Sunday, May 20, 2012


Yes, Proctor & Gamble is one of the Lesser Satans. Yes, the Olympics has become a loathsome concatenation of greed and cupidity. Yes, advertising in general is the Devil's Siren Song.That said, every so often the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, say something very touching. And this is one of those times.

You don't have to have a child hoping to be an Olympic athlete to appreciate the little fable recounted here. Just think of your own mother or father and the lifetime you and they have spent building. Or your own son or daughter.

I think the best description of the entire business of taking an embryo and producing a man or a woman I've ever read comes from a very sad little science fiction story called Aftermaths by Lois McMaster Bujold. The setting is what amounts to a graves registration party recovering the bodies of those killed in a naval engagement in deep space. The speaker is laying out the body of a young enemy soldier that her assistant has reviled as "garbage".
"Not at all" said the medtech. "Think of all the work he represents on somebody's part. Nine months of pregnancy, childbirth, two years of diapering, and that's just the beginning. Tens of thousands of meals, thousands of bedtime stories, years of school. Dozens of teachers. And all that military training, too. A lot of people went into the making of him."

She smoothed a strand of the corpse's hair into place.

"That head held a universe, once. He had a good rank for his age."
I think you know of our struggles with children and parenting. I have no idea of yours, but I do know that there is no such thing as "easy". So on this ridiculous corporate fiction "Mother's Day" let me just say that there is a virtue in doing the right things, even if they are done in a parlous way, in a difficult place, for the wrong reasons and for no better excuse than hope and desperation. The grace is in the doing, and not in the hope of reward.

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