By Richard Ammon
May 15, 2011
Within 24 hours last week a dear friend’s mother died of old age and my nephew and wife gave birth to a baby boy. There may be something profound in this cycle of life and death but I’m not sure. Is it just human anatomy changing forms? Is it an exchange of energy fields unknowable to us? Is it anything at all beyond itself?
Wiggly considerations aside, it all seemed irrelevant for a while this afternoon as I held the three day old critter in my arms, holding his little softball-sized head from flopping to the side, his sweet lips puckering and pursing, tiny nostrils breathing in the spring air, an occasional lifting of his lids to reveal his blue eyes not yet focused on what’s around. His tiny fist held close to his mouth–the mouth that sought lunch from mom a while later, first from the left breast then the right. Suckling silently.
So incredibly vulnerable is the birthing days of a human being, the most endowed creature on the planet but the most helpless to start. And, ultimately and not sadly, helpless as the rest of us breeding and feeding, making and thinking, learning skills and gaining wisdom on the planet.
In an ideal world I would feel hope for this child to be nourished, directed and able to choose honesty and compassion as his life motifs, but the world he is headed into gives me pause. For all the wonderment of his birth there is caution in his future as I could feel it in my heart as I held his soft pink head.
As a ‘gay uncle’ I know first hand the evils that overtake once-healthy youthful minds and bend them into hateful homophobia. I hear the twisted talk of many (not all) religious leaders who are supposed to guide us toward a more loving world while declaring my personal way of being as an “inherent moral evil.” I see the blindness of ethnic and racial madness that slaughters millions. I read of the cruel financial corruption in big enterprise. I know the ferocious humiliation of poverty and the toxic indifference of wealth.
This is not the world I want my nephew to learn from–yet he will.
As an antidote, I want him to learn the names of the trees around him (as my grandmother taught me) to study the planets, to learn the language of the sea, the sounds of the forest on a rainy night, the adagios of Mahler, the vibe of OM, to learn stillness in the great arc of his life and his death.
William Wordsworth’s 1802 sonnet ‘The World is Too Much With Us‘ laments the crushing world of materialism and cynicism then–and marks our present civilization:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon…
The poet’s great lament is today’s lament. He longs for a more natural way of being, in harmony with nature, adorned with benevolent mystery.
So too will I, as I can, lean this new child toward benevolence and nature and great art–but also advise him how to be wise in the world, to defend again too much “getting and spending”. And own a good dog, like Heather and Bing.