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Whose Child is This?
Published on May 19, 2004 By 6969jimbo6969 In Philosophy
THE AXIOMATIC ALGORITHM OF ALTRUISM
A CHILD NOT MY OWN IN WHOM I HAVE A LIFE AND DEATH STAKE


I had already written “We Are Cousins, After All”---on the basis of resarch which demonstrated quite recent common ancestors who all living humans share. From this fact, of family relations among every last one of us except for sneakily planted aliens, I felt powerfully the draw to express adoration for all children. This was a matter of heart, however, since cousins might have even more reasonable bases for competition, and thus all sorts of serious carnage, than the obvious rationale that siblings have for fighting among themselves.

The subjectivity, of this sense of commitment to the well-being of all children, became objective with my discovery of the conception of Mitchell Patrick by my ex-wife and an unkown suitor. I had shown up early, uncharacteristically ahead of schedule, and my two bambinos had yet to complete their preparations for our country white water adventure. Marie, my gracious ex, invited me inside her commodious abode to wait. We chatted a bit, but generally remained silent as we listened for the progress of our offspring, the dust dancing in brilliant September sun shafts.

Our daughter danced in with the sunbeams and placed her head unceremoniously on her mom’s belly to announce, without further adieu, “Mama’s gonna have a baby!!”

Marie, who could have played in the World Series of Poker if she had enjoyed gambling, showed no surprise, though my long acquaintance suggested she had not at all expected this announcement now. “Is that so?” I asked, knowing it was, somehow, but also intrigued, since Marie had not been dating anyone steadily for a while.

She continued to rock in the oaken chair we had once shared, our daughter Katie’s head resting on mom’s stomach and beaming a grin at me. “Yes, he should arrive early next May, I think.”

Thomas, our son, wandered in at this juncture and added, “We already know it’s a boy.”

“Cool!” I remembered that Marie wanted another child when we split up, and most things humanly possible that she wanted she found ways to have, although my theory was that she longed for another girl. “Whose the dad?”

The question hung a little in the silence, that did not ripen to discomfort before Marie snapped in her inimitable Michigan twang, “I don’t guess that’s any of your business now!” She laughed her fighting cackle, and because I wasn’t prying so much as wondering what the prospects might be for a step-father for my two urchins, I backed down and exited for the mountains with a fare thee well.

I hoped that either Kate or Tom would spill the data I wanted---’inquiring minds want to know’ had always been one of my favorite retorts---but instead we talked about waterfalls and natural bubble baths and how long the drive would take, the normal fodder for our chatter. About half an hour along, in order to break up an incipient quarrel between the siblings who put the RIVE in rivalry, I mentioned the delight they must feel to have a brother baking in the oven.

“It’s so COOL!!!” agreed my daughter.

“It’s all right, I guess,” acknowledged my more circumspect, and more calculating, son.

Still getting nothing, I continued, “So! Do you guys know who the dad is?” I waited, expecting nothing, for what felt like a lengthy, poignant period of pause.

“Sure!” they both said, almost in unison, Thomas in particular perplexed that I would ask.

I detected the note, and wondered whether I was missing something, some clue that ought to make the answer obvious, pausing again as I ticked off possibilities. Finding none that seemed even remotely satisfactory, I took the bait. “So who is it?” I laughed.

This time only Tom answered, and I detected Kate’s wrinkled brow of incomprehension from the back seat. “Well, um,” he stammered, “uh, you are, dad!”

Certainly among the many recommendations of a peasant’s existence is the concrete comprehension of the reproductive function that, obviously, Marie’s and my discussions with our children had failed to convey. That this was, not only impossible, but laughable, not just a biological impossibility but a social absurdity with its own very baryard-like component, utterly escaped my little ones. I chuckled, consternation and amazement and bizarre wonder at the hilarities countenanced by the cosmos competing for my attention. “Me?” I tried to keep any hint of sarcasm from my voice, at the same time I was wary of jokes, even from offspring nearly as literal-minded as papacita.

“Uh huh,” came Thomas’s unequivocal affirmation, and as I checked the rearview again, my daughter nodded, albeit still a little uncertainly. Females have more of a sense of such things, from the get-go. Goddess worship needs serious consideration again, if for no other reason than this intuition about basic connections and relations and all the rest of what makes up the social core of our existence.

I equivocated now, feeling that Marie needed to be the one to make this situation explicit, not me. We drove, and my beautiful youngsters slept in order to gather their energies for the rigors of granite rock and rushing water, the May chill at 4,000 feet brutal enough to blue my girl’s lips after half an hour’s engagement, although my stocky little boy could hurtle down the moss covered, 150-foot incline until he dropped from exhaustion any time the temperature exceeded seventy and the sun shone, whatever the arctic nature of the water itself.

As we cavorted like mountain seals or overgrown otters, squealing and crying out as our wonder combined with our fear during each descent into a final icy plunge, I cogitated what response the news of the morning would bring from friends and relations. I knew what my mother would say, clannish and leery of scandal and disrespect as she has always been. “She’s just having it? Aren’t you mortified?”

And although she didn’t use precisely those words, her original feelings approximated these queries. Most folks celebrated the deliciousness of this situation more discretely. I liked my ex all the better for the decision, of course, basic beta male that I am and proponent of all power to connected pudenda, come what may. No one immediately got what came to me in a huge “EUREKA!!” moment as the kiddos slumbered earlier, on our ride toward aquatic release.

