A long time ago, my dad told me that babies made us more human. He had observed this in the workplace when somebody would carry in a baby, and the most gruff old male managers would turn into babbling softies, cooing and goo-goo-gahing. In other words, they lost their egos for a moment and became more essentially who they were inside, that person unmolested by the world.
Babies make us more human because they are quite literally the hope of our species. They represent newness: new life, new creativity. And aside from that, they are adorable, and they depend on us. The human spirit emerges in a positive way when it is able to protect, care for, and defend those who can’t defend themselves. It emerges in a positive way when it is able to recognize that protecting, caring for, and defending the weak and helpless is good — far more good than simply living for self.
When the human spirit is hardened, it turns to hatred toward its own offspring. One can see this throughout history, as well as in modern societies that are under stress. When under stress, humans are more likely to treat their children as trash to be thrown away in a ditch, left in a box by the river, starved or suffocated. This occurs especially in impoverished regions, where having a female child can propel an already poor family further into poverty, as expected dowries are so high.
But clearly, the human spirit can be broken for innumerable reasons. When I see this kind of hatred in our wealthy society, I know that it isn’t just poverty that blackens our souls with hopelessness. And I know the patch isn’t simply bringing religion to the people for its soothing salve.
The other day, a couple carried an adorable baby into my workplace. I turn into a smiling happy pile of goo when I see a baby, and so do a couple of my coworkers. I can’t help it; babies make me happy. But the reaction is hardly universal. One young woman, who is ostensibly a Christian, is very vocal about her hatred for babies. She gets angry at me when I tell her I’m waiting for grandchildren, as I have two daughters who are in the 18-20 age range. They need to go to college and have careers and make money and live life, she says. I’ve actually been on the receiving end of that speech from many young women who don’t go so far as to admit they hate babies, but are indifferent to them, or have put them on a low spot on their hierarchy of “what they will do with their lives.” I don’t know how to convince these young women that having offspring is literally living life in its most essential form. When I use language of that type, I get met with bemused stares.
By contrast, I have an atheist coworker, who is rather more nihilistic in her outlook. Having children is meaningless because life itself is meaningless. She doesn’t hate babies; neither does she deny that producing offspring is the essence of living life. She recognizes that we’re born to grow up and reproduce, and then die. We’re part of a cycle for which she can’t mentally detect any meaning.
I don’t fully understand the meaning of life; the soul recognizes that which that mind can’t — and the meaning has drifted from my soul to my mind in fragmented pieces at best. However, what I do understand is what my father told me years ago: babies make us more human. They make us more human because they are our hope. They are the continuity of being human. But because our spirits our hardened, as a whole, we no longer recognize this truth. And ultimately, this means we are inhumane. Despite our giving to charity, helping the homeless, and going on mission trips abroad, we are still inhumane because, as a whole, we despise ourselves, as that is what despising our offspring comes down to.