(Because sales tax totals are still falling, not rising.) And why unemployment will remain high through 2011, into 2012. And why there is a possibility of another recession in 2011, after a year of economic bottom wandering or minimal weak growth. John Mauldin explains, with spreadsheet and charts, at InvestorInsight.
Major Hasan reportedly handed out copies of the Koran in the months preceding the massacre. He was also known for opposing US intervention in Iraq and for urging Muslims to fight against the US. During the shooting, he apparently was shouting in Arabic. Want to guess what he shouted?
Meanwhile, the Army is stressing that Hasan, a psychiatrist, treated combat veterans for emotional disorders and he also didn't want to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The emphasis on the mental and emotional profile of Hasan is an effort to find the source of his murderous behavior in psychiatric disorders. But isolating his mental state is an analytical fallacy. All behavior is over-determined. Psychology and mental and emotional disorders exist as part of the social and cultural fabrics. We should look to the context in which Hasan thought and believed. It was not necessarily the Army that put the pistols into his hands (they were apparently not military issue). It was not necessarily a mental disease that pulled the triggers. It was, most probably, Islamist fervor and Islamic Jihad that, to speak metaphorically, handed him the guns, loaded them, brought him into the graduation audience, and led him to kill a dozen persons in execution style.
As a nation, we have seen over the past few years an increase in conspiracies to attack the American home-based military as a contribution to the world-wide Jihad. The enemy has reached into America on the ground before. We shouldn't assume all attacks will come from the air. We are seeing insidious, death-seeking pseudo-religious ideology at work. Islamists wish to demonstrate there is no place in which infidels can hide.
We are warned. Much much worse is coming. Imagine one or two shooters like Hasan in a New York City elementary school.
Major sectors of the economy remain severely depressed--or still deep in recession, if you insist. The mortgage crisis, involving the subprime mortgage securities, defaults and foreclosures, and falling housing prices remains essentially not solved. Housing prices have fallen so far that one-third of mortgage holders in the US are now underwater. Furthermore, analysts estimate that we are only half-way through the foreclosure wave; that is to say, we have as many houses remaining to be foreclosed as have already been foreclosed. Wealth in homeowner residential real estate continues to be liquidated. That needs to be repeated. One of the two major assets on which consumer wealth is based is being liquidated, with no end to the process in sight.
Falling housing prices do not mean that buyers will now flood the real estate market to take advantage of bargains. Many consumers who would be interested in bottom tier houses are not good credit risks. And loan standards are being tightened.
Furthermore, credit delinquencies continue to rise in all basic sectors--commercial real estate, residential real estate, and consumer credit (cards and personal loans). Maybe this rise in credit defaults will level off in the third quarter, but there are signs that the crisis in commercial real estate is just beginning to gather steam.
And be reminded, unemployment continues to rise. While the rate of increase of new jobless has stopped rising, the economy is still shedding jobs. Analysts are saying that many of the manufacturing jobs will not come back, so in some sectors (e.g., male blue collar employment) unemployment will remain high for structural reasons for years to come.
These conditions indicate that many consumers are not able to pick up their level of consumption, to start spending, and thereby indirectly stimulate orders to manufacturers (and remember that many of those manufacturers are not in the US).
Finally, inflation is likely to begin, with food prices rising up and oil prices rising, as soon as there are any indications that the recession is bottoming out. Inflation will rob consumers of money they would otherwise spend in ways that would benefit retailers and manufacturers.
The liquidation of consumer wealth, the continuing increase in the unemployment rate, the ability of companies to increase production without increasing employment, speak to continued consumer weakness. Also coming up, increased taxes as the Bush tax cuts (which included significant cuts to the middle classes) expire in 2010--and Obama has pledged not to extend the tax cuts. Tax increases will further remove spending money from the consumer. Robert Reich, Clinton Secretary of Labor, opined on NPR today that the upper class--say the top 10% of households by income--will start spending to take advantage of lower prices. I guess he forgot that Obama has pledged to tax that class more, thereby removing their spending money. So what is going to drive economic recovery?
Although I was surely influenced by my father's machismo, and by my mother's guidance of me, I was conscious of the limitations of my father's posture toward the world. Nothing seemed more obvious to me; and, undoubtedly, dealing with these limitations, and consequently trying to fashion an image and achievement of my manhood for myself, dominated over my acceptance and even quiet admiration of restricted aspects of his manliness.
