The kind of adults we become

SATURDAY, 2 JULY 2005

11:35

I am watching a Kevin Bacon movie, and a specific plot line catches me offside for the umpteenth time in my adult life. Now, I know it is just a movie, but it’s not science fiction, it is a dramatised version of a life with which I am sure most viewers, who certainly count in the millions, can associate.

The story goes as follows: a young man who has ambitions to become a writer and who has a view of himself as someone who does not merely want to do the same as the proverbial everyone else marries a young woman whose character is not so clearly developed as her husband’s, but who one can assume has ambitions of a more conventional life. They buy a house in a middle-class neighbourhood. He gets a job at an advertising company and tries to write in the evenings, but does not get much done. He doesn’t really know what he wants out of life, but nonetheless works to maintain the “house” that is his life – a life he has not chosen as much as it just happened as a standard option for which he has taken the right actions at the right times like showing up for a job interview and showing up at the bank to fill out forms for a home loan. He wonders why he cannot just accept himself the way he is, and be satisfied with where he is.

As could be expected, it does not take long before pregnancy and children become part of the story. The man complains that his life is without meaning, and it is increasingly suggested that fatherhood will make a big difference.

The story thus follows a familiar plot:

– Man and woman get married.

– Man and woman are uncertain about the value of their lives in the Greater View of Things (and although it has been mentioned that we do not always live in the Greater View of Things, we also do not only live in the world of sour milk and annoying pop tunes and screaming children – all these things are part of something bigger, and most of us know this). They may even believe that they have to justify their existence. They must show the world that they too are worth something, and that they can make a worthy claim to the oxygen they breathe and the sun warming their cheeks.

– They get jobs somewhere, buy a house, and try to fill holes that doubts about the value of their existence blaze into their consciousness like an open flame would burn holes through delicate rice paper.

– They have children – the joy, the profound change in their daily lives, the happiness and the congratulations from all serve to emphasise that they have reached a good point. They are parents now, which means new roles to play as well as the additional value this gives to their lives in the Greater View of Things. The child or children are raised to initially be like their parents (language, sports preferences, religious affiliation, other loyalties), and to perhaps lead similar lives after a few decades. The whole cycle continues: have children, adulthood, have children, adulthood, have children …

What is my problem with this? I like children! My own sisters have beautiful children and I am happy for them! I may also want to have children one day! What is my problem with this most primitive, most widespread of phenomena? My problem is the type of adults that many people become. And I believe the kind of adults that people become are strongly influenced by the reason or reasons why they came into existence in the first place. [Example: Prince William of Britain: reason for coming into existence: to become king (or queen if the dice had fallen the other way).] If I look at my own case, my own parents may have had me because they had wanted more children for their own selfish reasons. I turned out okay. As an adult I make witty albeit slightly cynical comments on the lives of other adults, I pay my bills (late, but still), and I believe I make my contribution, however small, to the progress of civilisation, or at least to preserve what is good.

Is this not in the end good enough?

I think it is time that I face one of the hardest truths ever: Not everyone’s life is equally important in the Greater View of Things. To have one life with value that exceeds the primary needy-organism-behaviour-to-satisfy-needs model requires possibly dozens of primary models. This is a horrible truth: that my life in the Greater View of Things may be worth more than someone else’s, and that someone else’s life may be more valuable than mine – that my life can be regarded as disposable if necessary to keep someone else alive whose life is regarded as more precious and more valuable than my own. (And I am not referring to the value of my life in the sense that my life has value for my mother, and John X’s life has value for Mother X. I am talking of value where personal relationships are not a measure.)

What this means is that perhaps as many as nine out of every ten adults must produce offspring to give value to their lives and to contribute their share to fulfil the needs of the community in the decades to come (children become teachers and doctors, and road builders, and so forth). One in ten, or maybe just one in every hundred people, does more – something that will transcend their value beyond their intimate inner circle and the labour value they have for the local economy. To produce these one-out-of-ten or one-out-of-one-hundred people, MOST ADULTS SHOULD HAVE CHILDREN. That is how it is. It is time that I accept this.

(Incidentally, the movie’s name is She’s having a baby.)

23:40

Again it comes down to this: there is no universal human value. Each person has to work out his or her own value in the Greater View of Things. If he or she is not satisfied with the preliminary outcome, he or she must take action to achieve their desired value – in so far as it is within his or her ability.

What is your value if you do not work it out yourself, and if you are not among the group of people who are bothered with their value in the Greater View of Things? Then your value is the result of fate – time and place of birth, gender, family, socio-economic status, race, etcetera, needs of the community – X number of teachers are needed, X number of garbage removal workers, and so forth, and choices and actions you take, or have taken to satisfy your needs up until the current moment.

Great. (Possible title or subtitle for an essay: Initially about a movie.)

[Say you work out your own value – whatever that means, and you think you too can be counted among the group of people who are bothered with their value in the Greater View of Things, is this not ultimately also 100% part of your process to satisfy your own needs? One out of every 100 people who will then rise above the proverbial masses do so for the same reason a subsistence farmer plants a potato and harvest it: to satisfy their own needs.]

______________________