Poetry Month: Looking Back on a First Born

I can finally understand why young guys sometimes leave their families.

The beauty of a woman, as stirring as that may be, is one that keeps you staring, makes you desire to ‘have’.

But the beauty of your own newborn child is different.

The longing you feel is too great.

Looking into his eyes you see your whole past, and your whole future all at once, yet pure and unadulterated, like looking straight into the face of God; too glorious.

Those who say it’s the fear of responsibility or that men don’t want the commitment are sorely mistaken.

Watching those small black pupils dilate while your face slowly comes into focus compels you to be more committed to them than you are to the idea of breathing.

It’s more the deepest desire to do right by someone that makes your skin feel like it’s going to melt and your eyes burn right from their sockets.

Yet like Jonah, running will only make it worse for the face of God hunts you down and brings old men to their knees, frail and unfit to face what they are now forced to face, though they thought they had evaded it in the days of their youth.

Fools run in terror.

For it is truly terrifying.

But those who stay must be willing to die.

Die to oneself, and now live wholly for another.

 

Life has been a bit crazy, and I’ve realized that the older you get, sometimes the less ‘with it’ you can become about the latest fashion or trends. I just found out that it’s poetry month. I don’t really write poetry, but on occasion I pen something down that others tell me sounds quite poetic. This is something I was compelled to write last year around this time, after my first son was born. It was quite an overwhelming experience. As the birth of my second child is days, if not hours away, it seems appropriate to share it now. I think what’s written above sums it up.

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Quote of the Day September 5, 2013: “Self-interest and Altruism Point in the Same Direction.”

Today’s quote comes from the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun than You Think by Bryan Caplan. I don’t know much, or anything about the author, and to be honest I’ve only read the first 15 pages of this book. I was visiting my in-laws recently and they have hundreds, perhaps thousands of books. When I get some down time I often pick one off one of their shelves and give it a whirl. As I poked through their collection this one stood out. I’m pretty sure because babies are on my mind now that I have a 7 month old around the house. Just like being married, or anything else worth while for that matter, he’s a lot of work but incredibly rewarding. Now that I’m counted among the billions of parents in the world, I notice all the talk about how to teach, how to discipline, and even thoughts on how many you should have.

Many people today suggest that you should only have one, two or at the most, three children. It’s simply socially responsible they would say considering our culture’s obsession with overpopulation. And it is true as our globe now supports more than 7 billion people, that the number boggles the mind and has visibly risen by a few billion in many of our contemporary’s life times. Some say they don’t know much about population but for them personally, the thought of many kids, or even kids at all seems way too burdensome. But then there are others who say just the opposite. Children aren’t work. They are actually enjoyable. And as far as being socially responsible, the only responsible thing is to have children, and lots of them. This is the position the author Bryan Caplan takes.

When he says, “self-interest and altruism point in the same direction,” he’s saying that it is actually in the self interest of the few and of the many to have more kids. Individually he says that the reality is that kids are work, but not nearly as much work as they are made out to be. Also that they are a lot of work when they are young, but long term they pay off dividends in adult friendship, those who will take care of you when you are older, or even assets in a family business. Long term views aside, they are actually quite rewarding in the day to day as well. Also many people are far too worried about “screwing up” their kids by not being the perfect parent. His view is that the odds are kids end up turning out more or less normal anyway and that parents obviously should be careful to instill work ethic, knowledge, and values, but that they shouldn’t give themselves too much credit. Kids will turn out more or less fine. Also statistics say that most people who have kids, when asked later on in life, say they wish they had even more and very few say they regret having kids altogether. Meanwhile others who did not have kids usually say that they do, in fact, regret not having kids.So he establishes that it is in an individual’s self-interest to have more kids than they would have.

Where it links with altruism is that he also makes quite a case in favor of the idea that the more our population grows the better life will be. He is quite convincing (even if I end up not being in this little summary). He contests that we are not becoming overpopulated, and that historically, humanity has always and only flourished as our populations have increased. The more humans means the more ideas, and more solutions to the problems of the day. More exploration and more support from back home. More humans may mean using more resources, but it also means more of us to discover how to utilize the more resources that we need. Also he notes that in the 1940s there were 10 workers to every 1 senior living on social security. Today there are about 5 workers to every 1 senior. This trend means social security and other programs like it that depend on the young to produce so that the old or infirmed can be taken care of are on their way out. If we as a nation had more children in a macro sense, we could ensure that the pyramid-type programs we have set up have a base to remain sustainable. And on an even more macro and nationalistic note, countries, historically and statistically, that have viewer than 2.6 children per person cannot sustain their own numbers over time, simply due to the normal death rate that all countries experience. So if you think of the United States, for instance, as an island with no people coming in or out, only deaths and births, every person on average would need to have 2 to 3 children to simply keep the same amount of people around over time. Now since countries like the US are not closed doors, if US citizens have fewer kids than necessary to sustain their own numbers, the continent of America will not cease to be populated, but instead it will be populated by other cultures that do have more children.

I supose this could be viewed as a good or a bad thing, depending on what you think about American culture and what you think about the cultures that would overtake it. Either way it is an interesting view about having more kids is selfish, but it is also very generous and altruistic. We often think of those as mutually exclusive terms. I won’t get into them here but there are many economic theories and social and theological approaches that share that view. Obviously the self-interested who rob a bank, or commit a murder are doing things in self-interest alone and they do not actually help others. But there are other behaviors that accomplish both apparently.

