Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Not to be born is best"

"Not to be born is best
when all is reckoned in, but once a man has seen the light
the next best thing, by far, is to go back
back where he came from, quickly as he can."
-Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus

Last night as I was falling asleep, I remembered how my pediatrician, Dr. Friedman, used to always tell me how he convinced my parents to have a second child (by which he meant me: I am my parents' second child). I saw Dr. Friedman until I was 18 years old. I was afraid of him because his arms were hairy and he never told me what he was doing: one minute, he was feeling for lumps in my stomach and the next minute he was looking in my ears. Every time I went for a checkup, he told me the same story: "Your mother wasn't sure she wanted another child, but I told her--I told her--having another child is the best thing you could possibly do for this family."

For some reason, it always got under my skin. Maybe it was the implicit reference to my parents' having sex (objectively, the most disgusting thing in the world), but maybe it was a reminder of other people's power over me: both my parent's and Dr. Friedman's. They chose to have a baby; ergo, I exist. It's the one thing I can never claim responsibility for: my own existence. Of course there is contingency invovled (who could have predicted that my parents would meet, or that their genes would combine in such a way at such a time?) but there is human agency as well. Not only my parents', but Dr. Friedman's as well. I'm everyone's fault but my own.

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