A Copy of Me
Having children, in many ways, is just our version of downloading a copy of ourselves onto a chip (or a cell), combining some of our code (DNA) with someone else, and keeping our traditions, thoughts, ideas, and even physical appearance alive without needing to be immortal.
When my son was born, I was subject to this kind of thinking: my kid is a copy of me and my wife, a way to remain everlasting. To survive.
When he was born, I immediately noticed that he kind of looked like me. He definitely had the same eyebrows, which took up a lot of his tiny face. My wife even noticed that the hair patterns that covered his body (that have now gone away) looked just the hair patterns on my body.
And when people saw him, they commented on how much he looked like (he now looks much more like a combination of my wife and I), but also how much he looked like my dad. It was true. He had the same mouth. The lower part of his face, at least when he was a newborn, was definitely similar to my own father’s.
And then we started comparing his baby photos to other people in my wife’s family. It turns out that he also looks a lot like his grandmother (my wife’s mom) when she was a baby, and his lips and teeth look like a lot like my wife. His hairline reminds me of his grandfather (my wife’s dad). And then there are great-great grandfathers who we’ve only seen pictures of and he reminds us of their features too.
Sometimes we say to young children, “I wish you could’ve met your great-grandfather/mother. They would have loved you. You’re a lot like them.”
And in saying this, it dawns on us that our children are not just copies of us; they’re copies of everyone in their bloodline. The code that I’m made of is a combination of the code that my parents were made of, and so on. And everyone shares their code with a common ancestor from eons ago.
In some ways, this disturbs the beautiful idea that we are immortal through our children. If they’re not just a copy of me, but a copy of everyone who came before them (which ends up being a lot of people), then there are other children out there who are also contributing to my immortality. Children I’ve never met.
But from this disturbance also emerges an even more comforting thought: we all survive through one another. All of the people we disagree with on Facebook. All the ancestors that we never knew. Those who don’t share our gender, skin color, or values. Those who do. All of them.
And even when the human race is gone one day, and all we have left are the relics of our species, the imprint of our life here on earth will inspire in some micro-bacterial way the next form of life. And our code will continue to produce new code, just as the meteors that crashed into our rocky planet years ago came with the code that made us, the dinosaurs, and everything else.
Joyfully and sadly, we are eternally immortal and simultaneously temporary.