For it was clear to me that his assertion of manliness had propelled him into a career that was dangerous and directly place him into accidents. And--further--it was clear to me that male strength and perserverance were less important than cleverness and strategy. Surely a man needed to be strong--and stronger than women--to heft logs around, to drive horses, to winch down a chain tight around a truck's load. But just as surely this strength was inadequate in itself, and useful only as it guided machines. A one-ton log, a one-ton dozer blade, instantaneously overwelmed even a strong man's strength.
And where my father did employ strength to force a solution--as in repairing a lock, or a transmission, or fitting a joist--he more often only succeeded in destroying the device or breaking a solution.
And for all his muscular strength, developed over a lifetime of hard labor, what did he get out of it ultimately?--a weakened heart and heart attack.
Did he know that male muscular strength is to no avail against the world, without intelligence, planning, cunning? Without strategy?
Muscular strength serves only the body guided by intelligence. Muscular strength serves to give the body the endurance, patience, calmness, control over panic needed for mind to operate effectively, with least distraction. Physical fitness, and building the muscular body to maximium [maximum] potential has the purpose of building a safe enduring home for the mind. A man cannot have his "wits about him" when panting for breath, or muscles spasming from over-exertion, or legs shaking.
And intellectually my father's life was one of missed opportunities, of failing to take advantage; in a word, of failure of wit, of cleverness.
And this inherent weakness, due to his misunderstanding of human muscular strength, was compounded by continual tragedy. Tragedy of sufficient power to have overpowered any person.
No doubt my relative physical late blooming served to bring this message to me. I was unable to compete equally with my classmates, and realized my only arena of effective competition would be, for some years, intellectual.
The problem with this understanding for me was that it provided no implicit guidance to "being a man." Being-a-man meant machismo like my father. I had to develop my own convictions, alone, that being-a-man could also mean paternalistic caring, love, physical strength controlled in love for love, without also believing in the myth that destroyed my father, that muscular strength is a solution to a man's problems.
I do not mean to imply by my sad account of the difficulties in my parents' relation (about which of course I had such a partial view) that the blindness did not also elicit some tenderness from my father. Certainly, the duration of the illness, the severity of the change in my mother's life, the extra burden placed on father--a man not mentally prepared to assume a large homemaking role--and the self-sacrifice required of him (of which the sexual sacrifice, for a man in his mid-30s, was not easy), all this during a time of extraordinary employment difficulties for him, were great enough to tax the patience and strength of any man. Yet, he was capable, in all this, of great tenderness. I remember vividly father reading out loud novels to mother in the evening. I used to listen--this was usually after S_ [my sister] went to bed--until father started reading Grace Metalacious's [Metalious's] Peyton Place. When he got to the passage in which Allison feels her breasts in front of a mirror, I was informed I could no longer listen. (Since I had to have been at least 13 or so, a distinct impression may be obtained of my parents' reluctance to deal forth rightly about sex with me--at the very time my mother is requesting me to be the guardian of her sexual interests!)
I am sure there were many other such moments of sharing, which would have provided a human balance to the tensions in their lives.
I do not know how long was required for mother to adjust her life with art to her blindness. I know that she was taking pastel painting lessons while I was in high school. And at one point, when family finances were low, she was able to sell some of these paintings.
Her vision was not sufficient to paint landscapes from life, but she was able to interpret calendar photographs of New England scenes. I can recall her working at an easel, in the kitchen and dining room of the Sunset Lane house [Silver Lane in Sunset subdivison of my home village]. One pastel she did was of a man drawing sap from a maple tree into a bucket; she had father pose for the figure, instead of copying the photograph figure.
Another pastel she did was of a stag in a forest. She put a dark-small-smudge on the neck, which was where--father said--if he were to shoot the deer, he would aim for (in order to spoil as little as possible of the deer's meat, which we ate in those long, poor, and lean Winters).
She also did one of the Christmas Cottage in Jefferson.
The paintings were--I now realize as I look back on these years--important to me. I understand them as having created a certain mood of romanticism and celebration about the out-of-doors lifestyle and employment of my father. The act of drawing these scenes invested the moments, the persons, and landscapes with a nobility. I have a curiously unanalytical, emotional aura surrounding my attitudes (emotions surrounding emotions), about being in the out-of-doors.
