You gotta serve somebody, part 1 in a series of meditations on being an asshole

August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

I've been composing this blog post in my head for months. I'm never going to get it right in one go. So here's a start.

First, this is a personal reflection, not a publishing thing. I've moved that action to Google+, so there's going to be more of this kind of thing here and less of the industry stuff.

To kick this off, a remark cartoonist Chris Ware made about having children (via @jkottke):

Yeah, it kind of fixed every mental problem that I had within an hour. So I highly recommend it if anybody out there is thinking of having children, you should really, I mean, it's the only reason we're here, and if you have any doubts in your mind about yourself or where your life is going, it'll be answered easily and almost instantaneously. It's a clich'e to say, but it also immediately sets you aside from yourself and you're no longer the star of your own mind, which is really not a very good state of mind to be in. Unfortunately, in my country it is one that seems to be encouraged until about the age of 60 or something, now. 

Never mind the "only reason we're here" bit. Or at least don't let yourself get mad about it. He's overstated the case and I think the irony isn't lost on him. So let's put Ware's teleological argument aside. 

It's his psychological observations that I'm interested in. For me, having a kid threw into stark relief all the ways in which I'm an asshole. I wasn't fixed right away, but I was aware. Especially of how unaware I am most of the time of how I'm an asshole. Thrown into the presence of a person who's a) completely dependent on me, and b) made of very wet clay that hardens a little every day, this kind of insight feels inevitable. The mirror is always there. I thought I was self-aware, but that was just my old "you can't call me out on my shit if I call some of it out first" criticism-forestalling bullshit. Faced with my own offspring, shit got real.

I don't think you have to have a kid for this kind of epiphany, and I've seen plenty of parents keep on being the stars of their own minds while adding their kids as a supporting cast. But for me and Ware, the kid did it.

Maybe it's a question of crisis. When people go through crises, they tend to get their shit sorted. Or at least the general unmooring of everything that comes with a crisis opens the opportunity to get shit sorted. So if you let having a kid change you, if you're open to that, then having a kid comes as a crisis. And that's why what's been on my mind isn't really about having kids.

More later.
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