Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Why the Birthrate Will Continue to Decline

Dear Octavia (the new site muse--I think she is some kind of urban literary scenester):

I don't have many topics anymore. Or at least I don't have many topics I contemplate in an in-depth fashion anymore. I am essentially the person in the video below, which one of my Facebook amigos, who has evidently come to terms with modern masculinity in a way I have not yet been able to manage, recently  shared with us:

Now I don't know anything about this guy. Perhaps he is happy. Perhaps his wife loves and respects and admires him the way we all want, and superior men expect, to be loved and respected and admired. This wallowing in the tropes of contemporary middle class fatherhood might be just a show. He may have a fully developed adult life and a serious and essential profession or field of endeavor. His soul may not be crying within him that his existence has been reduced to doing endless amounts of laundry and playing with babies. Indeed, my impression is that in many instances this is not the case. I don't believe it though. Such men as have legitimately above average levels of testosterone or competitiveness or ambition or other intellectual or creative energy or maybe just perception of their own dignity, that is to say, those who have more attractive options for passing the hours of adulthood, easily have the strength and position to say no to all this. They have more important and worthy things to do, and what's more they are able to convince everyone around them that this is indeed the case. Men who live like the prototypical modern father, I am quite certain, exist in a constant state of deep confusion. Life can make little sense to them. They are playing a role that deep down no one really prefers them to play, themselves especially, yet they see no way to reclaim or assert a single vestige of their natural sense of who they are, or should be. Yes, you will say this is the lot of nearly all people, that no one thinks him or herself put on the earth to be primarily the companion and caretaker of non-prodigious children, but that the course of our lives, especially one so far advanced as my own, has revealed to each of us exactly who we are and what roles we are suited for in the drama of existence, and that it is in our best interest to be happy in these. I am quite certain that any such severe sense of disconnect from one's proper self must have its basis in something real that the person has lost the means of conveying meaningfully into his day to day existence.

A few months ago I wrote about a Soviet ballet (Don Quixote) that I had seen a movie of. One always had the impression that in the days of the Soviet Union, in spite of that regime's many abominations and propensity to throw any number of its most deeply serious and brilliant artists and intellectuals into the gulag, to maintain a level of high culture, by which is meant a critical mass of individuals both learned and proficient in various classical high arts and academic disciplines at an extremely high level, the fruits of which in the ordinary discourse of daily life among such people was found enviable and astonishing by numerous Western students and journalists who spent time among these circles in Moscow and Leningrad during the 1960s and 70s (or among the exiles who settled in New York during the same period). A common despairing lament in these reports was that Americans of the time thought Bob Dylan and other rock stars were poets, but the Russians had real Poets (and real every other kind of artist too), all of whom made their U.S. counterparts look like children in every aspect of their existences. This seems to have dissipated with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the opening up of the society to the West, with all of its vulgar and civilization-killing influences, doesn't it? Sophisticated cultures are obviously like flowers that cannot survive in the state of unbridled nature if weeds are to be permitted to swarm unabated all over it. I know it will always ultimately be argued that these cultivated people were failed beings as long as the regime, which ironically seems to have been the safeguard protecting their level and kind of intellectual development, survived. I am obviously of two minds about this. Serious people from the old Soviet Union as well as similar people from present-day societies with comparable governmental repression but apparently, for certain fortunate classes, sophisticated educational systems, such as Iran, clearly do not envy us our mental development--they may sometimes claim to envy our innocence, i.e. lack of mental development, but I don't think they can really mean it (and by 'our' here, I mostly  mean 'my' of course, as other of my countrymen seem to be better off than I am in this regard, though I do perceive that foreigners' perception of us is as kind of universally lacking, apart from a tiny sliver of genuine geniuses at the very top of the pyramid). Maybe in the 1940s and 1950s Americans were capable in their naivete of deriving a joy out of life that was inaccessible to peoples more hardened than life but I don't think that joy, or kind of joy, is accessible to us anymore either.

No comments: