The Cruelty of Having It All

I find Barack and Michelle Obama’s relationship interesting.  They are both high-achievers, and he obviously has a very public calling, and they are both admirably candid about the difficulties this produces, and so they provide a readily-observable model of a couple trying to “have it all.”  And so far, they seem to be doing a good job; they work hard (vast understatement acknowledged) but seem to also be very involved in their children’s lives and with each other.  But they have resources most couples don’t.  What about the people in the world who have callings that don’t come with hired help and security details?  What about when they want families? 

There seems to me to be a moral dilemma before these folks.  A calling, by definition, is an all-consuming, selfish endeavor; it requires as much time and emotional and psychological energy as it can get, and the person giving it generally loves doing so.  But families need those resources too.  Relationships with friends, spouses, and children all require time and energy in order to grow and stay strong.  By nature, those types of relationships – especially the one between parent and child – require selflessness. 

So what happens when a person consumed by a selfish calling puts himself in a position where selflessness is expected or required of him?  In my experience, his loved ones get hurt.  Spouses and children go neglected or not provided for or both.  The person with the calling generally feels bad about the situation but can’t or won’t change, at least not without sinking into a depression that’s just as harmful to the people around him.  No matter how it plays, it’s a mess and people end up damaged.

This leads me to think that, to prevent anyone from being ground up in the gears of their passion, maybe people who have a calling in life should make the difficult decision to only have romantic relationships with people like them and avoid having children. 

This would obviously be hard: even if you have a calling, you can’t control who you love and you were made to reproduce.  But ultimately it seems like the morally righteous thing to do.  Because forming relationships with (or creating) people to satisfy one’s own needs knowing that one is unable or unwilling to fulfill theirs in turn is to treat other people as means to an end, and not ends unto themselves.  And when this causes people emotional or physical pain, to whatever degree, then in my book it’s immoral. 

But I guess then that my book implicitly says that the pain suffered has greater weight than whatever pleasures are enjoyed in the process; that it is better to not be alive at all than to be alive but neglected or impoverished or both; that it is better to not fall in love with someone who is ultimately going to hurt you than to fall and get crushed but to be a crushed thing that experienced that purest, highest emotion.  And I’m not sure I’m comfortable saying any of those things.  So I guess I’ve got some sorting to do.

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1 Comment

Filed under Choices, Life, The Right Thing

One response to “The Cruelty of Having It All

  1. Pingback: The Holy Grail « Kom@to$e

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