Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Sometime last year, I came across a quote from late American president John F. Kennedy: “To have a child is to give fate a hostage.” It’s a bleak, profound observation, especially coming from a man whose family — although he’d never know it himself — became near-synonymous in the American culture with both extremes of fate, of lofty success and tragic misfortune.
But Kennedy may have been paraphrasing a similar, albeit more cynical statement from Sir Francis Bacon, English statesman and philosopher, who acidly claimed:
“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune, for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works and of greatest merit for the public have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.”
Kennedy, however, did not seem a man for whom Bacon’s declaration held much interest; the historical recollection is that he found little but joy in his two living children even as he held in him the heartbreak of the two he lost before he could ever know them. He seems to have had within him affection for both the public and for his own progeny, and believed that he could do good works, of great merit, despite Bacon’s contention that such a feat was unlikely.
Since the last time we celebrated your birthday, you have become a person so much more like yourself that you’ve become somebody else entirely. You remain filled with mischief and laughter but have developed speed and agility to match your daring, and the glimmers of previously imperceptible wit that come tap-dancing out of your mouth upon words and sentences, that experiment with facial expression and remarkably timed gesture. You have evolved from adorable chaos to adorable deliberateness, have developed your first obsessions with trains and airplanes and cheese and noodles and Elmo and the sounds and images of jazz.
There’s no real method of quantifying love, and those who would say otherwise have no true understanding of the concept. I can’t tell you why it seems that I feel more for you as time goes on, in part because I thought I’d somehow hit the ceiling of it; I didn’t think it was possible to love you Infinity Plus One, Infinity Plus Two, Infinity Plus Three. It is, perhaps, a reflection of both how vast is the uncharted terrain of you and of how much deeper goes the well of my fear because of it.
Because yes, you are now and for as long as I live the hostage given to fate, the leverage that the world will have over my every decision. And daily, and hourly, and minute by minute there will be a negotiator on the phone with fate, pleading the case for your safety in a standoff that can never be better than stalemate, for which we are aiming for a lengthy duration of capture rather than the possibility of return. I’m a humanist by nature and strive to see the potential in each other member of my species, but for all save you I have not been given the access to watch as that potential develops into actual, and then to extrapolate that actual into hope.
There is always a fear because there must not be a foolishness, and when the fear is face-down the flipside of it is fight. I’ve always been ready to fight for you and as I know more about you I know more who it is I’m fighting for, know what about you must be defended and preserved, know what it is within you that is worth more than the petty matters and materials that others claim as sacrosanct; ephemera that will be forgotten save for moments among your generation and those to follow filled with curiosity as to why such things were considered deserving of such passion, such violence, such invective and iconography.
Thus it is that today, on your second birthday, I promise you that I will fear, as I have already promised you that I wouldn’t lie to you. But as you are now two, I will promise you a second thing as well: I promise that my fear will never overtake my pride or your wonder. I will teach you how to survive, and you will teach me how to venture, and we will walk through places both dark and light together for as long as fate does allow us both to do so.
Love, and courage, Dad.
Current Music: Ramin Djawadi, “North of the Wall”