Friday, May 23, 2008

What Were You For?

This is the question that Nuala O'Faolain asks herself in reflecting on Terry Gross's question: how do you feel about the fact that you didn't have children? (Go listen to the interview immediately; I was mesmerized by her). O'Faolain suggests that it is much more difficult to work out the meaning of your life without children. I take her to be saying not that children automatically become the meaning of your life--that is, you haven't finally settled the question. I think that what she is saying is that the need to find the meaning of your life is less urgent if you have children.

One constructs a meaning of their life, regardless of whether or not they have children, and yet, for O'Faolain, you never answer the question, what was I for?

Is it true that having children and thereby entering into a new set of relationships to your partner, to your parents--who know become grandparents--and to your future self makes the existential need to ask "what was it all for?" less urgent?

I am dying to hear your thoughts. I haven't formulated my own yet.