LETTERS OF ABSTENTION¹
(TO BE BORN OR NOT TO BE BORN, THAT IS THE QUESTION)
(The brief and abrupt correspondence between the young negative philosopher Thiago di Diabolis and the austere teacher Julius von Kabra, possible descendant of Julio Cabrera)
Brasília, Maypril 25, 2120
Dear Mr. Diabolis:
I would like to send you this first letter (yes, there will be others) to congratulate you for your excellent initiative to publish the unpublished texts of this curious and irritating twentieth century philosopher who was Julio Cabrera. The congratulations, however, come accompanied by many criticisms and disagreements.
1 The title “Letters of Abstention” parallels the so-called “suicide letters,” the ones someone writes to say goodbye. Letters of abstention, on the contrary, are those that one writes to say that they will not come (and, therefore, that they will never have to say goodbye). I also thought about calling this section “Postal Questions” in parallel with Nagel’s “Mortal Questions.” “Letters of withdrawal” or “Letters of Refusal” would not sound bad either. (Editor’s note.)
I feel with Cabrera’s texts a curious familiarity, as if I were, paradoxically, his descendant, that is, what he never wanted to have. I know I would offend him by saying such a thing, but I feel as the son or grandson that he always rejected. With this I do not pretend to disguise a kind of supreme revenge against his revolting prose: what would be worse for him than to have a descendant?
Throughout reading the book that you published, and especially your text Considerations about the decision to create a new being (which, by the way, made me very bad tempered), I had a very strange experience. I felt possessed, against my will, by a certain “Cabrerian” spirit, invaded by a somewhat insolent “tone” that I learned to admire and fear in these last months of intense readings of the work of my conjectured ancestor.
Would you understand if I told you that, in every line of your unpleasant text, it occurred to me, as if by enchantment, the comments and replies that Cabrera himself could, in spite of the many affinities, have presented to you?
I know, I know, you do not have to take this elaborate presentation into account. Just read my letters. (Ah, yes, my dear Mr. Diabolis, now you are in trouble. You will have to put up with me.)
Maypril 25, 2120 (Later)
In this first letter, I propose to comment on the ideas contained in the preface of your text.
I notice at first that you have an educational purpose here; I would say: contraceptive. Yes, that is right, you make a great philosophical contraceptive. Unlike Cabrera, who remains on a strictly theoretical domain, you seem to address potential parents, in an attempt to do something to prevent the catastrophe. Your aim is practical, preventive, prophylactic.
Your text is not addressed to the philosopher who is only thinking about fatherhood abstractly, but to the one who is unscrupulously planning to be a father. Your writing bears a tone of first aid, of emergency, of thoughtful first aid.
From the outset, you already adopt the point of view of the unborn child, as if you were putting yourself at his disposal to defend him against those who want, at any cost, to give birth to him. This is what first bothered me about your text, the fact that it puts itself on the threshold of the impossible, in an experiment that pushes the limits of our thinking imagination. And, what is more shocking, this is also the scope that contemporary bioethics thinks of (or intends to think), affirmative science par excellence, in the sense of being fully interested in giving birth to people (preferably with a brain).
Perhaps you will be shocked if I confess to you that I am a faithful husband and devoted father. Yes, I have two children. But reading your text interested me enormously. This apparent paradox, I think, will slowly become clear, especially to myself. I am very excited for the beginning of our epistolary communication. But now I need to sleep. I will continue to send my thoughts to you, with the impetus of a mere intermediary, of an anti-disciple from beyond the grave.
Hugs, Prof. Julius von Kabra.
P.S.: If you want to write to me, you can send your comments to the Mailbox number 2001-B of Central Mail. My wife and I prefer to pick up the mail there.
LETTERS OF DEFINITIONS
Maypril 26, 2120
Dear Mr. Diabolis:
You beautifully describe the “procreative ecstasy,” the curious páthos of the pleasure of creating someone, the spiritual environment where the creation of a human being in this world will appear surrounded by an aura of blessed stupor, plenitude and fulfillment, of sublime joy. Of course, around the uproar of the birth party, the philosophical questions arise.
I think that the rational and moral point of view on birth reaches its paroxysm in your texts, perhaps in a way Cabrera would never so clearly do in his own texts. The parents appear as villains, manipulators in the worst sense of the word. In your terms, it is about the rational and moral judgment of the “reflected” act of procreation, in which having children is viewed predominantly as a “decision,” something that may not always be the case (something that, perhaps, never is the case).
You do not develop (you just mention) the possibility of the parents being foolish, clumsy or unaware. Procreation is not seen as an accident, an error, a confusion, but always as a morally imputable act. The parents gave in to temptation, and they deserve no apologies. For you, foolishness is also a crime.
With this I emphasize that your theoretical construction will fall to the ground if someone presents another conception of humanity. This is because you always consider the human being as a responsible and rational agent, that is, the Kantian and Millean conception typical of modernity. A philosophical theory that presents the human being in other terms (such as Nietzsche or Heidegger do), a conception that clearly stands beyond morality (beyond good and evil) will not, I think, be affected by your criticisms.
You will say: it will also affect Cabrera’s conception, and especially his three lines of the moral problematization of procreation. But in Cabrera it seems clearer that morality is only one point of view among others, without any priority. In your case, it seems to be a decisive instance. (Including, in your abundant use of clearly moral categories such as “egoism,” “injustice,” etc.)
I am tired now. I will return my comments in an upcoming letter. My wife sends you cordial greetings. Yes, she is reading the book with me and participating with rare enthusiasm on this sudden epistolary exchange. You may not believe it, but she is a lively reader of your writings, and she often even tends to defend your ideas against those of Cabrera and mine. One sees how the human heart is unpredictable, and how a mother can agree with much of what you defend in your writings.
Fraternal hugs, Prof. Julius von Kabra.
Brasília, Maypril 29, 2120
Dear Professor Julius von Kabra,
I was very surprised by the untimely arrival of your letter. How did you find out my address? I have no idea who you are, but I am already excited about this unexpected exchange of ideas on the subject that I love the most, and that has occupied a good part of my youth. For me it will be a pleasure because it is not easy to find interlocutors for these topics. (My parents change the subject when I try to approach them.)
My dear Professor von Kabra, I believe you have read my text very well and understood what I mean. Allow me, however, to make an observation about your set of terms: “contraceptive,” “preventive,” “prophylactic.” A condom is commonly used to avoid diseases and conceptions (at least it is what is written on the packaging!), and my concern is with conceptions (after all I do not want to be accused of paternalism, let alone fatherhood!). It could thus be said that I manufacture a great philosophical contraceptive substance, antegermina felicitas. These terms, however, drew my attention to another aspect, which I am not sure if it was what you wanted to say, and that would point to a difficulty in distinguishing between diseases and conceptions.
In observing human behavior, one notices its strong tendency to proliferation, as well as to destruction, that humans cause to everything: the environment, other humans, other animals, the planet as a whole, other planets (according to a report of 2119, the garbage dumped into space and the accidents at space stations already accentuate these threats) and finally, to themselves. Resembling in these respects a virus.
If that was what you wanted to say, dear professor, I must grant you that my intention is also prophylactic, because it would be a synonym for contraception. But I believe I may be extrapolating what you wanted to say, I am sorry, I could not help it.
