Surely this is the most luminous point of life. Right here where I hold the gaze of two sets of blue-spangled eyes, their innocence and adoration as naked as their bums at bath time. The daily heart-swells of gratitude for my children are a serendipitous part of my day. I hope they never stop.
What a charmed space to occupy; wiping their tears, singing them to sleep, making them giggle, helping them learn, watching their firsts.
This little window of blissful simplicity is where we place the greatest value on life. Infancy is the peak of human worth. When life at this point is marred, the injustice leaves our faith in humanity black and blue.
I stroke the downy back of my baby girl’s neck and her whole face flushes with glee. Her legs kick and her arms shiver with excitement.
“You have a world of contradictions to contend with, my sweet,” I whisper into her hair.
I wonder if she will grasp the truth amongst the mixed messages.
The contradiction of Valentines Day, to begin. This year’s day of love was ambushed by Fifty Shades of Grey – the film (based on the book) that glorifies sexual abuse. On one hand the universe is extolling the virtue of love and then there’s this inexplicable intrigue for the opposite – blatant disrespect for fellow humanity in the bedroom. I’m dumbfounded because its success is, of course, fuelled by demand. Think, people, think what you’re upholding.
My baby girl looks up at me with a smile that gathers her entire face in an expression of oblivious delight.
“Stay that way, my sweet,” I whisper, knowing the impossibility.
Then there’s the contradiction of abandonment. The uproar around the birth of Leo, abandoned by his mother because he was born with Down Syndrome, has been regurgitated in news outlets everywhere. Perhaps his dad is indeed a hero and perhaps his Armenian mother is indeed wicked.
What’s more concerning, however, has been the response. One woman abandons her newborn baby and the planet is in uproar.
Every year, 100,000 Australian women “choose” to abandon (read abort) their children, many times because of the threats, indifference or disappointment of others – often partners – some of whom use threats and coercion in the making and taking of life.
My baby girl tugs at my hair, taking fistfuls to her mouth with a cheeky look in her ice-cream eyes.
“You are so precious,” I near weep.
And I think of the contradiction of geography. Every day, it seems, hundreds of lives are needlessly lost in wars on the other side of the world while our front pages lament one road fatality or a political wrangle.
All these ironies are a symptom of our removal from reality.
THAT book (don’t make me name it again) is removed from the reality of violence against women, the reality that domestic violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45 with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week.
Abortion is removed from the reality of a life being taken, because the orb of a pregnant woman’s belly protects, but also shields from view the rapid development of the unborn child. If only our stomachs were transparent!
And both distance and culture remove us from the reality of horrific violence, genocide, child brides, female genital mutilation and so on that really do happen beyond our shores (and sometimes here).
What can we do?
I cling to this verse in Romans 12:21 as a start, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It’s a call to arms, note, not an invitation to turn away. Another verse in Isaiah (5:20) reminds me to call it what it is. Don’t “put darkness for light and light for darkness,” or “bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”. Name it.
My baby girl is restless in my arms. She squirms and wiggles against me. I walk to the cot and lower her within. Her thumb finds her mouth, she sighs, and eyelids begin to close.
She is tired. I am tired. Tired of living in a global community that places so little value on life.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 16, 2015.