A curious romanticism and celebration since it was precisely this out-of-doors work and life that three times severely injured and nearly killed father, which never gave him secure employment, and which he was forced to leave while still relatively young (his late 40s). And it was a curious romanticism for my mother, since she was always afraid for him when he worked in the woods.
(Fountain pens disappear with amazing regularly around this house; and are rediscovered with somewhat less frequency. I have this image of a large--and invisible--hole somewhere in this house, with a bushel of pens at its bottom! This italic nib turned up two days ago; nestled among a large, coiled bunch of Blue Chip stamps in the kitchen.)
Anyway: on to mother's story.)
Mother's and father's relationshp was strained, as it had to be, by mother's invalidism and the side-effects of the medicine. I am sure, and I was then aware (I wish I could date all this with greater precision than 1954-1955, if these years are even correct), that father found mother less attractive; he definitely was allured by the charms of a neighbor, J_ D_, a mother of three and a talkative, young, attractive woman. My parents socialized frequently with the D_, so father and Mrs. D_ saw much of each other. Eventually, Mrs. D_ came to visit and stay late in the evening, after my sister and I would have gone to bed; and after mother, also, would go to bed, since her medicines made her sleepy.
One day, mother talked with me about father and J_, and asked me to watch father, on her behalf. I don't recall precisely the words mother used, but they gave me the clear impression that father and J_ would become amorous after we all were in bed. I was told to stay up as long as J_ was visiting. That evening, I tried to do so, but became increasingly embarrassed. After a while, I went to bed, figuring that, fundamentally, I did not want to babysit my own father, or chaperone him.
On another occasion, mother told me that father had, on his way to work, been stopping at Mrs. D_'s home--which was then an apartment she and her husband, and children, lived in before they moved into a new house in our neighborhood.
I know that this episode confused and embarrassed me. Of course, I was sexually inexperienced; I was barely entering puberty; I don't think I had even dated a girl. I had an aware[ness] of girls-as girls, and I understood a fair amount about the mechanics of sexuality (having had sex education talks at boys' camp and having read medical books in my mother's library). It must have complicated my relationship with father, in ways I still do not fully understand. My relationship with father deteriorated badly in my early teen years, and undoubtedly this long episode was one ingredient--among many--causing the deterioration.
And inevitably the episode alienated me, to some degree, from mother. I know I came to resent that she involved me in what was manifestly--and I knew it then--none of my business. Why should I have anything to do with the sexual relationship of my parents? My emergence, subsequent to all this, into teenage sexuality severely strained relations with mother, and my resentment over this early episode hardened the tension, later, between us.
Once my mother returned, she adjusted to her blindness in ways I can remember. She was visited by a member of the state Society for the Blind and given the address for talking books. When I came home from school, I would sit in the living room and listen to these recorded novels and stories with her. I remember her clear pleasure in my company; and I remember my pleasure as well. I recall one particularly effective science fiction story we listened to together.
Mother rejected the idea that she should take up many [any?] busy-work activities prescribed for the blind. She was vehement and bitter--in the hospital, for that matter--in her rejection of potholder-weaving, which some blind welfare lady had recommended to her.
Mother had worked as a practical nurse and had considerable talk [talent?] as a pastel artist, before her blindness, and she did [not] relinguish easily or happily her pleasure in these activities.
She had considerable resistance to using a cane, marked (red and white) to signify she was blind. Eventually, however, after (I believe I remember) being nearly run over, she agreed to use the cane. When she had--a year later?--recovered sufficient vision to see large but indistinct blocks of light and shadow, she ventured a trip downtown. She asked me to guide her, by taking her arm. I was greatly embarrassed. I am ashamed of my reaction--I had always been. I don't know why I was embarrassed. I felt ashamed that I had this blind mother--as if somehow she had willed her own misfortune on herself to make herself an object of ridicule to our village. At all events, I took her arm and guided her downtown.
It has never occurred to me to inquire as to the source of my embarrassment. Was mother herself embarrassed? Were our neighbors embarrassed? Did I in part reflect their feelings? No, I don't think so; it must have been mostly the unfeeling and shallowness of [my] youth.
I look back on this episode--any my feelings during it--with considerable regret. I wish I had been able to give my mother the emotional strength and sympathy and support she needed.