You’re right, Nascituri te salutant poses the question that, in my view, if I were to paraphrase Albert Camus (in the book The Myth of Sisyphus), would be the fundamental philosophical question and also the practical question par excellence: instead of asking if the suicide of a particular life is worth it (human life, not that of giraffes or cats), why not ask if the suicide of the species from particular abstentions is worth it (as Cabrera sees it and comments in the aphorism 65 of his writing)?
Maypril 29 (later)
In commenting that birth is my favorite subject, a thought came to me that I would like to share with you. Sometimes, as I set up the book, I had the impression that there are two Cabrera, one of them (predominant) who sees birth as a problem in a derivative way: the original problem would be mortality and, consequently, birth (through its internal connection). The other, more like me, sees birth as a primordial problem, because regardless of being mortal or not, one has the problem of “coming into being,” and this is the great problem, the very constitution of being.
I do not know if you also see it that way, but I had the impression that Cabrera 1 navigated the first two parts of the text, perhaps explicitly in the aphorism 7 (“being born is bad, from the ontological perspective, because we have been placed in the process of mortality”), and Cabrera 2 appears in the third part, for example in aphorism 57 (“the unfeasibility of being crosses the mortal/immortal distinction”). In this perspective, Cabrera 2 would say in the aphorism 7: “Being born is bad” because birth is the process of coming into being (even if dying is good, being born is bad).
I believe this difference also explains something I read in my grandfather di Diabolis’s diary: he would have once asked Cabrera what would be—if he had to opt—the only negative precept he would choose for an ethics, and he replied that it would be not to kill (or not to “heterocide”). Cabrera 2 and I would say that the only precept would be: not to procreate.
It is interesting that you raised this curious matter, that you feel to be a descendant of Cabrera! I will have some things to tell you about this after talking to my Oracle (because I do not make any important decisions without consulting him). I am going now, the sun has set, I’ll find him. I’ll write to you soon.
Proactive hugs, Thiago di Diabolis.
You study the issue of the “parties involved” in a birth with the same detective precision of one who is chasing a murderer. You say that even in those cases in which the act of procreation is thoughtless, there was always a rational apparatus that could be used. In an existential conception of the human being, the existence of a rational apparatus does not matter very much, but always what the human being (Dasein, Être-pour-soi) does with this apparatus.
I am thinking, anyway, that Sartre and French existentialism in general would provide more appropriate philosophical supports for you than Heidegger or Nietzsche. Sartre insists that we are responsible for everything we choose, stating that we are responsible even for our own birth. (Being and Nothingness, Part Four, Chapter 1, Section III.) Imagine, then, the birth of others.
In a very didactic way (I would say diabolical, in honor of your grandfather di Diabolis), you coldly expose the asymmetry of birth. Inevitably, it will be said. But since birth is contingent, it is imputable to the parents inasmuch as they could have abstained (Mea culpa!).
Here I think that Cabrera was wise in putting his arguments about the morality of procreation into the larger context of the issue of the lack of value of human life, which you do not do. It was always supposed that the one who was born would enjoy a life considered valuable, and would, without any doubt, be in accordance with the fact of having been created. But this argument, after the fall of the religious references, is no longer available, and Schopenhauer and Cabrera, among others, have already provided arguments about the lack of value of human life, even against the agnostic who maintained that it was “neither good nor bad.”
This result shocks and perplexes me. But my wife is coming in and I am going to talk to her. Would you be jealous if I interrupted to continue later? (And why jealous? Is that not an absurd question?)
Maypril 27 (Later)
She fell asleep after our usual nighttime talk. Our children are generally very calm, but today they were very tired and went to bed early (sometimes they make a mess until dawn, you would not believe it). Now I can conclude the letter I was writing to you.
I wanted to say the following: very boldly, you take in your writings precisely the point of view of the one who was not consulted. However, because you did not take time, at first, to present some proof of the lack of value of human life (as Cabrera does), the vehemence and even the piety with which you defend the point of view of the unborn child is a bit mysterious. If procreation is an original moral fault, to the extent that it could have been avoided, should we not already know something about the many reasons we would have to avoid it?
Or to put it in another way: if we parents are being so harshly indicted in our responsibility to give birth to someone (Lucas and Érika in my case), should it not have been shown before that the fact of being born carries great inconveniences for the one who is going to be born? (What sense does it have to defend someone against something that is not clearly bad)?
It seems that for you, what is imputable to the parents is the brute fact of forcing someone to do something about which they themselves were not consulted, whether it be “good” or “bad.” But proving that what the unborn child is forced to receive is something bad would seem to add strength to the imputation argument (to be able to send the parents to jail!). (If not, the unborn child could thank me in the future for having forced them to do something which proved to be good for them.)
The imputability, it seems to me, is comprised of three elements: (a) the act of forcing someone into something: (b) the act of forcing someone into something that could have been avoided and (c) the act of forcing someone into something that is bad. You seem to find it sufficient to work only with (a) and (b). Was there not an error here in the sequence of exposition? Should point (c) not have been considered before?
I stop here. I confess that writing and sending these letters injected into my monotonous life of civil servant a breath of new spirits, although reading Nascituri has made me feel rather indignant and sometimes I have to stop reading, completely horrified. My wife says I am changed, and my children have learned to leave me alone and in silence when I write these gloomy missives. It would be so good if you came in one day to drink tea and meet my family.
Warm hugs from Professor Julius von Kabra.
Maypril 28, 2120
Dear von Kabra:
This conception of Sartre is interesting, about our responsibility for our second birth and the first of others! By the way, you have philosophical culture. I will think more about this and maybe in the future we can exchange some ideas about it, maybe during tea time.
Indeed! You have touched on a very interesting point, I do not really raise the issue of the morality of procreation as connected to the value of human life, as Cabrera does, precisely because I do not want a very strong commitment to a particular frame of thought or belief. Although for philosophy, God has finally died (and it would be even better—for Him—if He was never born), he is very much alive for many people who could be sensitized to the perspective of the new being! I agree with you that the argumentative disposition is no longer available, but the páthos is still there, do you not think?
Thus, in the eyes of many, life may not be a bed of roses, but neither will it be a bed of thorns, and it may have to them, after all, some value. So if in the initial moment, before developing any idea and making my intention clear, I already start from the thought of the poor quality of life, this may be inconceivable for the majority (by virtue of religious ties!), and I believe that this could hinder that sensitivity that I was referring to before. Here it begins to appear the reason of my sequence of exposition, but there is another aspect that I will comment later.
Dear Professor Kabra, my argument is a bit complicated. It seems to me that from the point of view of a so-called “responsible procreator” (let us suppose by hypothesis that they exist) who is sensitive to the child’s perspective, even if some value is given to life (for example, derived from the traditional religious argument), it is possible that this “responsible procreator” notices the immorality of procreation by virtue of the factor (a) that you mentioned (the fact that someone is forced be born), by virtue of the factor (b), that is, the fact that procreation is something avoidable and superfluous, and finally, by virtue of something that could be seen as a weak version of (c), of Cabrera’s idea, which I would call the “problematization of the value of life.”
This weak (c), which I present in my texts “Phenomenology of speeches, groups of people and contingent aspects,” “Unknown,” “How bad can it get?” and “Extensive risk” (did you read them carefully?), shows that life can be bad, that someone who is forced to be born is exposed to this risk, and that the father and mother are powerless in the face of this possibility.
In other words, considering that there is no guarantee that the child will be “happy,” that any effort made towards this goal can be in vain, that if the child did not exist then this problem would not exist, and that such problem arose because the child was forced to be born for the luxury of his parents—even though it was avoidable—from all this follows that a responsible and sensitive “procreator” (or rather a responsible pre-procreator) would stop right there, precisely at “pre.”
Cabrera, coming from the ontological to the ontic, also states in the aphorism 65 (“Being born without the brain or using the brain to not be born?”) that by abstaining, among other things, one radically frees the possible child of being an anencephalic child.
Maypril 28 (after a few hours of reflection)
For those who do not find these arguments to be sufficient, there will still be an option in my text, in the section “the Ego of the issue,” that I will comment in another missive. This introductory part could then be seen as an invitation to a serious and respectful reflection (concerning the child whom one is thinking of procreating) that tries to point out the importance of investigating more about this thorny issue of being born.
You are totally right in your consideration, my dear professor, that I philosophically share with Cabrera: if I were speaking exclusively to philosophers (instead of trying to speak in the “public square” as my explicit intention is), I believe that it would be crucial, at the starting point, in order to fortify the argument, to raise the issue of the lack of value of human life, and to sustain on that basis almost everything that follows. But since I try to address a larger audience, the whole presentation has been rethought, and I try to move from points that are more easily acceptable to the lesser ones.
I will also comment that if I could send the parents somewhere, I would not send them to jail (or to hell), but to a hospital. Maybe you’ll even think that I want to break their faces, to the point that they stay there. Not at all! A sterilization surgery would suffice, preferably before they became parents! Let us say that I am more concerned with the preventive and educational aspect, as you yourself commented, than with a corrective or punitive one.
These letters are affecting me too! Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something to say to you, I make some notes, I go back to sleep, I wake up again . . . If this is happening to you, it must be bothering your wife at every moment, I imagine. I hope it does not cause you more trouble than you already have.
Hugs from a “pre,” Thiago di Diabolis.
Maypril 31, 2120
Dear Professor von Kabra:
The new being does not really participate in the party, although it is the main attraction, as in a freak show, in which the spectators have fun with the one who is about to fight, to die, to be born (nascituri te salutant), to grow up. What is funny or gratifying from the perspective of those who contemplate is not lived in the same way from the perspective of the one who suffers. This also reminded me of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents when he speaks of the child who feels repressed and, in a situation of inversion, thinks something like: “If I were the father and you were the child, I would would treat you very badly.” (Is this no longer something that people use as a motivation to have children, to have the chance to reverse the roles? I was the child before, now it is my turn to be the authority, to be a father! Procreation as a revenge?)
As you notice very well, Cabrera did insist that it is not because procreation is a natural impulse (related or not to love, as mentioned in the aphorism 41) that one obtains a moral justification of it. In the same way, feeling good (commonly resulting from the satisfaction of a natural impulse) cannot give a guarantee or even an indication of a good moral action, because in these natural conditions our bodies bombard us with addictive substances, such as dopamine and serotonin, and so while enjoying our “high” we are oblivious to any reasoning or moral sensitivity, as in a state of torpor. Thus, as much as it is claimed that nothing in the world gives a feeling as good as “having a child,” nothing has yet been said about the morality of procreation.
I can feel better than ever when I have finished my revenge, or have cut off my debtor’s hand (as a punishment for not paying the debt). The question, as usual, is who will suffer the cost of this “high”? Some steal and kill in order to get their dose, others procreate; whether they are endogenous or exogenous, everyone is looking for their drug.
Maypril 31 (later)
With regard to seeing procreation predominantly as the fruit of a decision, dear Professor, it is not quite so. Here I allow myself to disagree. The point is that my text deals with Considerations about the decision to create a new being and that is why villainy becomes explicit. I am addressing myself precisely to Kantian or Millian individuals who are thinking of “having a child” and who, as presumably enlightened persons, seek information, seek to read texts on the subject and, mainly, think a lot (one supposes) before actualizing or materializing their act.
They are not already decided, in a preconceived way, by the usual simian convictions; they have a certain freedom of thought and sensitivity (one supposes), and for that reason, morality is for them a priority instance to be taken into account. It is not me who accentuates the moral point of view, but them.
Thinking more broadly, referring now to all procreation, and considering it as an accident, I would still argue that in stupidity or insensitivity, simply ignoring the perspective of the new being, the same atrocity as always is committed. Regardless if it was perversely planned or caused from an accident, the catastrophe was the same (from the perspective of the new being—which is my approach; of course, birth is not a catastrophe from the perspective of the parents).
Maypril 31 (Later still, unable to sleep)
Going back to the same subject, there is still what I later call “ultra-egoism,” which consists in only being able to see one’s own perspective, in being stupid enough not to perceive the perspective of the new being. The adult appears to be a worsened child: he maintains the typical egocentrism of some stages of child development, he is unable to perceive the other’s perspective, and even has additional prejudices. He remains irresponsible, thoughtless, clumsy, and while he no longer carelessly places his finger in the electrical outlet, he carelessly puts the penis in the vagina, following the same ultra-egoistic principle of seeking self-satisfaction without seeing how things end for the other in this story.
Thus, I do not believe that the parents (for the most part) are being shrewd in their evilness (I think of Cabrera’s very interesting aphorism 51). I believe that many may be so immersed in concealment that they may even have “good intentions” (like some who change aspects of their lives after having the child, rearranging them to perform “the least possible manipulation” on the child). But with “good intentions” or not, the new being ends up worse off. One of the ways of understanding my work, my dear Professor von Kabra, is to see it as an explanation of the implications of procreation, and as the attempt to prevent someone with good intentions from procreating on the basis of common (life-lover, religious) imaginaries, without at least having been advised.
In Cabrera’s work and in mine, procreation itself is not condemned; only its possibility of moral justification is rejected. But in a conception beyond morality we could go in another direction, for example, a life-lover Nietzschean one, until the end.
If they want to procreate, then procreate, but tell the children the truth, and not that stupid little story to try to hide the truly motivating ultra-egoism. After procreating in a Nietzschean way, do not then say in a Kantian way that one did it taking the child as an end and not as a means! Not that!!! Enough!!!
I am not as optimistic as Plato (or Socrates), I do not suppose that knowing will imply doing (and better yet, in this case, not doing!), but at least they can no longer say that they did not know what they were doing. Interesting that a mother can agree with various parts of my writing, is it not?! Strangely enough, when talking about these matters with my grandmother, do you believe she liked it too and gave a favorable opinion?! She told me I was right! The point that I and Cabrera defend seems easier to visualize after many years of life. Too bad that, in most cases, it is too late. . . .
Loving hugs, Thiago di Diabolis.
P.S.: Ah, yes, I was almost forgetting. When I told you earlier about the party that the unborn child does not participate in, I could not help but remember a newspaper clip (from about 130 years ago!) that I found in my grandfather’s diary. Here’s a restored copy.
May 2, 2120
The angry style of your letters depresses and annoys my wife, and me too. Pearls of wisdom such as “Maybe you’ll even think that I want to break their faces,” “When not mixed with maternal feces and blood,” “Carelessly puts the penis in the vagina,” and the like, make my analytical work a little difficult and, above all, my discussions with her. But I understand (and try to convince her of it) that this is your more natural expository style.
You told me that you notice something “Cabrerian” in my style , and you find the composition of my name to be strange, so close to that of the deceased one: Cabrera, von Kabra, Julio, Julius. I have already told you in my preface letters that I feel, at times, as an unintentional descendant of Cabrera, as his denied son. But I have no problem in adopting the (at least pedagogical) fiction of me being the indispensable mediation for you to communicate with Cabrera, an opportunity which your negligent grandfather had wasted so lightly.
