12 May 2013

Unfolded out of the folds

A few weeks back, I came across this opinion piece from Adam Gopnik describing the "asymmetry of parental love."  It seemed fitting for today.

"One of the rules of mathematics and physics, as I - a complete non-mathematician - read often in science books, is that when infinity is introduced into a scientific equation it no longer makes sense. All the numbers go blooey when you have one in the equation that doesn't have a beginning or an end.

Parental love, I think, is infinite. I mean this in the most prosaic possible way. Not infinitely good, or infinitely ennobling, or infinitely beautiful. Just infinite. Often, infinitely boring. Occasionally, infinitely exasperating. To other people, always infinitely dull - unless, of course, it involves their own children, when it becomes infinitely necessary.

That's why parents talking about their children can be so tedious - other parents, I mean, not me or you - not because we doubt their love, or the child's charms, but because itemizing infinities is obviously the most boring thing imaginable.

We see this, with heartbreaking clarity, in those people we know, or read about, who continue to love, say, a meth-addicted child. And we think: "Why don't you just give up?" And they look at us blankly and we say: 'Oh, yeah. Right.'

The joke our genes and our years play on us is to leave us, as parents, forever with this weird column of figures scribbled on our souls, ones that make no sense, no matter how long you squint at them or how hard you try to make them work.

The parental emotion is as simple as a learning to count and as strange as discovering that the series of numbers, the counting, never ends. Our children seem, at least, to travel for light years. We think their suitcases contain the cosmos. Though our story is ending, their story, we choose to think - we can't think otherwise - will go on forever.

When we have children, we introduce infinities into all of our emotional equations. Nothing ever adds up quite the same again."

I love you, Mom.
Happy Mother's Day.