My sense of the time of mother's recovery is unclear. By the time I was in high school (1956) she had some reasonable vision back--she couldn't read, but she could see indistinct forms on television. She had become attached to faith healing on television. She began to pray. She began to make more insistent demands for religious faith from me.
[In the margin of the journal page, I later wrote in differently colored ink:] See mother's chronology ...
For all the time I lived with my parents, I went to Sunday School at athe Church of the Holy Spirit, a little Episcopal Church. I was confirmed and became an accolyte [acolyte], sang in a choir and frequently carrried the cross in processions. Despite all this outward observance, I never felt inside of me any belief in a god nor in Jesus; I could never be moved to feel a commitment to a personal savior.
Of course, mother knew all this and urged me to "accept Jesus." My "failure" to be converted, beginning at this time, the mid-1950s, when I was twelve or thirteen and she newly blind, introduced a major tension and discordance into our relations. Repeatedly--and I mean repeatedly, daily--she made my practical conversion a mission of her own. By the time I was in high school, this was intolerable and made me long to escape from home. It undoubtedly stifled my natural sympathy for her condition by putting us into a combative, adversary relation.
When I entered my intellectual coming-of-age in high school, my intellectual analyzing and philosophical tendencies made me more aggressive in rejecting mother's religous views and values. The situation became circular, with each effort of each of us to justify our position strengthening our resolve and making the circle wider.
The situation became so distasteful to me and bespoke so much of my mother's unwillingness to accept me as a peson and adult on my own terms, that eventually only complete separation made it possible for me to be at peace. Although I have occasionally written [letters to my mother?], I can honestly say, I don't enjoy phone calls with mother--she (still!) pleads with me to convert, making every call unpleasant.
Her vision may have slowly--fortunately--and partially recovered, but her blindness only deepened.
My mother's life has been as much of a medical tragedy as my father's. But whereas my father was the victim of accident as often as disease, mother was exclusively the victim of disease (well, I have forgotten the broken back ...). I wish I could say of myself that I was a sufficiently large person to have risen above the difficulties in mother's and my relation caused by her illnesses to have dealt directly with her, the person who suffered; but I cannot. I carry some burden of shame that when my mother was weakest and needed all the care of those around her, I could not respond. True, I was only twelve or so, when her blindness occurred, but I understood what was going on, and could not respond.
During my last, or next to last, summer at Camp Belknap, my mother and father visited me--perhaps the only visit of my five summers at this boy's camp. It was a sunday--I believe. I remember we met and talked in the early afternoon in the open-air chapel, in the pine grove on the hillside that sloped from the cabins and playing field to the lake.
[In a marginal note in differently colored ink, I later wrote:] Mother remembers a different chronology for her illness; ... ]
I don't recall whether I was then told the nature of my mother's illness; I was told that she was going in the hospital. She seemed to me--though I had no sense of the magnitude or consequences of her illness, sad and distance [distant]. Smiling at me through the distance of her own thoughts. I did not visit her at the hospital, Mary Hitchcock Hospital at Dartmouth College in Hanover, until the summer was over and I had returned home from camp.
Her illness: high blood pressure had burst the blood vessels in her retina, causing blindness. She lost nearly all her sight for a brief while, and was limited to the vaguest stimuli of light, but without vision for years. Her sight improved slowly after a few years, and perhaps as long as a [as] ten years later she could see well enough to try driving a car. Though after nearly running down some pedestrians, the state took away her driver's license.
The medication for the illness helped her, but it had unfortunate side effects: she grew dark facial hair and became obese. She went from being a beautiful high school girl, in her memories, to being an ugly sick woman.
Of course, all this changed her personality. She turned to faith healing and an insistent literal Christianity.
Her relationship with father deteriorated. Father was never a paternalistic--in the sense of nurturing man--and caring for mother strained him; of course, during this time, the mid-1950s, his own job fell apart and our new house burned, placing a great strain on father's finances. Highly conscious of her ugly physical appearance and her inability to fulfill father sexually, mother became jealous of other wives, convinced father was attracted to them--which he was. She shared her fears for father with me.
In the midst of these tragedies and disasters, I entered adolescence, and tried to deal with mother, at the same time I tried--had--to deal with myself.