Decidedly, you do not raise the issue of the (ontological, will say Cabrera) lack of value of life, but only the (ontic) issue of how people will deal with the endeavor of living: if they are optimistic, if they are or not worried, and things of that sort. You say that perspectives may not coincide, that people whose lives are considered by others to be good can commit suicide (as the philosopher admired by Woody Allen in the film Crimes and Misdemeanors). That is, the issue is perspectivist or, as you say, “phenomenological.”
At this point (and it was my wife, curiously, who first noticed this fact) the difference between your thought and that of Cabrera is glaring. This is because he has tried, ever since the Critique of Affirmative Morality, to establish something along the lines of a structural and ontological lack of value of human life, with relative independence of “phenomenology” and “attitudes.” The lack of value of human life can, for him, be determined at the level of third person; in first person we will only find the (very diverse) attitudes in respect to that lack of value.
Here you keep the whole analysis in the first person, which seems to me that your position is unprotected against those who would like, for example, to impose their optimistic christian outlook (because—they would argue—if there are only perspectives, why would mine not be valid?). In Cabrera’s thought, there is an ontology beyond perspectives. And in this sense, your thought is less metaphysical than his. (Maybe this was what discouraged your grandfather from writing that book with him? Maybe he did not have yet the mental strength to accept that the lack of value of human life was something “structural.” I would love to hear your opinion about this.)
Hugs, from Professor von Kabra.
May 4, 2120
Dear Professor von Kabra:
I would like to talk with you about a part of Cabrera’s fantastic text, when he puts himself at the same time as an ontic optimist and ontological pessimist (aphorism 15). I must confess to you, dear professor, that I have my suspicions and reservations about the power of the ontic domain. It seems to me that the ontic does not have all this force, it does not constitute a powerful weapon against the very being of life, no matter how hard we try to strengthen it; it looks more like a toy gun or a buffon, stuffed like a balloon (but I still have to think more about this).
I understand what Cabrera means about having success or not in the balance between the mortal structure (courtesy of our parents) and the invention of values. From the perspective of someone who already exists, I would refer to a kind of ontic conformity (since we have not yet committed suicide) and an ontological pessimism, which is the point of view that Cabrera talks about.
I would make a parallel, however, from the perspective of someone who does not yet exist. Even someone who comes to obtain the maximum that the intra-world can offer, all the contingent enjoyments, will have to experience restrictions, limitations and constraints in these same enjoyments. I do not think there is one thing in the ontic domain that it is entirely pleasant (as if there was a pollution arising from the ontic itself, in addition to the ontological by SD). There seems to be little to offer from the point of view of procreation, in which I would affirm myself as an ontic and ontological pessimist, and I believe I agree with Cabrera on this point.
He notes accurately (in 14 and 16 also) that “the rational calculation of procreation is, to say the least, delicate,” “we have, in fact, little to offer to the one who is born (nascituri te salutant),” and that “none of the things I say to myself to continue living are of any worth for someone who does not yet exist” (in 56), and asks us wisely if it is “worth to bother someone in their pure nothingness to put them by force in such an arduous task” (to spend their life doing the best they can in order to balance themselves in the polluted whole)?
An (unfortunately) already polluted hug
from Thiago di Diabolis
May 5, 2120
Only now I have noticed your initial clarification about cautious authors (“it seems to be common for cautious authors to wait until reaching far more advanced ages to make their favorite publications,” you write). How old are you, after all? I am suspecting that you might have, at most, twice the age of my children, or even less. A precocious philosopher! But, on the other hand, the fear that you manifest about a sudden death does not cease to surprise me, a fear which would, by common sense, be understandable at a later age only. You are an enigma. And you published an equally enigmatic book: a boy editor?
An element that makes me suspect that you are young (at what age does one start to think about the immorality of procreation?) is your ability to show the importance of trivialities. I once again remember the fundamental asymmetry, the fact that the child (in whose place you imagine yourself in) was not consulted. You still need to find your readers, Mr. Diabolis. Only someone not yet poisoned by philosophical common sense (the one that forces us to always say “interesting” things) would avoid shuddering in the face of trivialities such as: “The decision of procreation was limited only to the mother and father of the child, since the child did not participate in the process of choice about their own coming into existence.”
It takes some childish or adolescent innocence to calmly point to the trivial and find its importance. Immediately it came to my mind those words of Cabrera in the preface to the Critique of Affirmative Morality: “In a certain way, I would like the present book to be considered as an ethics for children.” Adults are very occupied with the “great ethical challenges of humanity” and get scared when their young children ask them why they cannot murder their grandmother (an ethical problem far more radical than the “great ethical challenges of humanity,” if we observe well). Your text is always situated at this primary and innocent level, and therefore frightening, like the children’s questions.
You hold that procreation is a morally imputable act because the parents cannot have sure predictions about which group (the optimists, the inert or the pessimists, suicidal or not) their children will be in. You suppose that the parents do not know anything about their children before they are born. In the ontological stance adopted by Cabrera, we can know with certainty that life will be painful for the child, with independence of optimistic or pessimistic “perspectives,” do you not think?
If you are going to indict the parents for giving birth to their children without knowing
whether they will accept life or not, Cabrera seems to show (following Schopenhauerian footprints) that life will always be unacceptable, with independence of approval or rejection.
Even if the unborn child comes to “accept” life and is in the first group, the parents will continue to be imputable, because the unacceptable element resides not in this or that ontic aspect of human life (in what Cabrera calls the “seesaw theory”: “Some days it rains, other times the sun shines”), but in the primordial fact of the child having been forced to deal with a condition that compels them to create values and defenses (pessimistic, indifferent or optimistic).
I stop here, because my head is full of confused and hesitant thoughts. It is curious that you never asked me why I became a father, since I have this remarkable understanding of your ideas and Cabrera’s ideas. A good question. This exchange is very illuminating for me, and I hope that at the end of all this I will have an answer to this and other questions that I ask myself.
A hug from Professor J. von Kabra.
(P.S.: Do you like tea? Some friends who study in London have just sent us a huge package of British tea; do you want us to send you some?)
May 7, 2120
Dear Cabrera, I mean, von Kabra:
Yeah, I am 25 years old, but I started thinking about the immorality of procreation when I was around 16. Death seems a relief to me (especially a sudden death). My fear is that, being possible for it to occur at any moment, it may occur precisely in the moment when you do not want it to occur . . . for example now! For me this exchange of letters about procreation and birth is also very illuminating, as it is for you; it is the most crucial moment of my existence.
Yes! The situation that you mention about our possible readers is a difficult one. Which reveals the difficult condition of the new being. The readers of our book who are thinking about reproducing would be, in terms, those who could save the new being, but since they are human, they are certainly more concerned with their own salvation than with anything else (such as Pascal showed). And they are probably not ready to realize that they cannot do anything about it (they’re helpless). Note the great irony: a selfish being like the human being, having the ability to save another being, but not himself. Anyway, the new being is in trouble.
When you talked to me about the frightening questions of the children, I immediately remembered Cabrera’s aphorism 48! The child who asks their parents why they gave birth to him is like a broken toy, and naturally, has to be fixed (also remember the title of the section: “Children: ways to use”). The idea is more or less the following: the blame is intially of the child who did not adapt (the others did). The responsibility is then transferred (having money for a good psychologist, as Cabrera would say), to the therapist. If he is incompetent and fails to adjust the child, he will be the new one to blame. Never the parents!
