Dogged unrepentant childlessness

I stepped out of the pizzeria into the night and took leave from my friends. I felt like gambolling down the street to keep some warmth in my body against the outside temperature. My lightweight jacket was definitely not enough to fend off the polar air that had hit the town for a few hours.

I jogged and ambled intermittently until I got to my house. My running shoes made me feel nimble and added a springy feel to the ground, but I also felt excited by an idea I’d tried to put forward during the table conversation. I’d never stated it forthright and I was not prepared to do so tonight. I hoped it didn’t make me sound like a hopeless grump.

The talk was about love and family, and I said I wouldn’t like to have a child – in itself no outrageous statement, since having an offspring is not considered a social or religious duty anymore, at least in this part of the world. But it’s probably the justification that laid bare some disconcerting thoughts of mine.

We were all taught that love is what makes parents give life to their children. But I say it’s primarily in response to a natural instinct that man falls in love and begets, and not for idealistic purposes that we may have devised to single man out from other living creatures.

Life is a struggle for survival, be it on the individual or the collective level, and we instinctively act to preserve our life and the human species, hence the explanation to our sexual behaviour and the desire of parenthood. Besides, there are other pent-up motives to procreation, such as breaking the immanent boredom of life, or baser selfish reasons. Suffice it to think of those countries where social security is not in place or developed yet, and having children is considered as an insurance for one's old age.

True, the scope of human actions can be enriched by ideals and inspired by altruism. A parent usually does pour lots of love on his creature and goes through tremendous sacrifices to raise it. Still, we have to accept the fact that man is an animal and his behaviour is no different from any other living creature’s in this world. At heart, love is not that sublime motive that makes man give birth to his progeny.

I wouldn’t be loath to take charge of the burdens of baby-raising: my refuse is not due to an attachment to a hedonistic lifestyle. I wouldn’t be insensitive either to the charms of a new-born and the blast of energy it would bring to the family. However, I fear some couples have a child because they need to give a meaning to their life or a boost to their partnership. And if they can’t bear one of their own, they are ready to shell out huge amounts of money to adopt one, a luxury typical of rich countries where even a child can be purchased.

That said, I hope that not wishing for a child will turn me into a selfish person. But, should I feel bored and need change, I think it wouldn’t be fair to play with another person’s life. I’d feel the tremendous responsibility of giving birth to a creature that I had wanted to exist in order to satisfy my yearnings and would be doomed to live in a corrupt, polluted, base world, more and more removed from nature. It would stand fair chances of being unhappy, suffer morally as well as physically - as I, we all, have done. And if the worst came to the worst, an endless range of misfortunes would be ready to poison its existence: ailments, disabilities, traumatic experiences are all set to make a man’s life hell. And I haven't still said that life always comes with a death ticket attached.

What has made me think like this? Past experiences and a modern-day outlook on life that is less and less filtered though the rose-tinged glasses of religion have produced a reasoning that was borne out by personal observations. I call it a rational approach, and it’s probably nothing but a cynical Weltanschau. Sometimes I wish I were still able to believe in fairy tales. If this is asking for too much, it would be just enough to believe in one fairy-tale, the one that explains life.

What I’ve said is realistic, but I realise this line of thought should not take the upper hand and I want to keep looking for the romantic side of things. For all I might say and since we are here, I believe life can bestow upon us beautiful moments.

That’s how it went tonight. I was prone to being provocative and I managed to see my interlocutors’ dismayed expression. I may have shattered many peoples's dreamy vision, but one silent answer to a rhetorical question of mine was enough to confirm that even my friends agreed to the hard truth of what I was saying.