In a few days my wife and I will bring another life into this world as we welcome the birth of our second child. I’ve had four years to learn how to become a father, an apprenticeship really, not nearly enough time to figure out much more than the basics: keep them safe, keep them happy, and love them with everything you’ve got.
At times like this, when you’re focused with such narrow precision on a single event, sometimes your mind zooms far out into the cosmos to give you such a sense of perspective as to take your breath away. At a fundamental level my wife and I are doing what life does everywhere, from the forest floor to a sulfurous gas plume deep under the ocean. We are passing the torch of life to the next generation. For my children, what will their world be like? How will they see themselves and the world around them? I hope that compassion, the one thing that separates us from the cruder forms of life, will be thriving. We have enough desire and acrimony already. In my children’s future, will we be able to replenish our dwindling stock of compassion? Can we lay down arms and look our supposed enemies in the eye long enough to realize we all want the same thing: to love and be loved?
Whatever role I play in ensuring my children know how to brush their teeth, tie their shoes, and say “please” and “thank you”, I want one lesson to be learned above all others: be compassionate. It doesn’t cost anything and it doesn’t deplete you. In fact, as many giving and compassionate people have learned, one consequence of selfless giving is, ironically, a feeling of warmth and spiritual peace that rivals any hedonistic pursuit. We don’t give to feel good, we give because we’re all in this together, and because it feels so good we know deep down it must be right.
One more life is being brought into this world. I hope together we can make it a compassionate place for him.