With regard to “liking life or not,” dear professor, I maintain that the parents can never be sure about which group the children will be in (and neither of its dynamics), but with this I am not supposing that they know nothing before they are born. There will be also an ontological stance describing sufferings regardless of perspectives. But wait for the section “The Ego of the issue,” or look at it again.
(after an eco tour)
Still on the same subject, I believe that my idea of pointing out these uncertainties is still not clear enough for you: I do not mean to say that life can only be bad in the ontic domain (as if I situated myself in a philosophical scope where I wanted to refuse the ontological difference, in the sense of not being able to affirm that life is bad ontologically). What I mean is that for a “responsible procreator,” it is enough to observe the available ontic possibilities for them to make their decision, without having to go to the ontological domain (for example, destroying the optimistic myths of “everything will be okay,” “this will not happen to my child,” “they will be born healthy,” “misfortunes only occur with the children of others” and so on).
And in this sense I feel myself more negative than Cabrera, because not only do I agree that life is ontologically or structurally bad, but because, in addition to this, I think that the ontic domain is enough to problematize life. What I mean is that the unacceptable element may already reside in this or that ontic aspect of human life (in addition to residing in ontological factors, and without dismissing them). I agree with you that an affirmative person without “goodwill” (and, according to my text, who attempts to exempt himself from responsibility), will say, “Let’s give birth to them, maybe they will like it.” In this case there is no other way, we will have to present the ontological considerations. But for those of “goodwill,” the ontic itself will point the way.
Thank you, Julius, if you can send me a couple of small bundles of tea, that’ll be great! A hopeful hug, Thiago di Diabolis.
If the reader has opted for the route of interspersed reading, they should now go back to the “the Ego of the issue,” I. If you are too desperate, read as you wish and can!
LETTERS OF THE EGO I
May 14, 2120
Many important questions have arisen from reading the second part of your text, “The Ego of the issue.” In this part, you finally arrive at the “human condition,” and the readers learn why they had to be so cautious! It seems as if we are hearing the cavernous voice of Cabrera when you write: “A characteristic of any life is its end,” the mammal (and especially the human mammal!) “will live with its shadow (always present),” “the human body is regularly attacked by organisms,” and other trivialities which, it seems, are not trivial to remember.
My wife found it particularly amusing that you included in the terrors of existence the fact that, at some point, one must experience the death of one’s father and mother. After they were indicted as unscrupulous criminals and accused of begetting us without consultation and for their own entertainment, would we not have to be delighted at seeing them die (in jail, if possible)? Dear Thiago: I believe you owe an answer to her and all the mothers of this world.
Your idea of the “package” imposes an approach that Cabrera, despite your protests, would still call “ontic” (in his own peculiar way of disrespecting Heidegger). You say: the parents are guilty because they put the child in a package of possibilities, some good and some bad, and he has to swallow the whole package. The parents’ guilt lies in the impossibility of predicting how the unborn child will deal with “the bad parts of life,” with the rotten products of the package.
Do you mind that I insist yet again on this same point? For the ontologist (Cabrera), the guilt of the parents does not lie in a kind of uncertainty (how the child will “deal with”), but in a kind of absolute certainty (the child will have to“deal with”). What is unpleasant is merely “having to deal with,” and not having to deal with the “bad parts” of the package. Even the “good moments” and “joys” are burdened by the terminality of being. (Cabrera would say that you still remain attached to the “seesaw theory.”)
In this sense, I believe you retain your intellectual independence, and refuse to heideggerianize Schopenhauer, as Cabrera did. But I believe that this diminishes the levels of negativity in your analysis, for better or worse.
Laura Cristiana (curious that I never told you my wife’s name) is calling me to dinner. I have to stop here. After this I’ll tell you a bit about egoism and ultra-egoism. (You must feel like I am trying to teach you about your own philosophy.)
Warm hugs of a responsible procreator, Julius von Kabra.
May 17, 2120
Indeed, the second part of my text really brings up the main elements of the issue. Here comes the so-called “ontological” aspects of which you have missed (those that, according to you, your wife hates the most), and there is an explanation that egoism (in all cases) is behind all procreations.
Regarding the answer that I owe to all the mothers in the world, I can say the following: in this matter I am considering that the father and mother lived with the child for a long period, including the early years of life, as a baby and during childhood, and they exercised great influence on him, in a strong emotional connection. In these early stages, most children seem to feel as if their parents are “the world,” there is nothing else outside them, or nothing else matters much. If the parents die at that moment, it seems that the world simply collapses for the child. Even further this still applies, usually in lighter ways, for many people, until the end of (their own) times.
Regarding these connections, I look for Cabrera (“Love is not ethical” in 41) to help me: “The family is an affective, vital and loving community, not a moral community,” “one does not have to be moral to be loved by their family.” A mother loves even her heterocidal child, and a child loves even his heterocidal parents.
Now, Julius, I absolutely disagree that my image of the “package” imposes only an ontic approach to the issue! The package not only represents a sea of possibilities (good and bad), but some necessities (bad)—you noticed here my arrival at the “human condition”—and some possibilities (good and bad) exposed mainly in the first part, the “inviting” one. This is a complex package: ontic-ontological! The two spheres are merged into it, and then the problem for the parents (as you point out) becomes even greater, because there is absolute certainty of these “necessary aspects” such as “dealing with,” choosing, living with the shadow, in the desire and frustration.
I could thus still remain stuck to the seesaw theory in the introductory part, but not in the idea of the package developed in this new section. With “The Ego of the issue,” the ontological aspects (not so named) finally appeared. The ontic aspects have not disappeared, but in affirming them I am not denying the structural ones. Is it possible that this is not perfectly clear?
Yes, I believe you notice very well that most people continue to live because they can adapt, bear, endure. The standard human model seems to be the one who, regardless of impairments (as Cabrera comments in “Dead and handicapped people,” 20), continues breathing, feeding themselves, urinating, defecating, procreating and preferably working and saying that they are happy. It is possible to adapt to a multitude of circumstances: the loss of loved ones, lack of vision or legs, food shortages, and so on. Our body is an adaptive machine because, after all, it is a survival machine. Now, this is what we have to give to a child; is this what we want for him? To put him in life so that he can breathe, feed himself, urinate, defecate and procreate even in the worst of conditions? There is an excessive preoccupation with survival, to the detriment of anything else, such as dignity, or good quality of life, only possible for our imaginary children, not for the real ones.
By the way, Julius, did I mention that I have an imaginary child?! I affectionately call him Hauer! He accompanies me at all times and I talk to him, especially to say, “See, you avoided big trouble, don’t you think so, boy?!” We could not save poor Arthur “Schop,” but at least this one we could!!!
P.S.: You should carefully read my text “It is only possible to be a good father and a good mother by not being a father or a mother at all”!!! (In “The Ego of the issue,” II.)
May 17, 2120
My young philosopher:
My insistence on the same point may make you stop reading my letters or tear them apart, but I’ll take my chances. It is curious that I have to defend Cabrera in the aspect that most disgusts me from his thought.
Your protests that you would not be judging life only ontically make me see that there is a kind of tension in your text. In the first part (A Raw Consideration About Paternal and Maternal Responsibilities—”If You Don’t Like It, Then Kill Yourself”), it seems that the only imputable element is the one-sided and manipulative obligation from the parents, that would be present even if life is good. In the second part (The Ego of the issue), we know that life is not good. You ask patience from the reader of the first part because the elements that you call “ontological” only appear later. But I wonder if this “river-exposition” (fluid, somewhat Hegelian) will not involve dangers; because in the first part there may have been said things that perhaps the second part has to correct or relativize. The first part may have placed elements in the reader’s mind which can then be difficult to remove.