They Won’t Want to Admit It, But Post-Millennialists Believe in Aliens

Now this thought won’t fit all subscribers to Christendom’s post-millennialism, but it came up in one of those late conversations with old friends from college and it seems to be something that is an interesting ponder.

Obviously anyone who has read the Bible understands that it is a collection of ancient writings of all sorts of genres that fit together somehow around a common theme; that is the story of a God who created a world that became corrupted, and that God’s desire to restore that world back to the perfection He first created. There’s poetry, and proverbs, personal letters, and historical narratives. Many of the events that can be read about seem like everyday occurrences, but there are also many puzzling and mysterious events that can only be described as supernatural.

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In the modern world, many of us are more empiricists than we like to admit, and dismiss many of these supernatural tales as a confused people attempting to describe things they didn’t understand. Yet many of us believe that while we may not understand, those events still did occur. Either way as Christians we have written precedent for the strange and unusual.

Pre-millennialists, as in those of us who are waiting for the rapture to whisk us all into heaven any minute now, have much less reason to believe in any type of life on another planet; at least not life that we will ever come into contact with. They view the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible to be a prophetic telling of the events that will happen leading up to the end of the world. There are many confusing elements, but there seem to be no extraterrestrial players, save for spiritual ones, in the various battles and plagues being presented. Their view of the story ends with Jesus returning and saving believers from a mutually assured destruction that is man-made. Now I don’t propose to be one of them, but there are those, assuming this view of a man-made war against God is correct, who feel they have a pretty good handle on this prophecy and that it doesn’t leave much room for any little green men.

Post-millennialists on the other hand, probably wouldn’t like to admit it, but they are confronted by another possibility. There are obviously many different ways to view what I’m about to explain, some of which may of course not allow for what I’m about to suggest, but the basics are this. That Revelation was a prophecy, but it did not talk about the end of the world in some distant future, but about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem that took place not long after the book was written. Setting aside the possibility of it being a dual prophecy, which most don’t subscribe to anyway, this would mean that there is no book that outlines events, generic or specific, that will occur in the future. This opens us up to all kinds of possibilities.

The basic post-millennial idea is that the world was plunged into the darkness of sin with the fall of Adam. With the death and resurrection of Christ the overreaching effects of sin have begun a reversal. Satan was once the ruler of the earth but now Christ is. Why is there still so much pain and suffering and unbelief? I’ve heard it explained in this way: Picture a medieval kingdom that was once ruled by an evil prince. Christ then stormed the castle and vanquished that prince and established his own rule. Christ is now seated on the throne, and technically rules over all the land, but it is now the job of his various knights and those under him to go out into the deepest reaches of the kingdom to share the good news. So there is already a new ruler but the entire countryside is still in darkness and ignorant of the fact until the good news is brought to them. Things will get better incrementally as this news spreads. The view is that this will take years and years and indeed it has taken us already about 2000 years to see the “progress” we’ve seen thus far. It may very well take another 2000. The idea is that however long it takes, eventually the entire world will becoming Christian and then Christ will return. (For all you cool theology majors out there please spare me the ticky-tack comments about how I missed this and overlooked that, that I know you guys are just itching to leave, and go with me on this one.)

So since this view has no imminent demise for all of mankind in its sights, and it views things like technology, and medical advances as the natural course of a world that was once plagued with evil and demons but is now being renovated back into perfection, one generation at a time, this idea of advancement or just the longevity of humanity is left wide open. And just like how the discovery by Europeans that there were people already living on a once forgotten continent way across the Atlantic had no baring on their idea of how God and religion worked, so we should not let the idea that science and even the discovery of extraterrestrials shake our faith.

We often think that since the Bible doesn’t seem to mention physical extraterrestrials that it is speaking against the Bible to even suggest the possibility. After all, if they did exist the Bible would have mentioned it. Well why do we think that exactly?

The Bible does of course give great insight into not only the workings of the soul, but it also hints at concepts and facts in math, and physics, and biology, and psychology and a whole host of others that weren’t rediscovered by the western world for millennia. I would say that the facts found in the Bible are true, but that they are not exhaustive. God left so much out there for us to discover, with His help, on our own. God did not say that there was a dark continent on the other side of the ocean that had people living there that needed to hear about His son. He told us His story with a particular people and how he sent his son to come and that his work would be to conquer the entire kingdom, and then it was our job to go and reconcile that kingdom, far and wide, to the new ruler, the original ruler. It would be centuries later that our ancestors would discover, what to them at the time was described as, an entire new world that had always been there, and perhaps always had inhabitants, but who were still sinful, and still human, and still needed to hear the good news of the new ruler, just like us.

Would it really change things at all to discover another new world, a new planet, with inhabitants, also effected by the darkness of the old kingdom, who needed to hear the blessing of the good news as well. Sure we’ll argue and fight and try to force each other into being subservient, but that’s what creatures who struggle under the old regime do. God, who created the universe will still be overseeing it all from his eternal vantage-point, and his word will still ring true. Just as a whole earth full of people once existed, yet God chose to speak with a small and insignificant band of slaves, the Israelites, to use them to eventually bring light to the entire world. Perhaps the entire world as we know it may one day function as that small and insignificant tribe that will bring light to an even larger array of created beings.