(Sc)human Nature

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.

7 thoughts on “(Sc)human Nature

  1. I tweeted responses, but I wanted to also comment here.

    ‘And after I conceived, I did not have to right to demand a healthy pregnancy that made it to term. None of us do.’

    This is the most important lesson I learned through my own experience. And, like you, it hit me pretty quickly. As soon as the first, ‘why me?’ went through my mind, I realized, ‘why not me?’ I later heard that my doctor and his assistant were looking out at this rainbow, at the same time I was, and they were asking the same thing. Why did this happen to the educated, careful, healthy patient, while each day they deliver babies to mothers on drugs and full of disease?

    I used to say that it changed my life to switch my perspective and consciously recognize I am no more deserving that the rest of humanity. But someone once told me that it’s not the case that these things make you stronger or make you a better person. Perhaps it just reveals what’s been there all along. Be gentle with yourself. You are not alone.


  2. And going to nature, spending time in it, is the best thing I do for myself–whether in good times or hard times. It’s really centering. Not sure what to say in regard to the Polar Vortex but today and weds. seem like the less frozen days in St. Louis this week (just looked up the weather!). Bundle up, go out, walk in a quiet area, in nature, in the cold.

    Beautiful essay, thank you.


  3. Thinking of you these last days! You are so eloquent in communicating the feelings that accompany this type of loss. You bring comfort and insight to others in the midst of you own trial…thanks for writing about it. Take care.


  4. I also think that while it sucks no matter what, the specific way in which it sucks depends a lot on what else is going on in your life at the time. Which means no two people have the same experience of suckitude. At least that was my sense while I was going through it.


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