Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, November 03, 2014

What If?

Every now and then my sleeping mind decides to mess with me and send me the most improbable visions. And so last night, or rather, in the early hours of this morning after baby had settled down again and stopped twining his moist fingers in my hair, I dreamed that during our senior year of college, after we were already engaged, Darwin broke it off to marry the most incongruous person, someone I haven't seen in years and years, a very nice girl who didn't deserve to be dragged into my strange subconscious. And they lived in married housing in my dorm (Steubenville doesn't even have married housing, y'all) and I had to walk past their love nest every day, watching them settle in to a new cozy life with plans and dreams I couldn't even understand because they were so unlike what he and I had planned together, and I was disgusted because why on earth would he throw me over to marry her? I had to figure out what to do with my life now, because suddenly being married wasn't the next step. And then I woke up because Darwin's new alarm, which I haven't subconsciously tuned out yet, went off, and the baby was finally sleeping peacefully in the strongman position.

I hate these kind of speculative counterfactuals, even in dreams, because they're so unconducive to happiness in real life. Playing "what if" with events that are unchangeable (and in this case, not even real events!) is generally a useless exercise that distracts from the practice of choosing the right course of action in the present moment. I'm not speaking of matters like disaster preparation, which is a series of practical what-ifs for the purpose of making a plan. I'm not speaking of historical analysis, which allows us to see what went wrong for the purpose of taking correct action in the future ("What if the Titanic had had enough life boats?" "What if I had left ten minutes earlier so I could have arrived at Mass on time?") I'm talking about speculation, a practice of not just examining, but re-creating events to make them less like truth and more like my own image and likeness, to make them more emotionally jerking or satisfying or full of dramatic portent. And I hate it because I myself am an inveterate mental storyteller, always crafting scenes and dialogue in my head for amusement, for entertainment, to ward off boredom. Creating stories is well enough when it comes to reflecting truth in its many facets. It's not well enough when it draws me away from truth, when it becomes revisionist, or a source of grievance, or an idle collection of fantasies.

So instead of building up an alternate history of how my life would have gone if Darwin had really thrown me over to marry What's-her-name (whom he's never even met!), I lay in bed and took the only moral action that makes any sense in light of a bizarre dream: offering prayers of gratitude for the good gifts God has given me, not limited to my sweaty baby, my mediocre pillow, the two cats by my feet, and my excellent husband who had the good sense to marry me.

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