It seems to me that without the novelties of the second part, the arguments of the first part do not hold, they are insufficient to morally condemn procreation. Do you grant this? I think so (and Laura has the same opinion). In the first part, it can only be said that the parents unilaterally exercise their authority (or authoritarianism) and make a (perhaps frivolous) gamble on their children, because they do not know which group they will be in. (I still do not know which group mine are in!)
Being unilaterally manipulated is undoubtedly imputable, but it has a weak imputability. If life can be a good thing (for example, depending on which group one is in), only being manipulated does not seem to be imputable: would we not earnestly thank someone who has unilaterally forced us into something that later turns out to be beneficial to us? Life has to be shown as bad, this is indispensable (i.e. the first part does not sustain itself independently).
The point is then to show that life is bad. In the second part, you end up showing this. I just wonder if this proof does not arrive too late: why develop the subject of “groups” if later it will be conceded that life is bad with independence of groups? On the other hand (or on the same hand, I do not know anymore) I think you and Cabrera show that life is bad in two different ways. You insist that the “ontological” elements are not indispensable to show this, because the ontic elements suffice. (The ontological would be the unnecessary cannonball when the shotgun is enough.)
Here, I think there seems to be something like a Gestalt difference between your position and his position: while Cabrera thinks that the terminality, the pain, the aggressions of others, etc. are part of an ontological structure that pervades the entire ontic domain, you see these things as the “bad parts” (the “necessary aspects,” in your words) of the ontic package. Hence you find that the “ontological,” while important, is not indispensable because, in fact, it is as if you have already “embedded” the ontological in the ontic.
That is why I am talking about a difference in Gestalt. For you, the imputable element is that the parents know that life is also bad. For Cabrera, the imputable element is that life is structurally bad, without “also.”
May 17 (Later)
Sorry, I had to talk to my son’s school principal. I’ll try to resume now.
The crucial issue is that the moral argument against procreation indisputably needs the proof that life is bad. If you do not presuppose this (even methodologically, because in the first part you find it premature to present this to the “public square”), you keep the analysis only on an epistemic level, while Cabrera’s analysis is openly metaphysical.
I believe that you can only morally object to procreation by adopting a metaphysics of life; you cannot do it only with epistemic elements. If someone finds life to be good, and thanks his parents for bringing him into existence, the parents can always defend themselves by saying, “See? That is perfectly possible! We are not ultra-egoistic! We do not deny that we brought him into existence for our satisfaction (we are only honest egoists), but we always thought he could like life and be thankful for having been born.” And this, without metaphysical proof, is perfectly plausible, and the general proof of the immorality of procreation will not follow.
You could say: it will not follow with metaphysical proof either, because one could accept that life is bad and yet be happy to have been born and thank his parents for bringing him into existence. (For this reason Cabrera leaves the Camusian problem of whether “it is worth or not to live” as an extremely individual choice.) But here his position is very radical: since the structure of human life is the painful process of decay and deterioration, Cabrera thinks that absolutely no one, no human being, can like or accept their own painful decay. This is simply impossible.
If someone says to Cabrera: “Look, I like life, despite everything,” he’ll laugh, and then he’ll say, “No, look, there’s a big misconception here; because you cannot say that you like to deteriorate, to decay, to experience your growing weakness, to grow old, to become increasingly decrepit, and to finally die painfully. You must be saying something else, because that does not make any sense.” Here the door is completely closed to the argument: “Let’s give birth to them, maybe they will like it.” Do you believe that you have totally closed this door without metaphysics, without a strong ontological difference, only with epistemological tools?
It seems to me that you maintain that it is not necessary to adopt this metaphysical position to morally dispute procreation, and I am not at all certain of this. But in any case, it seems to me that your text oscillates from the objective realization of life’s badness to the subjective and perspectivist (of the group which one is in). You still prefer to hunt with a modest shotgun and think that Cabrera’s artillery is unnecessarily heavy. Remember, however, that he was fighting against centuries of affirmativism. Is there really no need for an extraordinarily powerful weapon? (And I am here defending Cabrera’s position in the same way as we defend the honor of our ancestors.)
Cautious hugs, Professor von Kabra.
May 25, 2120
Dear von Kabra,
Do not worry, I know perfectly well what it is like to exaggeratedly repeat a point that continues to come and go, and I think you did well to risk: I have nothing against non-ultra-egoistic gambles, that is, involving only potent, responsible and aware beings like us! I do not see a tension like you described, Kabra. In the first part I do not say that the only imputable element is the obligation, but only this is said, that is, it is said that the unilateral and manipulative obligation is imputable. Notice also that I say that this applies even if life is good (without asserting that it is good, my judgment is still suspended). I believe, however, that this exposition faces many dangers.
In any case, what I wanted to do in the second part of my text was not to modify or remove (in the corrective sense of eliminating a tension) what was said in the first part, but I see it as the presentation of additional elements, as if they were aggravating the situation: it gradually becomes worse.
It seems to me that with the novelties of the second part, the immorality of procreation becomes glaring. But this issue that you pose regarding the “insufficiency” of the arguments of the first part to morally condemn procreation, I would ask: insufficient for whom? I concede that for an affirmative person without “goodwill,” it would not be enough. But I would not grant the point in the case of the prototypical “responsible procreator.” Because the gamble, in this case, has put at risk another innocent, without power, knowledge and responsibility; the gamble was unnecessary and could have been avoided; if it had been avoided, it would not harm this innocent, and it was not avoided because we are talking about a compulsive gambler.
If there was an a priori certainty that life would be good for a particular child, I would concede that, with only manipulation, there would be a weak imputability. But when one notices that the parents did not have this certainty and gambled with the child’s life, even if they coincidentally come to have the luck with which they counted beforehand, there seems to be a significant increase in imputability: a manipulative and contingent gamble, which results in burdens for the one who was not consulted.
I do not agree that the moral argument against procreation indisputably requires the proof that life is necessarily bad; it seems to me that for some people it is sufficient that it is possibly bad. Even if many are grateful for being put in SD (to use Cabrera’s acronym), since there was no level of power, knowledge and responsibility, ultra-egoism appears, too late for the parent to be considered only as an honest egoist. Ultra-egoism does not depend on a resentment or resignation.
At this point you are absolutely right: with the first part I do not totally close the door to the argument “let’s give birth to them, maybe they will like it” which, in fact, seems to me to be the typical argument of an affirmative person without” goodwill.” But now I think you noticed very well the movement I am doing: I am gradually closing the door! In the first part it closes a little, a so-called “responsible procreator” would stop there. For others it will be necessary to completely close the door, which occurs in the second part, with metaphysical elements, embedded or not.
Because of this, I think that you did not quite understand my position when you stated that “the ontological would be the unnecessary cannonball when the shotgun is enough.” My statement would be: the shotgun might be enough, and then I do not need the cannonball, but sometimes the cannonball is necessary.
Candid hugs, Thiago di Diabolis.
May 18, 2120
Let us talk more about ultra-egoism (a very interesting category that Cabrera does not use). Here, I think I understand your thought well: in our petty daily lives we live simply in egoism; it is like the air we breathe, our usual atmosphere. So much so that when someone threatens us with altruisms, we become suspicious.
