Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Brick and Mortar

I don't carry guilt much. I tend to own up to a misdeed or a mistake, apologize (when it's called for) and move on, keeping the memory as a guard against a repeated screw-up but releasing the potentially paralyzing burden of "feeling bad."

But the other day, after what can only be described as a surreal encounter with someone who I believe encapsulates all of the worst trends in modern parental thinking (and whose type I see more and more in my professional and personal life), I found myself sitting in my favorite reading chair, not reading. I was thinking and my thinking was grim and this grim thinking lead to a real and a deep feeling of guilt -- a throat-squeezing guilt; a teary-eyed kind of guilt.

The guilt I felt was not over a mistake I can correct. This guilt is one I will simply have to carry until I die. It is guilt over a deed for which I can't really repent. And, God forgive me, no matter how guilty I feel for it, I would never want to change it.

What I felt guilty for was having brought my children into an ugly world.

I know -- people who plan to not have kids always say, "It's not fair to bring kids into this world." It's dramatic. It's usually something they've heard someone else say. Sometimes it's a selfish condemnation of selfishness. But that night, sitting in my chair, my face in my hands, I really felt that guilt -- I felt like a selfish creep for having kids with more regard for my wants than for anything else.

I don't know where else to go with this. I don't want to go into what I hate about the world, because someone else might see what I hate as progress. I don't want to make judgements -- not here, anyway. I'm not really a golden-aged thinker, so I won't pontificate about how much better the world was when I was younger. (It wasn't.)

Maybe that makes my selfishness worse. I have always seen ugliness in the world. Still, I wanted to have kids, so I did.

"The Young Zither Player "-- Vollmar
I don't believe we are born to toil and suffer and I don't think we are meant to give ourselves over completely to duty and obligation. I also don't believe that anyone is bound to the social and governmental systems they were accidentally born into. I have made this stuff clear in other posts.

Where does this leave me? Same place as always.

I'm a bricklayer, really. I take bricks of beauty when I can find them and I build walls to keep out the ugliness. I build walls of poetry, prose, music, love and laughter in an effort to keep the ugliness out. I won't apologize out loud to my kids, but I will make up for what I did to them by teaching them to build, too -- by inspiring them, if I can, to gather things that make them happy and that dim the cacophony of the big, black-smoke-throwing social machines.

It makes me feel good to look at it this way, but, I sometimes have to leave my walls; that's the problem. And, when I do -- when the ugliness gets to me again, the guilt will come back.

I don't want to sound cowardly. But, what can one do but build one's own world? Some people build walls of ignorance or of arrogance or of impotent rebellion. I'm going to make mine out of beauty. Maybe that makes me different than the swaggering jerk who walks out carrying his own walls like a turtle's shell. I hope so.

Point is, I have to venture out. So do my sons. So does my wife. Cripes, even my dog has to. I'm not talking about encouraging my family to become recluses or about teaching my sons to fear the wide world. But, you have to have a haven, right?

Either way, that guilt will remain and it will haunt me until I die, like the throb of an old injury, whenever there is a cold day and I find myself standing in the rain.

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