Response To J
This is a response to a response which I received to "Dear Abby:" (see CommonPlaces). In that piece, I had emphasized my personal view that life was not a gift, but a loan: that, if at all possible, we had an obligation to pass it on. My response, slightly edited, is included here because, I guess, I still feel quite strongly about the issue. I think the answers make the questions clear.
Thanks for your thoughts about "Dear Abby:" I really like to receive responses to CommonPlaces.
As to the responsibility to have children, I think that there are three points:
1. At some level, life is a lottery. Some are born to be tall, others to be short; some to develop great musical talent; others to carry tunes in a bucket. Infertility is one of those chances. My comments apply to those who are fertile (although there would be a careful weighing and balancing required if one knows that one is a carrier of a really, really bad gene). As Emerson wrote (and I paraphrase): Fate provides the opportunities, free will makes the choices. I was writing about free will.
2. I don't believe that homosexuality, whatever its origin, has anything to do with "passing on genes." If fact, I could argue that since homosexuals, of either gender, are in such a small minority (smaller than most protected "minorities"), individuals who were pleased with themselves, both as individuals and as a group, would especially want to have children, so as to prevent the breeding out of this characteristic. (See Dawkins: The Selfish Gene (1989): He argues that both genes and memes (behavioral traits) are inheritable). I have always encouraged my homosexual and lesbian friends, especially if they are in committed relationships, to have and raise children, either by artificial insemination or through a surrogate parent, or at the least (if not in lasting relationships), to be sperm or ova donors. And some have done so.
3. In my experience, those who worry about being "lousy parents" are the least likely to be so: we have 10s of thousands of generations of parenting instincts, as well as unprecedented information resources and support systems, to draw upon. It is the careless, thoughtless ones, who never give the question consideration, who put children at greater risk. However, parenting is a real commitment: a sentence of 20 years to life with time off for good behavior, as a payback for the loan of life and its experiences.
I finished reading your book of college newspaper essays last night with two regrets: First that there were no more and second that your "senior" year was missing, due to an editorial decision (not yours, but of others). These pieces are, mostly, reflective of an inner dialog - you should continue it, even without the creative pressure of a deadline. I hope that you have (are there later pieces? - I'd very much like to read them) or will do so. I liked seeing (hearing) how your voice developed over the three years and the counterpoint with your retrospective editorial comments, written later. I thought that your pieces on religious themes were especially good - I think that there might be the germ of a book there, perhaps a modern Screwtape Letters (which see) for UUs.
There is nothing to disagree with - writing reflects yourself, in some moods and times, and helps others to know you better. It is a pleasure to encounter you this way!
I was also very pleased to learn that you are both UU and libertarian (both little l and big L). This is true of both Toni and myself. I have always thought that this is a natural combination, but it is, unfortunately, quite uncommon.
For peace and liberty,