From time to time, pedophiles and murderers remind us that there are more acute egoisms in the world, uncommon egoisms that still surprise us. But the worst of all is the egoism of procreation, because it bites into the very BEING of the one involved. (As I am painfully aware of this when I face the round eyes of Lucas and Érika!)
You call this “ultra-egoism.” It not only transcends normal egoism, but also the super-egoism of violent actions with existing people. With the aggravation that creating children and its corresponding ultra-egoism have a much greater tendency to be converted into an ordinary practice than the violent action. Moral philosophers may feel indignant about the “trivialization of evil,” but the “trivialization of good” is far more dangerous.
How can one avoid these disturbing sequitur? Because your thought here becomes almost unbearable! (My wife stops reading at these points and asks me if it is really worth continuing.) Where does this philosophy lead us? I believe that a possible reply (adopted even by Cabrera) comes from a critique of the absolutism of the moral point of view (because “egoism” is a moral category, with no place, for example, in Heidegger’s ontology, or in the instinctual psychology of Nietzsche). I wonder if procreation, precisely because it bears such a tremendous moral weight, is ever a fully reflected act.
(The abominable Cabrera made me think that perhaps procreation—not suicide—is the Freudian Slip par excellence.)
He (the abominable) would see a certain psychological optimism in your approach, in the sense of an underestimation of the stupidity and clumsiness of human acts. He would say that you honor an idiotic humanity by attributing consistent reasoning and wise deliberation to it. According to him, people kill and procreate for the hell of it, they have no ability to explain or justify what they do or omit. I believe you would retort that idiots should also be punished for the tragic consequences of their stupidity. I only point out that the ultra-egoists can be just ultra-clumsy (and I, personally, would not run away as a parent from this judgment).
The family of terms surrounding “egoism” supposes that people deliberate and that their deliberation is what harms the unborn. They would have coldly planned their children for their “entertainment, satisfaction, pleasure or fulfillment.” If it were always like this, we could feel relieved. If we were victims of deliberation, our present situation would be at least tragic. But we are in the world much more by carelessness than by deliberation, which makes our situation comical and pitiful. I do not think I have deliberately caused Lucas and Érika to be born. I think they are children of confusion and despair. (I’ll try to make it so that Laura never reads this letter.)
To relieve myself, I will conclude this letter with a frivolous remark, of a linguistic nature: unfortunately only in Portuguese can we enjoy the word play around “gera-dor” and “procria-dor.” Not even in Spanish, where “dor” is transformed into “dolor.” It seems that only in Portuguese the procreator creates pain. I am sorry! One can only be pessimistic in Portuguese.
Hugs, Julius von Kabra.
May 19, 2120
Still on the subject of thoughtless and accidental procreation, I think of the significance of having children in the lower classes. (Because I suppose you want to achieve philosophical results that apply in general to the human being, and not just to the Brazilian middle class bourgeoisie.)
When you focus on the parent who is thinking of procreating because he wants to please his partner, because he “loves children,” wants to form a family, fulfill a social compatibility, feel “more complete,” have someone to leave his assets to, or someone who cares for him in old age, I cannot help but think that these are all ideals of the petite bourgeoisie, and not simply human desires in general.
Very poor and marginalized people, on the verge of delinquency, always in the urgent need to survive and with primary or non-existent moral feelings, are little interested in pleasing their female companions or in accommodating themselves in the social whole that marginalizes them; they have no idea what it means to feel “more complete”; some know that, by procreating, they create an enemy to be cared for, and not someone who will take loving care of them; and they certainly do not have any assets to leave to someone. How do we deal with this?
If you want to continue to avoid the theory of procreation as an accident (which increasingly seduces me!), you will have to broaden your notion of “ultra-egoism” to encompass the behavior of lower-classes. In such a way that a parent who simply has a relationship with a woman in a slum, disappears, returns 15 years later, fights with his son and kills him, does not correspond to almost any of the motivations of procreating that you expose in your text: he is not interested in forming a family, nor in integrating into a social whole, nor does he have moral or economic expectations of the child he has created in an act of helplessness, cruelty and neglect.
If this person is also “ultra-egoistic” (as I think they are), your descriptions will have to be enriched in some way. Ultra-egoism will now also be tied to carelessness and negligence, and not just to the cruel and deliberate projects of the hypocritical bourgeoisie. Your negativity will have to overcome class limitations.
(Same day, later)
Your description about the condition of the child (from whose point of view you put yourself in since the beginning) as a sufferer with a good salary is extraordinary. The additional problem is that most human beings are physically and morally harmed and on top of that they are underpaid. But in any case you are consistent in saying that it makes no sense to give birth to someone for them to suffer physically and morally, just for the expectation of a good salary.
Have you noticed the link between this and Cabrera’s aphorism about “The genetic difference”? (The one Laura hates the most.) Because it would seem contradictory to like the good salary, but prefer not to be put in the position of deserving it. The procreator might argue: the only way you can earn a good salary is by submitting yourself to physical and moral sufferings in order to deserve it, so it is necessary (and preferable) to be born. But Cabrera says that it is perfectly coherent to give value (now) to the good salary, but, in spite of everything, prefer not to be put in the situation of deserving it. (Just as one can like children and not like parents.)
All this seems to be repulsively consistent to me, and it displeases me very much. If, in the register of Cabrera’s thought, we think of procreation as total mutilation (the breaking of the initial non-being), the debt with Seneca appears clear. A person can accept or even celebrate intra-worldly goods and, at the same time, prefer not to be born. This thought shudders me, and I admire that you have dared to express it in your unpleasant book.
In any case,
receive my affectionate hugs, Julius von Kabra.
Maypril 30, 2120
Dear Professor Julius von Kabra,
After my visit to the Oracle, I felt tranquil, I felt better, more at peace, relaxed, calm (it is interesting, it is as if He could make me glimpse the first nothingness, you should try it)! Too bad that this state did not last very long, after it I had a gastroenteritis that almost made me face PD (see Cabrera in a James Bond style in “One only dies twice,” in aphorism 5)! But anyway, let us go the point that I think might interest you more.
Already in your first letters, you had said that you felt like you were a descendant of Cabrera. This was shocking to me, to the extent that one could perceive a kind of betrayal: how was it possible that the main proponent of Structural Abstention could have a descendant? Only now, after much reflection, I can tell you a new story about Julio Cabrera, something that you do not know and that may change some of your ideas about him. But even so, I must tell you everything (and this was even the advice of the Oracle itself).
You will realize that I will be acting as an omniscient narrator because the Oracle told me things I could not know myself. I still remember that the time the philosopher lived was that of cell phones (chips were not yet implanted in the brains of newborns) and cars driven mainly by gasoline, notice the extravagance!
In the preface to the book I mention a course of negative ethics that Cabrera taught for students at the now defunct University of Goiânia. At the time, my grandfather Santiago di Diabolis went to that city to attend the event (he reports these occurrences in his famous diary) and took a friend who also had a great affinity with the negative subject. They attended one of the three days of lectures and then returned to Brasília, discussing a lot and excited with that philosopher who did not lie to them and did not repeat the usual simian speeches.
His friend was already convinced not to commit, at least, the crime of becoming a father (in Cioran’s expression in the book The Trouble With Being Born), but he also married Grace, a woman like those who find a baby to be the most beautiful thing in the world, and is willing to do everything to get one. (After all, that was all she needed: she had a good job, a good phone, a good car, a good house, and even a good husband. Only a child was missing!) He still retained some optimism; he hoped he could change her, that the combined reading of Cabrerian texts would have the same effect on her, since they were so clear and convincing to him.