I can remember going to Hanover, several times in the fall 1954(?), to visit mother at the hospital. I can recall once that I could not visit her room. At home, father employed a young woman to look after S_ [my sister] and me when we came home from school and to prepare supper. I was quite upset all the time, and I was not nice to her, generally refusing to allow her to please me. I remember only one pleasant experience with her--making our own frozen "TV Dinners."
I have no memory of the events, the day, or my emotions, of mother's return home from the hospital.
Why have children? This has always struck me as a bizarre question, but I can recall in the late 1960s--as zero population growth and feminism coincided in their strident ideologies--that many of my earnestly intellectual acquaintances asked this question. And pushed it sincerely. That the culmination of love between men and women in the bearing of children, and the biological reproduction of ourselves, should become ethically problemmatic to an entire class of educated, secularized youth signalled, so I always believed, widespread moral and personal confusion.
As a question--"why have children?--was a free effect of technology. Modern science provided the oral contraceptive to women, and the fact that they did not have to bear children, as a consequence of intercourse, permitted the query; even more, impelled them to ask why they should. A generation which so ably sorted out the relation between technology and ethics in warfare in their criticism of the Vietnan War, was completely unable to sort it out when the question applied to themselves--to their conveniences. I [believe?] we are always morally blind when our own interests are involved.
The question was never a vital or real one to me. It has never occurred to me that individuals do NOT have a right to reproduce themselves, and to do so completely free of governmental interference. If this freedom makes me "conservative" on this question: so be it.
But I have, at the same time, been intrigued by the question, partly because it was unavoidable; for years, there was scarcely a party during which the question was not heatedly raised. Recently, my and E_'s decision to have a child has awoken memories of that debate. I have discovered that the question can be asked in a new way. L_ wanted to know, as the new variant goes: "If I am a career person, and, if I cannot [read: do not think I will make the effort to] devote the time to raise a child, why should I?"
Happily, she has found in herself the need to have a child and so joined me in making the commitment. Still, what answer does one give? The question may be ultimately meaningless ethically--if everyone did not reproduce, human life would cease with current generations. But in the tortured context of our era, so many souls are misguided and convinced of their rationality, that an honorable person cannot refuse to try to answer the question. And answer it so as to try to persuade them.
I found that persons who think they should not, in that aggressive sense, have children, generally were not open to rational argument. And they did not appreciate having pointed out that they were confusing technological possiblility for moral obligation.
So after a time, my interest in the question became only personal: why do I want children? What is the connection between desire and need, if there is such a connection at all, beyond the purely natural--hormonal--drive to reproduce?
Asking the question of myself, I have discovered over the years, an answer. Or rather, answers. And I have been surprised to discover that these answers touch close [to] the very meaning of myself as a moral being.
For a long time, my question settled itself upon a simple fact of my emotional nature, or upon what I thought to be a simple fact. That personally, I feared death--or hated death--and felt within me a powerful drive to defeat death: to assert myself as life against death and death-dealing in the world around me. It was, as if having successfully passed through [emotional turmoil] in adolescence, and not succombed [succumbed] to that continual flirtation and testing [...], I rebounded strongly to push back the forces of death that had pressed in upon me: to push back laziness, entropy, disinterest, mediocrity, and mere repetition of forms: all the manifestations of death in our hearts and in society. To assert life against death was not merely to live, but to live forward, to live with a vision of excellence, and to live right.
While this realization of my essential moral nature grew in me, at the same time, I slowly perceived that this moral nature was part of a larger moral plan in me--a larger moral movement in my life. So that my deep desire and love for children was not merely to increase the battalions of the living or keep at a distance my own mortality, but to accomplish a larger objective in living.
I think I now understand the psychological origins and genesis of this plan, and of its various ingredients, so I can speak it out and know the shape it takes.
I am convinced, I believed, at the central core of my heart, that the future of mankind is in doubt. As a simple fact: we have the means of great--if not universal--nuclear destruction, and there is little evidence that we have the wisdom to avoid this fate. So the moral question of the societies of the northern hemisphere is to construct, or to find, meaning for themselves against the probability of this fate. Against the probability of a fate larger than mere personal death and suffering and smaller than the Christian mythology of an apocalyptical end of the world and second coming and judgment.
