Coincidentally, on the day i wrote about birthdays, Peter Singer wrote about giving birth to new generations on the NYT’s new online column on philosophy, The Stone. Ever since reading it, i’ve been thinking about the issues raised, but even after eleven days of contemplation, i’m left with far more questions than answers.
Disregarding some of the red herrings in the essay, what i take to be the underlying critical questions are,
1) Is life worth living?
2) Is it ethical to have children without having an objective answer to the first question?
For some perspective, the following are my favorite of however many of the 1258 (and still counting) comments on Singer’s post that i read that address either the first question or Singer’s main question of whether it is ethical to have children knowing that they will have to endure the pain and suffering that are an inevitable part of life.
There is the positive perception of human existence:
It’s the striving, not the fulfilment, that brings satisfaction, at least for mankind. –Phil (Comment #255)
And the negative:
Those of us who have not shot ourselves in the head are either delusional or cowards. I am a coward who wonders is everyone else really so delusional? Or are we just telling each other that life is worth living when we all know we remain alive because nature has selected for those who fear death the most, and nobody wants to look scared. To me it seems like saying “I meant to do that….” after a gross error or pretending to enjoy the flogging you are recieving for appearances sake. Does the flogged man live for the spaces between the lash? Or does he live for when the lashing is done and he can finally crawl away and die knowing he made a good show of bravery? Either way the whole thing was just torture. –Todd (Comment #54)
I think the happiest i was between elementary school and college was in 9th grade, when for the first time, i had a close-knit group of friends. Before then, i had gone from best friend to best friend, once valued friendships dissolving for no particular reason, but in 9th grade, three of my friends and i had the time of our lives in Bio and Phys Ed together. Actually, i don’t know if they enjoyed it as much as i did, but those two consecutive class periods were some of the best times i ever had. We each had our own friends too, and we were never a foursome—the kind of group where if one member was missing, an outsider would wonder why. Instead, we were simply four girls enjoying school, without any obligations toward each other, but still valuing our time together. I wish i still had that, but there’s nothing i can do about the different paths that all the people who enter my life take.
I guess i’m writing about friendship because it’s an area of my life in which i fail so miserably. I don’t know what happened as i grew up, but with each year, it gets increasingly difficult for me to make friends and keep them. Does this happen to everyone? I wouldn’t know, cos i don’t have any friends to talk to about this. Okay, so that might not do justice to the few friends i still do keep in close contact with, but there’s something to be said for those rare but palpable quandaries when i find myself needing to talk to someone other than my parents, and i can’t help but ask myself, ‘Who is the most appropriate friend to talk to about this? Who is actually available? And who wouldn’t mind taking an hour out of their busy night to talk to me?’
Don’t get me wrong; i have great friends who care about me and whom i care about in return. And some of them would probably be offended if they knew such trains of thought run through my head when i need them. But there’s still a lot that i miss about my childhood friendships.
A birthday isn’t a celebration of your birth;
it’s a celebration of why you live.
Friday was my birthday, and it was… different. It’s the only one i remember enjoying. It’s not like i was ever miserable on my birthdays, but i just never assigned much importance to them. I don’t remember my childhood birthdays, but for the last eight or so years, my attitude was that it’s only another day in the year, nothing to make a fuss over. My parents would ask me what i wanted, and i’d reply, “I don’t want anything. Who cares about birthdays?” I’d hate having to have my mom’s seaweed soup (a traditional Korean birthday soup), because i hate seaweed soup, and she’s not a good cook. I used to threaten her that i’d stop being her daughter if she made me any. But this year was different.
I didn’t do much. I woke up at around 5pm, wrote a few emails, and headed out to FedEx to send out my last document for a job. UPS was supposed to come by my house to pick up something, but instead of knocking and picking up my package, the delivery man just stuck the mailing label on my door. (UPS, you have a lot to learn from FedEx.) Then i went shopping with my parents for “teacher clothes” (more on this in another post) and finally had the ddeok-bok-ki i’d been craving for weeks for dinner. The ddeok-bok-ki was really good, but the draft beer tasted strange.
And so, it was an altogether unremarkable birthday. But i was strangely happy, and it was only yesterday that i figured out why, when i was up at my usual summer pre-bedtime hours in the morning. I’m at a point in my life where i’m perfectly satisfied. I know where i wanna be in a few years (grad school for Philosophy), and i know what i wanna do before i get there (teach). And now that i’m closer to making that dream of teaching a reality, i feel completely at ease and confident at the same time. This is the perfect opportunity for me to take some time off, get away for a while, make new friends, and also have a bit of time to myself to read and practice philosophy in preparation for grad school. And i value this opportunity because it’s what i wanted most.
Filed under love, personal