I’ve been reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, a collection of essays assembled by Meghan Daum that offers 16 unique perspectives from the childless by choice. Right now I’m not sure whether I will or won’t have kids, but the book has challenged me in other ways. Mainly, my assumptions about other people’s motivations.
I read a really fantastic selection by Lionel Shriver, “Be Here Now Means Be Gone Later.” Shriver illustrates the Be Here Now movement as less hippie-free-bird and more this-modern-life. The woman of the essay both annoys me and reminds me of myself. What I was most impressed with was Shriver’s one-paragraph summation of, well, you be the judge:
To be ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our own private devising. We are concerned with leading less a good life than the good life. In contrast to our predecessors, we seldom ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask ourselves if we are happy. We shun self-sacrifice and duty as the soft spots of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture, or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and we’re not especially bothered with what happens once we’re dead. As we age–oh, so reluctantly!–we are apt to look back on our pasts and question not did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.