On Thursday, I wrote about happiness and misery as they relate to children, a subject on my mind already because I have a two-year-old son and am expecting another baby any day (or hour) now, brought into focus by a section Paul Bloom’s essay “First Person Plural” in this month’s Atlantic that outlines how deluded parents are to think their kids make them happy. If you don’t feel like reading the entire original post, the gist of it was: kids are kind of the end of cheap thrills, but create happiness for most parents by giving their lives a sense of purpose.
To which commenter TLL responded:
While the raising of children is, I am sure, an enormously challenging and rewarding experience, I think it is unfortunate to think that people view their children as, and believe their children to be their reason for being. This would lead to the more general, though often unreconized belief that human beings exist entirely – or at lease principally – to procreate and populate. Or at least those who have children do.
Having a child is something that nearly every person on the planet can do. It is a shame that most people do not strive to achieve success – or ‘fulfillment happiness’ – in other good pursuits half so vigorously as they pursue child rearing.
Perhaps part of the delusion that having children makes us happy is that it involves another person, and we cannot cope with reliance on ourselves and our own fortitude as ways to bring about fulfillment. As social creatures, it is easy for us to fill the vacant parts inside ourselves with other people. And from what I understand, children are the least likely to leave those parts vacant once they are used to fill that hole.
I’m thankful for the comment. Of course, in the strictest sense, there’s a term for the “belief that human beings exist entirely—or at least principally—to procreate and populate.” We call it “evolutionary science.”1There’s also the biblical god’s first instruction to the prototype humans he created: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), if you prefer that kind of thing, which I do not. Any understanding of our lot that does not consider procreation at least one of the primary purposes of our lives leads to some pretty ugly math for us as a species (the purpose of human life=the rapid extinction of human life).