Schiller’s big thing about Goethe was that he was naïve in the best possible way; he had a child’s natural, unadulterated passion and connection with nature; he didn’t create mere poetry that imitated nature–he was nature, and just happened to be able to put that being-nature down onto paper (except with the Elective Affinities, which I hope we can all agree is a piece of crap). I’ll be teaching Faust next week, and it will be an excellent reminder of the power of nature, both to taunt most of us mortal writers with its inimitability, and to reign victorious over us all, even those of us who live most of the day assuming we’ve vanquished it with technology.
Sure, I can vanquish the cold and the dark. I can vanquish physical distances between me and others. I can vanquish the need for longhand paper-and-pen composition (you’ll be unsurprised to know that I type about 125 wpm, copious errors and all). I can vanquish the hyper-visible streaks of grey that have colonized my hair, and with some delusion and several different pots of $100 cream, I can even semi-vanquish the folds and lines that are encroaching upon my previously doll-like chubbo visage. But anyone who thinks that they can control the really important elements of nature has never been pregnant.
The minute you decide (or don’t decide!) to get pregnant, the second that sperm and egg meet, you have handed a large part of your fate over to nature. Yes, there are things you can do to help matters–don’t drink, don’t smoke, exercise, folic acid, etc.–but those are largely surface measures, since meth-heads give birth and health freaks miscarry every day. When you start a pregnancy, unless you make the choice to terminate voluntarily, you are agreeing to allow nature to take its course. And sometimes that course will be a different course than you want. But nature doesn’t care. Nature, to me, is not an animate force, is not ruled by any God or Gods, just simply is.
Many atheists are lonely in times like this, when so many do rely on prayers (and this is not to say that I am not greatly moved by the prayers of others–I am, and I hope you keep me in them). For me, the last few days have allowed me a substantial amount of time to mediate on the awe and marvel that is nature, and to understand that what is happening to me is simply one of many outcomes of pregnancy. When I signed on to get pregnant, I did not get to expect that I’d have an easy time conceiving (we’ll just assume I did it with magic and a stork, OK? Because gross!). And after I conceived, I did not have to right to demand a healthy pregnancy that made it to term. None of us do. Because that would be vanquishing a force that simply cannot be vanquished.
It has largely been a peaceful and mediative process to hand myself over to the entropic, senseless, unpredictable force of nature this week. I will have to keep doing so for at least another four days, if not more (it remains to be seen, agonizingly, how the “products of conception” will make their way out of my body). I have no choice for the time being. But instead of feeling helpless, I mostly just feel humbled.