Life To Come

Sometime within the next three months I shall become a father. So begins the last big adventure, a maelstrom of unequal parts agency and cupidity. On the one hand lies the opportunity to help mold a decent human being, showering himWe have chosen to wait until the birth to discover the baby’s gender, but to make things easier for the reader I will assume s/he will be a she. *Edited May 2015 - it was a boy. with love, and equipping him with the values, traits, tenacity and moral fiber required to live a good, meaningful life. 

On the other lies the awareness that I am incapable of sheltering him from all of life’s cruelties, tribulations, hopelessness and pain; a realization that parenthood entails a degree of submission to the crude determinism of biology and the randomness of fate.

In any event, I was recently enjoying one of my few remaining moments of quietude when — whilst underlining a passage from Herbert Butterfield’s Christianity and History — a thought popped into my head: one day, when I have departed this vessel of flesh for the great unknown, the collection of books I pass on to my childThere may yet be a sibling. will be one of the few tangible manifestations of my memory.

A passage from Herbert Butterfield's Christianity and History.

I suppose this could be construed as a somewhat melancholy meditation, but I found it to be vivifying. Decades from now, I thought, in a world the contours of which no one can foresee, my child may pick up this book. And when he reads a sentence that prompted an underline or an illegible scribble of marginalia, an image may crystallize in his mind of the times I sat in my chair, staring intently at a book with pen in hand, oblivious to the entertainment on television or the sundry trivialities that steal one’s time.

But even more, I thought, if the child absorbs the content of the passage, and experiences a shared moment of revelation, there will be a connection across time. Dead in body, but resurrected in spirit, I may be remembered not solely as a father or a disciplinarian or a man with answers, but now as a fellow traveler in the quest for wisdom.

Perhaps he will come to know his father in new ways, with a newfound appreciation for his humanity — reassessing his strengths and weaknesses, understanding his failures, and finding solace in his moral triumphs and his sins.

Perhaps he will come to know his father as a man who departed this world with few certainties save the love he gave, but a man who believed that if one possessed sufficient curiosity and looked hard enough, some certainties could be found.

All questions for the life to come.