I don’t know how I feel about Father’s Day anymore. Or Mother’s Day. Frankly, they seem so paltry in comparison to what it really is to be either one. I mean from the very start, i.e., conception, how miraculous is that — given that we use the process for getting to conception to sell everything from cars to perfume to, well, everything?
But how about selling ourselves on the fact that every one of us from that very start is miraculous beyond our wildest level of understanding?
Being a father, then a grandfather and now a new father again, I imagine the beginning of this process as something akin to seeing an alien in his/her spaceship approaching us. This spaceship looks to be so tiny in the distance — like the pin prick of a star in outer space. Only this is inner space and while the zygote may seem tiny at the start, it is in fact packed with the encyclopedic data of this alien’s family history.
And this zygote grows quantumly (just as an alien spaceship appears to grow larger as it moves closer to landing). And within that spaceship, the alien is expanding. One might even consider it monstrous at first, because it looks so strange and undeveloped. No wonder movie monsters seem to be modeled on the fetus — take the Alien movies, for example. Nothing is scarier than that which we do not understand and yet is so connected to who we are.
Recently, when my youngest son was asked if he remembered being in his mommy’s belly, he talked about a dinosaur. We thought this simply had to do with his fascination of dinosaurs (along with firemen and construction workers). But one day — when pressed — he said it was a dinosaur with no teeth, no tail and a penis. This is when we realized he was talking about himself (as well as a two-year-old can conceive of such things). But if he is a miracle (and he is) and if we are all miracles (and we are), then why can’t we remember what it was like while moving in our inner spaceships towards Planet Earth? When do we begin to forget, and why?
Inner Space and Outer Space — what is the real difference? The older I get, the more I wonder about things like this. We have spent so much time making wondrous movies about outer space. But what about the inner space, which is at least as vast and — frankly — much closer to home?
And when I think about it like this, as well as having produced In Utero, a documentary about the subject, I can’t help but think that every one of us fathers is a miracle. A pure and total religious, psychological, psychological, biological miracle! I celebrate every one of us, even if we’ve lost track of ourselves, even if we have ruined everything in our lives, even if we are in prison or worse.
We fathers need to reconnect with what it is that we are, and how we were there at the very beginning of our children’s lives, contributing our family genetics and epigenetics, and being there (or not being there) during the pregnancy and after birth, supporting (or not supporting) the women that brought our children into the world.
And if every one of us fathers is a miracle, what does it say about mothers? How have we gotten to this place where we even consider mistreating any mother, or woman or girl? How have we gotten to this place — except that perhaps we really are aliens to ourselves? How is that we pay CEOs millions of dollars for bringing us junk food, polluting cars, weaponry and so on and we pay our mothers nothing? How has this happened?
How is it that fathers and mothers get only one day of (frankly, cheap) celebration? Is it because we don’t understand ourselves at all and one day a year seems like enough? The answer is yes and I see that more and more (every day of the year) as I try to deal with my own life, my own issues. I barely know who I am — really — even after working so hard at trying to figure it out.
I am an alien to myself.
I guess that’s the bad news and the good news as this Father’s Day approaches. I suppose I can see that this uncomfortable awareness is some kind of start, at least. And I am suddenly reminded of one of the finest alien movies of all time, ET. He was so human, so loving, so in need — with skin like a dinosaur’s, no teeth, no tail. He may have looked strange at first. But that was the utter beauty of that movie — he wasn’t strange at all.
He was — like all of us — miraculous!