Of course: this vision is too horrorifying [horrifying] to contemplate. And because we--Western society--do not contemplate it, we do not prepare ourselves for it. Even lack of preparation is not a deliberate choice, but a path of avoiding thinking about it. The probability of nuclear holocost [holocaust] raises--as life and death do, anyway--the question, how shall we live, in view of the real possibility of the end of man?
But this social question of how to live is more than the question of how to live when we are faced with our individual deaths. For nuclear war is an end, not only to ourselves personally, but to our progeny, our future generations. So our choice of living and dying is not for ourselves alone, but [for] all who follow us. We choose for all mankind, in a sense.
The question of how shall we live, as we live for all mankind (Kant's categorical imperative turned interrogatory), can be asked in a variety of ways.
I choose to ask this question in the following way. When I choose to act for myself, I may choose, if I please, to throw away the opportunity to make my actions meaningful, as long as I do not imply anything to anyone else in so doing. If I choose [...] to commit suicide, this suicide is a private act, implying nothing for men in general.
Choosing to do nothing or to do something about all mankind in view of a nuclear termination--an atomic suicide--is not, in contrast, a private act. For I am choosing also for others. Social suicide is not a private act.
Now, supposing that mankind should be chosen by me to die in a nuclear suicide, what question would they ask of me, supposing I could make such a decision?
They would ask, if they could, in the final moments of society's existence, as the white fire-ball of nuclear death rolls over the West, why have I done this? What meaning for their lives have I imposed on them by making this choice for them?
Or (generally--I suuppose--), what does it mean for mankind--for Western civilization in the northern hemisphere--to die by nuclear suicide? What did the life of Western culture mean, if this was its result?
Or--what does man mean, in view of his capacity, indeed the probability, because [of] his lack of wisdom, for nuclear suicide?
Or--how will we turn out? Will we pass through this awful time?
What does this have to do with having children? From this perspective, having children is necessary--desired--in order to provide another generation to answer the question, whether mankind means anything?
I feel--from the deepest part of my being--the necessity to create children, teach them the basic values, to give them the message of men's choice, in order to perpetuate my--theirs--our opportunity to learn whether "all this" means anything.
I feel as if Western man, Western society, were a sinking ship, and the act of having children were the act of putting a few chosen persons into lifeboats. Set adrift in the lifeboats, with limited rations and no compass, they may not survive. But--then again--and this is the hope--they may. And they may--this is the further hope--survive long enough and in a way to discover or to create the meaning of life and history of man in general.
Children are "giving ourselves one more chance" to find meaning.
Children are "one last opportunity" to learn the answer to the dying man's question: Was love enough? Was it enough for Western man to have lived that he should have discovered the ideal of love, or any ideal at all?
And, of course, only children can answer this question for us. Because the answer must be given by someone else to us, by the future to the past. "Yes, love was enough, because your love was what gave us the opportunity to answer your query." That is the answer we hope to hear.
I know the origins of this long emotional fantasy. From my earliest childhood I have had recurrent dreams and daytime fantasies about nuclear war, with me as a lone, or among a band of lone, survivors. These fantasies--after the horror of the vision of violence and destruction from nuclear war has passed--reduce themselves to the following scenario:
Home destroyed. The landscape a burned and charred wasteland. With a few other persons, I wander the landscape in search of other survivors. At evening campfire, the circle of light in the blear night, the small band of survivors struggles to keep alive the values of Western life itself: the supreme value of the individual life, of love, of the opportunity to discover or to create meaningful life by free choice to act. Life, liberty, and love. To maintain these values in the midst of disease, of radiation sickness, of death, of the sterile landsape, of man's effort at collective suicide is an act of assertion and faith. An act of faith. If Western man had these values and still chose to enter war, were these the right values? The band of survivors cannot know of course. They can only struggle on and hope that later they, or their children, will discover the answer.
This fantasy in itself has numerous external roots. Fundamentally, of course, it is a Hebraic, Old Testament, fantasy: Amidst destruction and fleeing a cursed home, Moses led his band in the desert wilderness, always with the hope that the agony he and his people felt would be justified by some answer from the angry god as to the purpose of their travail, and perhaps rewarded by a promised land.
Despite the promise of Jesus and the message of Christianity, one strong, hebraic element in American protestantism repeats that Old Testament vision: Man lost, man struggling to maintain moral purity, man hoping to learn--some day--the meaning of all this suffering. Ultimately the meaning of their lives reduces to the question whether they have been chosen for salvation.
