Reflection time


As an undergraduate architecture student, we had a unit in philosophy 101. One of the lecturers was a very interesting fellow. I still recall him asking us something about why we think we owe our parents anything. It’s a question that no one wants to think about or answer. Most of the answers would have something to do with their begetting us, educating us, loving us which sometimes is not the case for many children.

In the Robbers by Schiller, this question is brought to the fore by Charles, while talking about Francis, his vagabond brother. He asks

A common source of being is to produce community of sentiment; identity of matter, identity of impulse! Then again,—he is thy father! He gave thee life, thou art his flesh and blood—and therefore he must be sacred to thee! Again a most inconsequential deduction! I should like to know why he begot me; certainly not out of love for me—for I must first have existed!
Could he know me before I had being, or did he think of me during my begetting? or did he wish for me at the moment? Did he know what I should be? If so I would not advise him to acknowledge it or I should pay him off for his feat. Am I to be thankful to him that I am a man? As little as I should have had a right to blame him if he had made me a woman. Can I acknowledge an affection which is not based on any personal regard? Could personal regard be present before the existence of its object? In what, then, consists the sacredness of paternity? Is it in the act itself out of which existence arose? as though this were aught else than an animal process to appease animal desires. Or does it lie, perhaps, in the result of this act, which is nothing more after all than one of iron necessity, and which men would gladly dispense with, were it not at the cost of flesh and blood? Do I then owe him thanks for his affection? Why, what is it but a piece of vanity, the besetting sin of the artist who admires his own works, however hideous they may be? Look you, this is the whole juggle, wrapped up in a mystic veil to work on our fears. And shall I, too, be fooled like an infant? Up then! and to thy work manfully. I will root up from my path whatever obstructs my progress towards becoming the master. Master I must be, that I may extort by force what I cannot win by affection.

So I ask, where lies the sacredness of paternity?

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

41 thoughts on “Reflection time

  1. I think I don’t owe him (my father) anything that is said above but for what I am today, for sharing with me his history and making me a worthy part of it…

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  2. That’s a genius bit of writing by Schiller. I must admit, I’m with him. Life is on average more bad than god, so inflicting it on another being shouldn’t be applauded. The whole mythology of the value of life and family is simply a rationalisation to justify biological impulses.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. This is a new one for me. And really opens the floods of thought. The flow goes both ways, in that many parents are not bonded, not connected with their offspring, and so what is this? How can there be a set rule for opening the heart to gratitude and then to extend that gratitude to action? I see it all as nature/nuture and if “we” are so lucky as to have a free (of obligation and expectation), loving relationship then I view this as an exceptional miracle for we’re all struggling humans, defined by how we relate, imperfect and struggling. I don’t necessarily view life as being more bad than good but then I’ve been very fortunate to have been bitten by the gratitude bug and see miracles abounding daily; with my vision, my hearing, my very body functioning and when luck strikes a good relationship enters the mix. Thanks for this one. I hope you and all our great cyber friends here have a good weekend.

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  4. I think the sacredness of paternity only exists to the extent of the sacredness of any other relationship. Whatever gratitude is given needs to be willingly earned, otherwise it’s just a glorified veneer on Stockholm syndrome. Paternity holds no value at birth, but like other things people build, it holds value after it is constructed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      It’s a value we construct after, a rationalization so to speak?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think it’s the value that gets constructed afterwards, at least not all the time. For people who insist that paternity has an intrinsic value, sure. But for the idea that a relationship only has the value of whatever gets invested into it, it puts the focus on how people build that relationship.

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  5. Like Shakespeare once said to his friend, Bubba: “Bubba, my pops was an a-hole to me, and I can’t stand the sight of ’em. Ya’ owe yer folks nada. Now, let’s go get a burrito.”

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  6. Mystro says:

    I agree there is no inherit sacredness in paternity. My misanthropic side says that 90% of those who reproduce never should have in the first place. It isn’t a good idea to praise people for doing things they shouldn’t do.

    However, I completely disagree with the part where parental affection is devalued and called vanity. The world is rife with examples of uncaring and horrible parenting that show just how valuable attentive and loving parents are. Indeed, there’s nothing I am more grateful for than the efforts of my parents to raise me well. I don’t have to look far to see that such care is not universal. Further, good parenting is no easy task. It is difficult, rare, and its whether or not it is present has monumental influence over people’s lives.

    The world is a brutal place. Good parents provide a refuge from that brutality and prepare their young to handle it on their own some day. It is the dedication to this standard that ought to be revered.

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    • koppieop says:

      A good question, on which I have reflected rather often – without sharing my opinion with other people. Starting with ithe Christian cmmandment: “Honor your father and your mother”. Why? I never felt the urge to thank them for their efforts to bring me up; neither do I find that ingrateful. In a certain way, wasn’t it their moral obligation to teach me how to be a good person? – Those same feelings came up when I became a father myself.I would not have “accepted” a thank you from my three children. Seeing them grow up and help each other,n their families, their friends and relatives to make the world a better place to live in, is my greatest satisfaction. Also, I am conscious that it is not our merit as parents; likewise, we are not to blame if they had gone off the road.
      .-

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      • Mystro says:

        I’m confused as to why you don’t think it’s proper to thank someone when they do a good thing for you. Or that they shouldn’t thank you when you do a good thing for them. That is precisely the situation that thanking is for. That good thing being a moral obligation would add to its importance, not remove it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • makagutu says:

        F, you speak very well. It is always pleasant to read your well considered thoughts, made more so by the benefit of age.

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    • makagutu says:

      I agree with you on both points.
      I believe my parents did their best to give us a good childhood and I think I have turned out well. Any rough edges are my doing but then again I recall that no person is responsible for their nature😁

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  7. Swarn Gill says:

    This was great…yeah I was thinking the same thing reading that as Schiller said in the end. There is no sacredness to paternity it’s just something they made up to justify the mistreatment of women for which they have no rational basis for treating them as anything but their equals.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charity says:

    Aw, Noel, you know I had to chime in on this one!

    I agree with a previous poster, I think that there’s a lot of people who have no business being parents. However, biology has allowed them to do so and that’s it. There’s no grand plan, no creator, just two people having sex and reproduction runs its course. I kind of discourage my kids from marrying and having children. I encourage them to not feel obliged to do so because of our immediate social pressures or because some girl they meet has lofty ideas of marriage and having babies.

    One time I told my therapist that my parents should be the poster children for abortion. My therapist then asked “Charity, do you wish you were never born?” I just shrugged my shoulders and told her that if I was aborted I would have never known the difference. However, I would have been spared years of abuse and severe neglect.

    Hubs and I met, married and had our two kids all in our 30s. I see parenting as an absolute honor. Due to our own lousy childhoods, we constantly work on being decent human beings. As a result, we’re always examining our parenting methods, extending our love to our children and constantly making provisions for them as well. For me, parenthood is sacred for happy children make for happy adults. We teach them logic and empathy and how to problem solve. Healthy children make for healthy adults, no god needed. In fact, one tends to mess it all up in many ways.

    Have a great weekend, my friend. I hope you and yours are well!

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    • Charity says:

      Oh and I also meant to include that my children owe me nothing. It wasn’t their choice to be born, it was hubs and mine decision to have them. However, I expect some respect from them, but thats because I expect them to respect other decent human beings as well. Assholes, on the other hand, they owe them nothing at all.

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    • makagutu says:

      We are well Charity and you have said it so well.
      Have a pleasant weekend

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  9. renudepride says:

    I believe our fathers are sacred in that they helped create us and for the most part, at at least one point in time, they loved or at least thought they loved our mother. Naked hugs, my Kenyan brother!

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