Why Having a Baby is Like Finding Religion

It’s stupid, really, the euphoria. You have just done something that will, let’s face it, ruin the rest of your life, created something very, very stressful that you can never quit, never abandon, never even contemplate second thoughts about, something that will cause you worry at least once a week, and for prolonged periods more than once a week. You have committed yourself to a life of worry. You have limited your freedom. You have just spent a quarter of your earnings. Forever. And you are happy about it, not just happy but actually high, in a state of wonderment and awe, happy just because it’s so odd to have created this proto-human that looks a little bit like you.

This is biology at its very worst, forcing you to feel things you know to be irrational. The whole experience – that overriding of reason by muddy primal urges, the inability to fight moods you know to be unjustified – is illuminating: it’s an insight into what it’s like to be a woman. (Women, I think are like this most of the time. But maybe that’s just the women I know. Or maybe just one woman I know.)

I think the primary reason for the euphoria is what philosophers have called the sentiment of the esthetic. It occurs when you are in the presence of the beautiful and you are convinced by it that the experience is transcendent: That is to say that it represents something more than the merely beautiful. It represents the spiritual, the mystical; it is evidence for the existence of God, etc. So, for example, you’re alone at night at a cottage in July and it’s totally silent except for the bullfrogs and the sky is bright with stars you’ve never seen before and you realize, inhaling your Scotch, that you are more than just geographically alone, you are cosmically alone, and this sense of smallness and insignificance becomes in that moment evidence that there is Something Larger, that there could only be some kind of cosmic force that created this moment of pure awe. This is a fake, a natural sleight of hand. You have been fooled by beauty. You have been moved by an esthetic moment somewhere else, into a fanciful reflection; you have read something else into it. Because we are all so sensitive and vulnerable to the esthetic. It’s a weakness religions have massively exploited.

This is a great effect of the beautiful – it inspires reflection — and it’s why we find art so powerful. I’m not against the inspiring effects of the beautiful, I’m just saying watch out for where they lead you, intellectually.

They lead me to to staring at my son’s face for far too minutes at a time, in fascination and amazement and – here’s the irrational part – pride!

Image courtesy of niz noz.

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