are also the same. These pleasures have no geographical, or even language limitations.

Learning new ideas. Discovering what we didn’t and don’t know. Meeting people who expand our thinking and vision. Trying to keep a sliver of your mind open so you can change it and let it grow. What a loss if all there were was nothingness.

And of course, the arts. Nothing would include no music, no books, no movies, no plays, no poetry, no dance, no paintings, no Monday posts, (though that might please a number of you). The entire world donates to this grand mosaic and nothingness makes all that vanish. Not a trade I’d make for myself or my children.

I could continue. Science, the give and take in discussions between people, the arguments that shed light as well as darkness, the sun, moon, sky and stars. But enough already. You get my point.

I have no doubt that I’ll be ranting and railing against the cruelty and injustice between people and countries soon enough, maybe even next Monday–all of those throughout these Mondays. But I also have no doubt that I am glad to have brought children into the world—even this one. I only hope they make a dent in it.

14 thoughts on “MY COUSIN’S COMMENT

  1. The world is bad and dangerous and scary. No doubt about it, but it was that way when we ourselves entered the world, when our parents did, and back to the cave. There have always been bad things happening to good people. Our job is to see that we help those set upon, feed those who are starving, visit children who have been jailed in juvenile hall, support a dying friend or even someone who is not a friend. Who knows what word from you helps someone through a major crisis? Maybe the most important of all is my part-Cherokee dad’s advice to us as we grew up: walk in the other man’s moccasins for one moon (month) before you judge him. One of the hardest things we find to do is to see the other guy’s viewpoint and understand where he’s coming from. My grandmother fought rattlesnakes away from her toddlers on the Texas plain. I worry about atomic warfare. Through it all, humanity not only survives, but triumphs. I agree 100% with your thinking on this, Zach. We differ on politics, but fully agree on the nobility of humanity.

  2. Boy, don’t we all think about that these days, Zach.
    As I’ve said before I’m very pessimistic about our future, although I do not think the world is ending ( I hope ). I do feel though that we are on the precipice, very similar to 1859 U. S. A., 1930 Germany, etc. What we are soon to go through may be far worse.
    Still, I feel that most people are good and I go on because of that, my children, grandchildren, friends and writing/reading/arts. Because of the joy I have received from the previously mentioned, I would reject the idea of not bringing a child into this world. Of course, it’s easy for me to say; I don’t have to make that decision.

  3. Yes, I do worry about this world. It seems to get scarier every day. But we do our best to carve out our little corner and try to live good and decent lives.

    At least, given the weather we’ve been experiencing, I think we can cross global warming off our list of worries.

    And thank you. I now have that song rolling around my head. 🙂

  4. Despite all of life’s heartaches, there are many positive and wonderful people, animals, emotions, and experiences to sustain us. It’s worth reminding ourselves of that, and I thank you for doing so, Zach.

  5. The world is a horrible place, for sure, but while life was/is wonderful for some people, life was/is awful for many other people at the exact same time. The only difference is that today, because of the availability and speed of worldwide communications, we get to find out about any horror that occurs, anywhere in the world, usually, as it’s happening. Plus, we get to watch it on TV, and on the internet until we can’t take anymore and sink into depression.
    But imagine turning off every screen and electronic device you own for one month.

    Imagine how nice it would be to NOT know about every single atrocity committed in the world every day. Imagine a world where the only people you saw were your friends and the people in your neighborhood; a world where you knew about the events of the day because you witnessed them.

    Sometimes I want to turn off all my screens and news sources and live in the moment, affected, as much as possible, only by events I can witness in person, the stuff happening right outside my front door.
    I know I won’t, though. It takes a special type of person to live “off the grid,” and that ain’t me.

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