Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.

date night and the meaning of life

with 2 comments

last weekend, before we found out about piglet, our neighbor d’vorah came over to babysit zack so julia and i could go on a date night and see a movie. it was a very nice offer gratefully accepted, though i also think d’vorah, who does not yet have grandchildren, really enjoyed playing with z-dog before she put him to bed.
while waiting for the film to start in the semi-dark majestic bay theater in ballard, julia and i flirted a bit, asking get-to-know-you date questions. we played "would you rather…". for example, i asked her, "would you rather visit paris or bangkok?" she said paris, a city she loves, over a city she’s not yet visited. "interesting," i teased her, "does that mean you prefer the safety of the familiar over the risk of the unknown?" "no", she teased back, "i just dig french men." which, of course, is completely ridiculous.
so we are now faced with a real life "would you rather" sort of question: would you rather know when your child is going to die, or just have it happen unexpectedly? sitting in doctor lewin’s windowless office thursday while he ran us through the scenarios, telling us the best course of action is to just wait as long as possible, julia hit the anger stage: "you mean there’s nothing we can or should do?!" she shot out, face flush red and tears streaking her cheeks. "if we can’t do anything except live in fear, then i don’t want this baby. i don’t want to fall in love with her more and more every day, only to know that she could be gone at any moment. i can’t take that, what’s the point? how could i ever tell her to brush her teeth, or do her homework, knowing she won’t live long enough to have her teeth decay anyway or use any of the knowledge she gains? what’s the fucking point?" at that moment julia’s answer to the "would you rather" question was clear: unexpected death is better.
the paradox is we all know that everyone dies eventually. so why does the issue of timing seem to matter so much? how much life is enough to validate the effort? if piglet makes it to 20, would that be enough? maybe, so how about 10, or 5? where’s the line between enough life and not enough? of course, just like julia digging french men, trying to define the line is ridiculous. life is valuable because in the end it’s the only thing we’ve got. any bit of it is enough.
then why the pain over the early death of a child? perhaps it is biological. we are wired to have our genes continue in the species, and when we bury our child we also bury our contribution to the gene pool. we become a gene eddy that spun off, perhaps with much energy and promise, but one that eventually just ended. the pain of the child’s death is that it denies the parent the hope of continuity, and the parent has to confront that reality.
but it’s a biological fact, not a spiritual one. while sitting in our dining room, the first room julia and i remodeled in our first house together, we talked about what was happening. i brought up a scene in revenge of the sith, the latest and last star wars movie. annikan is haunted by dreams of the death of his wife padme and their unborn child. his fear overwhelms him, driving him closer to the dark side, and in turmoil he seeks yoda’s counsel: "let go of what you love," yoda says, "and fear to lose them do not."
the path to the true side of the force is a spiritual one. it leads to the recognition that we are more than just our bodies and genes, that everything and everyone belongs not just to a physical but also a spiritual world. this belief is what makes it possible to let go of those we love, to not fear their loss, and to appreciate every moment we have with them.
no matter how brief.

Written by nealfreeland

July 9, 2005 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Easier said than done, but yes – a wonderful post. I your last few paragraphs explain why I was so enthralled with RotS – I understood Anakin and his desire to do anything and everything possible to protect and keep those he loves alive. I understand that fear. I understood why he did what he did – and while I don\’t know I could go so far as to say that I agree with it, I definitely understand it.


    January 3, 2006 at 7:34 am

  2. From a friend who shared this Buddhist wisdom:

    Do you see this glass? I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. But when the wind blows and the glass falls off the shelf and breaks or if my elbow hits it and it falls to the ground I say of course. But when I know that the glass is already broken every minute with it is precious

    Mr X

    July 19, 2012 at 8:46 am

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