To Their Moot Issue
Had we but world enough, and time,
This indecision were no crime;
We would sit down, and think, and weigh
The pros and cons, our long life's day.
You'd watch the lads-turned-dads, matchside,
With wistful awe; I, with the fried
And frazzled mums would freak. I would
Disdain myself a "hopeless dud",
While you should, if you please, amuse
Yourself with video games and booze.
My anxious reticence would grow,
Skirting the all-too-final "no";
A decade more of muddled haze
Would not one future chance erase.
Two hundred years we'd spend in jest,
Three thousand questioning what is best,
And, should we settle it at heart,
We'd chill, an age, before we'd start.
Our maybe-child deserves such state –
Nor would we rush to procreate.
But at my back I always hear
The murmurings of near and dear,
And cohorts eager to decry
Our state of fruitless unity.
To duty we are duly bound;
Delaying is a fault most frowned
Upon. The time is now – to fly
This long-preserved sterility,
And utilise my uterus
Before it gathers too much dust.
That clock they cite ticks on apace;
We're barely even in this race.
Now, therefore, while our youthful hue
Evaporates, like morning dew;
And while the prying world conspires
At every turn, to bend and ply us;
Now let us yield to social sway,
And now, like weary, hunted prey,
Rather concede the fertile hour
Than war against its short-lived power.
Let us rule all our fears, and all
Our quandaries, inadmissible,
And bear the existential strife
Of being party to new life.
Thus, though we cannot make our son
Stand firm, yet we may still have one.
Carolyn Whitnall, 2014. (With apologies to Andrew Marvell!)
The theme has proved a fruitful one for my various poetic endeavours, light-hearted and otherwise. So ... I have worries ... and they're not entirely irrational, nor entirely selfish. Personal challenges aside, the responsibility of "being party to new life" is a rather gulp-inducingly weighty one. In the words of the famously wise 'Preacher'...
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)Need I say more? I mean, wow, this world ... this world! And me, barely muddling along as it is ... entrusted with a fragile, precious, struggling, conscious little being ... looking to me (well, to us) to guide and nurture through said terrifying world? Really?!
And so I seek passing solace in parodic purges, as is my wont. But I do recognise ... I do ... that such a 'take' on the question is not very faith-filled. In my wonderings around the subject, I stumbled on a really helpful short article by the excellent Tim Keller, elaborating on the radical transformation of singleness, marriage and procreation when viewed from a Jesus-centred perspective. "The Christian gospel and hope of the kingdom-future de-idolized marriage", he states, and quotes from Stanley Hauerwas' book A Community of Character:
“One…clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.” (Hauerwas, p.174) "Singleness was legitimated, not because sex was questionable, but because the mission of the church is ‘between the times’ [the overlap of the ages]…We must remember that the ‘sacrifice’ made by singles was not [just in] ‘giving up sex’ but in giving up heirs. There could be no more radical act than that! This was a clear expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family but by the [kingdom of God and the] church” (Hauerwas, p.190). “[Now, in the overlap of the ages], both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life . . . that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope . . . that God has not abandoned this world.” (Hauerwas, p.191)Powerful stuff: "a sign of their hope ... that God has not abandoned this world"... YES to that, and some ... and boy do I want/need to grasp the realness of it, whatever my (our) own unfolding participation in this unabandoned world turns out to be. "For God SO LOVED the world, that He gave HIS only son..." (John 3:16a, emphasis mine). How's that for reason to trust Him? -- even (should the occasion arise) with the future of a person whose primary human care-provision would be one-half myself ...
[Thumbnail image cc from uppityrib on Flickr]