Fighting Biology, Fighting Purpose

NPR’s Morning Edition had a very interesting little piece about those life-like dolls used to instruct teen girls on the evils of early pregnancy: upshot? The dolls appear to encourage more pregnancy than they discourage — a conclusion that seems to disappoint the authors of the study.

Our global meritocracy demands delaying family creation and focusing, instead, on education and career. Marriage and family are not a step in the direction of adulthood, they are capstone events that come atop other kinds of success. The meaning of human existence is found in paid work, in careers, in employment. That is what it means to belong, contribute, and to be important. It’s a powerful worldview at work here. And it works for many people.

But … it’s also, in many ways, goes against the grain of what many (possibly most) human beings probably want in life. The meaning of existence for many people — nearly all in human history, and I suspect most today — is found not in paid work (which is done and tolerated as part of a larger and wider web of relationships) but in life together. In our relations to each other, in family, in neighborhood, in community.

So, let me suggest — most women in the world want to be wives and mothers. (Most, but certainly not all.) Most men want to be fathers and husbands. (Again, most, but certainly not all.) Because we have to understand — most human being cannot have fulfilling, meaningful careers that will leave much of a mark on human history or even be considered “important” work. Meaning and purpose are found in small things — love, children, marriage, friendship, community, work done well and competently to make all that possible. Instead, loving and belonging are what give us meaning and make us important.

While it is wise to discourage teen girls from having babies in a world in which credentials and careers matter and do provide stability and define success, we forget that for many, this very kind of inconvenient caring is what it means to love and be human. To be important. To matter.

You can’t fight biology or purpose with everyone.

In a mediated world, where we are constantly presented images of people more beautiful and successful and important than we are, in which success is getting that degree and then that career that gets you noticed and makes you famous and important (yes, I plead guilty to this), we forget that the most important people are the ones we meet, we make, we love, we care for.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

One thought on “Fighting Biology, Fighting Purpose

  1. 100% agreement. However, I have long-time babysat for children and it did open my eyes to the joys and challenges of kids. Your life is not your own anymore, and while that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, in our society it is more difficult. Not only can it be harder to attain the other kinds of achievements that are valued, but it’s difficult to provide the kind of support and care that most parents want to provide for their children, if you have not first achieved some kind of professional success or a healthy relationship.

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