I would love to do a poll of people who read and listen to this telling. Who gets the---to me, anyway---incredibly important implications of this event? Little Mitchell Patrick was total PROOF, as undeniable as the necessity of the water in which we careened, that altruism and love of all children had biological primacy among us, at the Darwinian level, whatever the social discomfort that might attach to such situations.

Two supporting premises must also be part of the package, the first of which appears as a no-brainer to many anthropologists, and to me of course. Female empowerment yields both immediate and long term competitive, and hence reproductive, benefits to individuals who accept equality. The second, a longstanding contention of feminist theortists---and of me, of course---is that our survival at the gen level, as a species, depends on our ability to make female and male power more equivalent, male and female sexuality more mutually embracing and engulfing.

In any case, all theoretical nuances aside, this package of protoplasm who would soon emerge as my babies’ baby brother---A BEING WITH WHOM I HAD NO GENETIC RELATION, AND FOR WHOM I HAD MADE NOT THE SLIGHTEST GENETIC COMMITMENT---was suddenly as important to my children, and hence to me, as any other creature alive. If Mitchell Patrick thrived, it had to be to my advantage, just as his difficulty now harmed my evolutionary future.

A yummy and multiorgasmic companera of mine has made the point on several occasions that Binobo Chimpanzees practice something akin to free love for a similar reason. “That way, the really aggressive males can’t start killing the babes at their mom’s breasts.” They can’t be sure that they’re not the fathers. For the same reason, as well, social networking takes precedence over dominance among the males.

The simplest lessons are sometimes the most overwhelmingly awesome. So it seems to me in this case. How to make it real enough, widespread enough, to call a halt to the butchery we allow in our names instead, is not so clear. The gorgeous clarity of humankind’s natural affinity for love, however, is certainly helpful in continuing to stew about the thornier and uglier issues of political consciousness, economic power, and such.

My position is that I’m ready: ‘If you’re waiting on me, you’re backing up!!’ Let’s get it on and make a future, with other than holocaust in it, happen. Every baby not our own, who emerges shrieking from the womb to this marvelous madness and mayhem, call for our understanding of this simple fact. We rise and fall together; we are one, whatever the egotistical fears and prideful foolishness to which we listen in the deep of wakeful nights of fear and righteousness. WE ARE ONE!!

As always, dear readers, “THAT’S MY STORY, AND I’M STICKING TO IT!!!”


Comments
on May 20, 2004
Jimbo,
I am not in your situation. I have two kids and am still married (surprising as it seems sometimes.) I reckon I would agree with you though. I would welcome Mitchell Patrick as if he were my own....I know this for a fact. At times I have doubted if there is really true altruism in this world. But with kids maybe you are right.....hope you enjoy him!

BTW I loved this:
Certainly among the many recommendations of a peasant’s existence is the concrete comprehension of the reproductive function that, obviously, Marie’s and my discussions with our children had failed to convey.


on May 20, 2004
Thanks Gerry!
What struck me about the experience is how MATHEMATICAL and incontrivertible the 'proof' of the idea felt, as I realized that all I'd read in one anthropology course, and much of what I had heard otherwise about step-parenting would be impossible to maintain if other people grasped this at the same cellular level it was hitting me.

It's still subjective, I suppose, but it feels axiomatic, you know what I mean?

CFN,
J
on May 20, 2004
Jimbo,
Not sure what you mean by:
and much of what I had heard otherwise about step-parenting would be impossible to maintain if other people grasped this at the same cellular level it was hitting me


can something be subjective and axiomatic at the same time? I'll think about that....but I do know what you mean there....

on May 21, 2004
Hello Gerry!
Both evolutionary biology and biological anthropology---if not with utter unanimity as disciplines, then at least with a powerful propensity---demonize step parents, whether by highlighting the feline habit of dispatching the young of groups that dominant males take over, or in presenting Snow White's travails, starving and neglected and left in the woods, as a human 'norm.'

Given one set of adaptive techniques and characteristics, such behavior is going to be an evolutionary inevitability. My point is that various social animals, including the string of primates of which we are a part, have at least occasionally displayed different adaptations and characteristics---the origins of which might be the sorts of things that I experienced with Mitchell Patrick in utero.

This is all idle speculation to some extent, of course, but interesting enough to me that I want to share it with others.

Cheers, and

Ciao for now,
Jimbo
on May 21, 2004
Jimbo,
Good point....you would also hope that, being a little further up the evolutionary tree, humans do not just react on a biological level...though the way some people behave I don't know if that is the case....
on May 22, 2004
!! to the googleplexth degree! Aint' that the truth.
on May 22, 2004
!! to the googleplexth degree! Aint' that the truth.
on May 22, 2004
A wonderful post!! I agree in particular with "WE ARE ONE!!" Your endings are always great. But of Course, I also agree in particular with "Females have more of a sense of such things, from the get-go. Goddess worship needs serious consideration again, if for no other reason than this intuition about basic connections and relations and all the rest of what makes up the social core of our existence." Congrats to all on this new life.
on May 23, 2004
Goddess worship needs serious consideration


I could go with that ....male deities are so passe...
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