In 1901, G.K. Chesterton published a book called The Defendant. In it was a chapter entitled A Defence of Baby-Worship. Today I’d like to take that one step further, and make a case for the necessity of baby worship… that without it, a civilization is ultimately doomed.
Bear in mind that I’m not just restating the obvious fact that without procreation our culture, civilization and species will cease to exist. My point is something different, and is actually a two-sided thing:
Without a sufficient number of babies and young children in our lives, we tend to lose our vigor, our energy, our movement forward. Conversely, when we lose our sense of purpose and value, we stop having babies.
This doesn’t mean that everyone has to have babies, of course. Some of us don’t want to, some of us can’t, and some of us have yet to find a suitable partner. But all of us, or nearly all of us, need to be near small children from time to time. Being a caring aunt or uncle is probably enough, but that level or something approximating it is almost a necessity for a vigorous human life.
I can’t exactly prove that, you understand, and I’m probably mis-stating it in some significant way, but it’s mainly true all the same. Babies are good for us, and are in some deep way necessary to us.
And before I go on, let me give you a feel from Chesterton’s piece by quoting one of the first passages:
We ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these [new minds] there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.
That brings up a third point, of course: That new minds and new views of the world are essential to keep a self-enamored older generation from running headlong over some ridiculous cliff. That’s valid too, but we’ll skip past it today.
Declining Civilizations And Declining Birth Rates
There’s a particular type of problem that confronts all of us who read a lot of history: You see the same thing happening over and over, in places far removed from one another… then you develop a feeling that there’s an underlying reason, but can’t find definitive proof for it.
So it has been with the depopulation of declining civilizations. Readers of history see it over and over, but no solid explanation has endured. Mainly the trend de jour is thrown at it. (Claiming an environmental cause gets you attention these days.) But I think I know the reason for it. Again, I can’t exactly prove it, but I’m pretty well convinced, with the usual caveats. And it is this:
Civilizations and cultures that lose their sense of purpose, their sense of direction, their moral confidence… those cultures cease to produce babies… or at least enough babies.
And here’s a passage from Chesterton (in another book called Heretics) that makes more or less the same point:
What is the good of begetting a man until we have settled what is the good of being a man?
Why should people go through the extreme difficulties associated with parenthood if they see no purpose to it? If they’re not sure they can even recognize the good (as modern education so often insists), what’s the point? Why work double-hard if there is no purpose to life except for “democracy”?
The West, you see, has lost its sense of purpose. Aside from a residue that remains from the old days and a rising wave amongst Bitcoiners and a few other types of heretics, the West has no purpose and no cultural confidence. From the middle of the Enlightenment onward, “man as a noble being” has been beaten out of us by a dogmatic sect of misanthropes enthroned in institutions.
The young heretics (regardless of their youthful errors) are really the West’s greatest hope. And, tellingly, they very often do have babies.
The Dimming of Love
Babies pull love out of us in specific ways. Not only parents, but grandparents, aunts, uncles and even more distant observers see babies as objects of love. Whether it be their innocence, the hope of the humanity’s continuance, or whatever, we latch onto them as vessels we can and should to pour the best of our love into.
And to be clear about it, I define love this way: Love is a hunger to bless. And that is precisely what babies draw out of us. And this, perhaps above all others, is a terribly healthful thing to feel.
It also happens that experiencing this hunger to bless in one situation helps us to feel it in others. To put it simply, babies help us to function as benevolent beings. And it is they who can help us back to a sense of purpose, of direction, and of moral certainty