This protestant-Hebraic theme has been a strong element in the science fiction literature and movies of the post-war years, of the belief in UFOs, and of television.
For me, all this has taken a strange twist. For fundamentally, I am not a Christian. I don't have any gut-level feeling that Jesus answered the question. Yet, I do feel the question. So I am left in the situation of the Old Testment.
Put somewhat differently, the large moral framework I feel within me, which makes meaningful the assertion of life against death, is the secular version of a religious myth. We create children to perpetuate our status as survivors, in the hope that we shall learn, or learn how to make, meaning of our existence. Having a child is more than a culmination of biology, more than the result of adult love. Having a child is the culmination of our lives as human beings with consciousness. Having a child is providing the opportunity for the future to answer the questions of the past. We ask, is love enough? Is it enough to live and assert life against death? But these are questions the questioner cannot answer. Only some one else can answer. And if it is love that creates another being, then that person--our children, the children of mankind--can answer (so we hope): yes, because love brought us.
The answer to the question, whether it is better to have lived and struggled against death, than to have yielded to suicide, can only be answered by some one else. And by giving that person the opportunity to answer, we are a long-way to getting the answer we want: yes.
In the face of western man's preoccupation with death and probability of suicide, to have children is to hurl the future out of the past, to give us the possibility of answering our question and affirming those values and ideals which are the fullest and best expression of our moral being.
I have so few extended and coherent childhood images of mother that a narrative memory of her does not exist. As with father, I have, rather, a montage of images, all unrelated logically, but carrying--I am sure--some internal relationships only psychoanalysis could reveal.
I have many memories of mother cooking. Most of these images have a visual perspective of my mother as towering above me, standing in kitchens, so the images must date from when I was a small child. I can remember her baking in the Langdon Street house [to correct, given the details of the anecdote, this would have been the Garland Street house], and on one occasion placing fruit pies on a window ledge to cool. She told me to get my friend--B_ D_, who lived in the house behind ours--and we could have some pie. When was this? It must have been late summer; we were playing in lightweight clothes; I can recall the rock wall separating our and the D_'s rear yards (it wasn't covered by snow!). I don't recall mother ever baking with canned fruit, so she must have used fresh fruit--again mid to late summer.
Other cooking memories abound. Mother frequently--I hesitate to say always--had cookies or other baked food and milk for me when [I] came home from school (meaning elementary school). I can remember sitting at a table with her and eating these wonderful snacks. I especially loved fruit filled cookies. After school snacks were such an important part of my childhood that I have tried to perpetuate this wonderful tradition, with A_ [my daughter]. Whenever I have been able to be home, she could return home directly after school, instead of going to a day-car center, I have had a snack and milk ready for her. The sharing of food and conversation is a welcome and reassurance that helps provide a secure emotional base for a reaching out and growth beyond the home.
I have this wonderful image of flour around kitchen counters, and the aroma of yeast, of baked sugar, and warm fruit permeating home as I arrive from school.
In recent years, I have come to understand that this rich, dense tapestry of memories of sensations from childhood is very important to me. I truly don't understand why it is important, but I recognize it. These memories--filled with aromas, tastes, sounds, and emotions--carry with them a sense of large scenes which are not part of them. They fade off, so to speak, indeterminantly, but invitingly, without threat for all their vagueness.
Certainly these home-center[ed] memories are imbued with a sense of security; they are oriented with me at the center. Interesting, I have no idea where my sister was in these remembered scenes, but she had to be somewhere, because these are all school-age memories, and S_ was around by that time.
Other thematically strong memories of my mother are of her when I was ill--as I was so frequently in childhood. I remember her sitting on the edge of my bed; I recall her walking around my bedroom, during the day, and opening curtains, allowing pleasant sunlight to flood in. I had a strong sense of my mother in the ambulance with me when I was taken to Boston Children's Hospital.
These memories are wonderful for their reassurance of my mother's care for me, but they are contrasted to the home-center memories by their starkness, the sensory povery. Most of them are in black and white! whereas the home-center memories are rich in color. And they have no odors/aromas/smells, except medicinal smells. No doubt some of this could be that during illness the sensory system itself is less receptive. But more, I think, is that during illness, the mind draws in on itself, away from sensory-contact, while in good health, the mind reaches out to take in more and more of the world.