A letter to my unborn son
Years ago I realized that my love was too big. I wanted a son or daughter to complete it, fill it, express and expand it. Your mother and I planned on having you. In this way, you are a work of art. In our hearts, treasures and rooms are filled with love for you. You simply enter. We have set the stage.
I hope you become better than me, and my father and mother, and his father and his mother. I hope you become astounded at your potential, at your potential greatness and genius. I hope it haunts you as it haunts me, and as it haunted Emerson, as it haunted Gandhi and forced him to wake up at 4 in the morning and pray and work for peace and justice, as it propelled Jesus to take a spear as the words “forgive them” was on his lips. I hope you become a better man than me. I hope you have none of my faults, all of my virtues, and much more.
And yet I expect nothing of you at all besides this: be your own man; think for yourself; know yourself and do your duty, whatever that may be. You are your own man. I will be your father and your friend along the way. We are different people.
At your birth, if I cry, I will cry at the fact that you could one day become a great or terrible person; a Martin Luther King Jr., a Henry David Thoreau, a Mother Theresa, a Jesus, a Kant, Newton. I will cry at the fact that, whoever you become, my love will never waiver, never falter, and never disappear. I will cry at the beauty and terror of fate. Why are you here, and yet another baby is born in Togo, Benin, Central African Republic? Why are you born healthy and another addicted to drugs, adopted, aborted, poor and starving?
And as you live in an abundance of love and affection, I hope you learn one day why the good Lord spends his time loving other children, the lost and forgotten children. Perhaps you shall feel that love someday. Perhaps someday you shall look up at the universe with a smile and a nod. Or perhaps you will become an atheist, agnostic, communist, humanist, environmentalist, nihilist, anarchist. The world is big and everything is possible.
You are named after two people. One sacrificed his life for love, and the other constructed a philosophical structure that promoted love and dignity as the foundation of a moral, rational life.
I hope you read. Perhaps above all things, I hope you read. When all the boys are too cool to dance, I hope you dance. I hope you find the world foolish, silly, and yet serious. I hope you are humble, modest, wise and strong. I hope you love your body, brain, mind, and soul. I hope you love them all the same. I hope you help others. I hope you respect others, especially those who are different from you. I hope you become friends with Hindus and African Americans and Latinos. I hope you become an astrophysicists, a teacher, a chaplain, an artist, a writer, a reformer. I hope you become a reformer.
I will teach you how to read. I will help you walk, and ride a bike, and throw a football. I will bring you to your first day of school and your first day of college. I will gladly meet your first girlfriend or boyfriend. One day we will go into the garage and hit the punching bag. We will have the time of our lives! You will constantly say “dad, you are crazy.” And your mother will agree. You will laugh at me and also take me seriously, sometimes. At one time in your life you might reject me. You might think I’m full of shit and tell me to fuck off. That’s okay; it will pass. One day we will go to camp and walk through the woods. Your mother will teach you the birds and plants. One day we will bury our cat Phoenix. If you cry, I will feel joy at your empathy. I will say “that is good that you cry, Immanuel. You are a good person.” Simply imagining that you are a good person almost makes me cry right now. Is that not the point of life? I will teach you how to face confrontations head on, to never gossip or lie, to never be violent and to never be a coward, to be peaceful and brave. I will tell you stories about how your uncle and I learned how to talk, to have conversations, to be honest, to explore our thoughts and share the world. In the end, you will teach me more than I can ever teach you. Odds are you will be much smarter and more experienced than your father.
I have known you for about a year now. My love will grow over the years. Like God, love is infinite and never stops. It knows no bounds, has no conditions, has no fears, is indestructible. If you learn anything in life, I hope you learn that love mixed with truth and honesty is the most beautiful thing in the world. If God is anything, He is truth and love. And if life means anything, it means living in truth and love.
Your dad Matt