[This cat, like all babies, doesn’t even care if you’re happy.]
I think last week the world happiness statistics were released and, of course, the US fell back in the ranking even more behind Scandinavia and the Netherlands. We’re still way ahead of Venezuela though, so there’s that. Around the same time I found this piece—a German study of some kind showing, incontrovertibly, that having children will make you more unhappy than divorce and even losing your spouse to death. If you were looking to be happy, having a baby and living through the first two years of that baby’s life (the study stopped at the two year mark) is the worst possible way to do it.
Even my own children apparently agree with this important scientific discovery. As I said on the podcast on Monday, my child asked rhetorically, out of the blue,
“Aren’t babies really prideful?
‘Cause cats are really prideful.”
She’s not wrong. Both babies and cats are really prideful, though it never occurred to me to compare these two manifestations of vainglory.
The trouble, as always, is the defined expectation of happiness—a commodity most of us are eager to experience in the short term. I want to feel happy right now, so help me, and all of you should stop thwarting me by inserting yourselves into my way.
I happened to read this brilliant piece last night (don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I can stitch these two things together even against their will) exegeting some modern songs that I had never yet bothered to notice. Katy Perry’s ‘Roar,’ for example, had never crossed my cyber path. I listened to it several times just to be sure. It’s not quite as wonderful as ‘Oceans’—but then what is—being more cogent and a little catchier, but on the whole, I feel it was an hour curiously spent, especially as I could have been doing the laundry.
Bring in baby, or any person at all, and the bright cgi jungle is laid waste by an army of half empty coffee mugs and earth destroying bright plastic toys. The colors are the same, but only because you haven’t slept in years. The roaring isn’t yours any more, its the awful child commanding your life when you would rather be doing literally anything else.
In this bright, vapid world, of course children will make you desperately unhappy. Everyone will.
I always like that clever irony of God, using the most prideful selfish creature on the earth—a baby—to cure the prideful selfishness of humanity. You crash into a person who takes over your whole world, whose every cry and gesture captures your body, mind, and soul. But as if that saving unhappiness were not enough, he himself took the selfish in-turning nature of the person, from conception, and healed and restored it. All babies are prideful, except Jesus, who was perfectly humble.
Tragically, of course, the best way to be happy is to be completely humble. There probably wasn’t anyone as happy as Jesus, nor as sorrowful either. He never grabbed at happiness in the moment. He never grabbed at anything. Except maybe you, out of that brightly lit, garish garden of your own desires. He drags you along into a cluttered room with a lot of other people—all of them as difficult and bellowing as you—and makes you alive, and ultimately happy, by the gracious nourishment of suffering and humility.
Having children won’t make you happy, for sure. But neither will anything else on that last day, except Jesus.