Friday, September 3, 2010

The Great Ak and the Meaning of Life - Part 2

The meaning of life. Yesterday, I wrote about how I found the meaning of life in a Christmas special from the 1980s called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. The show’s script was based on a book by L. Frank Baum. His name probably rings a bell because he’s better known for another of his books, The Wizard of Oz. Even as a kid, I never thought much of the Wizard of Oz, but Baum’s gem of a line in Santa Claus about leaving the world a better place than you found it affected me to such a deep degree that I felt a strong connection to him. I looked up to him as a human being. Then, when I was in college, I learned that at a certain point in his life, he called for the extinction of Native Americans as a race. His exact words were, “The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.” I was astounded when I read this. I felt betrayed. How could I take to heart the words of a man capable of such brutal thought? What does any of this have to do with being a parent? Well, it wasn’t until I encountered this information about Baum, and worked it over in my head for years, that I realized the contradictions present in most human beings: that all of us are capable of such profound, compassionate insights, while at the same time we can be intensely callous and cruel (veal, anyone?). Looking at most debate that occurs across the media today, it’s easy to see that people desperately want the world to be black and white, to be able to pigeonhole everyone into one group or another: republican/democrat, conservative/liberal, Team Jacob/Team Edward, etc., etc. – but in reality, most people live out their lives somewhere in the middle of all these factions. After all, the people who shout the loudest are usually the most wrong. If the only thing I can teach my child is to appreciate people for the good they do, and to some degree forgive them for the rest, then I’ll have done something worthwhile.

77 days until baby.

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