In the first year of his marriage, when everything was still more like honeymoon than bitterness (as Voltaire would say), he showed her the texts he had so often mentioned. And to his surprise she found them to be a total absurdity, and she immediately began to speak: “A typical thing of philosophers, of those bastards and degenerates, atheists, homosexuals, stupid, worthless people, incapable of faith or hope, who are inventing this type of thing because they have nothing else to do; they should go find a real job, and then I am sure they would stop saying things like that; they would do well if they killed themselves and left us alone. Among so many things to write about (happiness, self-help, pre-established harmony, human dignity, humans as the only beings capable of laughing, self-awareness, superior sensibility, ability to make art), why write precisely about this and in that horrible way? Could they not see the birth of a baby as a miracle, like the birth of the New? That would be much more convenient!”
One of the things she kept repeating was that she wanted to “feel pregnant”! Grace’s sister often told her of the pleasures of her huge belly, between vomiting, back pain and bad moods, which filled the house with genuine joy. He suggested them to go to a doctor (who had been indicated to them) who induced the patients to pseudocyesis (false pregnancy, by the way, seems to be a good example of the fact that the cyesis happens for the satisfaction or fulfillment of the mother, and not for “the child’s own good”), but it did not work for her. He even suggested adoption, but she also did not accept, she said it was dangerous to “get someone” with unknown genes, imagining the hypothesis of a philosopher father who had abandoned his child, and well, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
They divorced soon. Fortunately (especially for the new being) there was no time for Grace to deceive him and become pregnant, by making use of the matriarchal and simian power granted to her by nature. But for her, that professor of philosophy, Julio Cabrera, was to blame for the destruction of her dreams. She did not get her beautiful little baby, she lost his husband, who, by the way, got the car, and in one of the fights, her cell phone was broken. She decided she would take revenge, though she still did not know exactly how. After all, even though there were no restrictions on the ideas of procreating or heterociding, she did not want to be arrested.
And then, one day the opportunity of her revenge arose. Cabrera went to the doctor (this must have happened around the distant year of 2006), because he suspected he had a serious health problem, due to a certain set of persistent symptoms. The doctor asked him to take a series of tests, including a spermogram. He went to the lab ready to masturbate. When he was offered a pornographic magazine, he refused and said that he already had brought his own stimulant from home (he showed a copy of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation).
While delighting in his sophosexual fetishes, he started to think that, since he was already born, he could have a (so called) birth defect (something that might sound tautological in our environment of thought, since living is a birth defect), which would make him not have any spermatozoon. Nullity in this result (as in others) would be a great gift to the negative philosopher, although it may sound tragic in the realm of common sense. He imagined that it would be very interesting to have been born (necessarily) useless to nature, not even to have the possibility of transmitting his vulnerable genes to an innocent sufferer, to be physically incapable of giving birth.
It is then that fortune comes back to laugh at Cabrera: the tube containing four milliliters of the most dangerous venom and a label with the patient’s name fell into her hands, Grace’s, who worked in the laboratory. She notes that there are about one hundred and ten million spermatozoa in the seminiferous fluid. Now she knows how she will take revenge on him, the execrable philosopher. She arranged for Cabrera to be given an examination result that declared him to be completely infertile, placing him in that interesting sperm nullity, making him very content and without any suspicion of the graceful manipulation. She froze the liquid and took an artificial insemination into an acquaintance of her, also a philosopher, who wanted to have a child of a philosopher. And that is all I know.
Are you really a descendant of Cabrera? Maybe the hypothesis that I deem highly improbable, unpleasant and inconvenient, is the one which correctly describes what is occurring?
All my tranquility is gone and I must go back to the bathroom. I hope we stay in touch.
Tragic hugs, Thiago di Diabolis.
If the reader has opted for the route of interspersed reading, they should go back to “the Ego of the issue,” II.
LETTERS OF THE EGO II
May 20, 2120
In a moment of weakness, Cabrera thought that perhaps abstention was as manipulative as procreation. You had the sad merit of presenting elements to break this inconvenient symmetry. In your thought, before being “unborn,” the non-being simply does not exist, and there are no relationships we can have with a non-being. We cannot be faithful to “him” or betray “him“; “he” has no autonomy to be respected or character to be denigrated. “He” simply does not exist.
But I wonder: if we do not harm the will of the non-being by refraining from giving birth to them, since there is no will to hurt, nor do we harm their “will” by causing them to be born. If the possible unborn child is in the first nothingness, it seems that there is no difference in refraining from giving birth to them and giving birth, in which case I cannot praise abstention and condemn procreation in these terms, but either praise both or condemn both. The first nothingness is homogeneous. (Am I trying to save the remains of my own fatherhood?)
The idea seems to be that in the moment X1, everything is tied; the differences will come later. By procreating, the procreated being will arrive at X2 and X3 and will suffer only for our benefit. By abstaining, on the contrary, this suffering will not happen. But the differences occur in the domain of being; in the domain of the (first) nothingness, everything is the same. Is that right? Am I exposing your thought properly?
Thus, Cabrera’s idea that abstention could be as manipulative as procreation on the level of the first nothingness seems to be incorrect. What has to be said is that both are non-manipulative at this level, since there is nothing to manipulate. Manipulation is unimpeded by abstention and allowed by procreation, at later levels. Abstention can be praised as it closes the door to a future manipulation, beyond the level of the first nothingness.
I have been thinking all night about this: being is less than non-being, because in order to exist, one must delimit the first nothingness in a single direction. And the restlessness of our lives can be ontologically explained by virtue of this need to live only this, on the background of the whole from which we have been excluded. Being has the privilege of existing, but such existence pays the price of restless limitation. What one can be is always infinitely less than what one is not.
I am really tired now. I’ll stop writing for today. I confess that reading your texts is making me revisit old forgotten ideas. I was just watching my daughter playing with her kite, so carefree, and I could not avoid a shudder. She has no idea of all the immense suffering that awaits her, and for which I am directly responsible. I continue to love my children intensely, and I believe that I will always love them, but now it is as if this love, with all its immensity, was a hostage to an earlier and deeper love of which I am denied forever.
Hugs, prof. J. von Kabra.
May 25, 2120
I also had the impression that Cabrera sometimes thought of abstention to be as manipulative as procreation. Applying the aphorism 55, for example, he would consider that not having Lucas and Érika for them to not bother you while writing letters would be as manipulative as having them to take care of you in old age. Following the line of argument that there are no effective relationships we can have with a non-being, on the side of non-procreation this would be solved.
I agree that everything is the same in the domain of the first nothingness, and that no one is manipulated effectively. But there is already an announced manipulation, which will become real if the first nothingness is taken forward. I like Cabrera’s idea of considering both acts as manipulative (if we understand them as potentialities) in X1. I just think it is a proto-manipulation, of lower intensity when compared with those that actually occur. A damage to a proto-being seems to be less devastating than a damage to a being!
It would seem incorrect to me that both abstention and procreation could be equally immoral (as he comments in the aphorism 59). I agree that both can be considered immoral, but the fact of having ultra-egoism and manipulation in act and potency (that is, in moments XI, X2 and X3), instead of only in potency (only in XI , that is, without ultra-egoism), makes procreation much more immoral (assuming the possibility of degrees of immorality, and not just presence or absence of morality). (Still in this same aphorism, the phrase “to let them be born and let them decide for themselves” is already stated within the primary, brutal non-decision, of supreme atrocity.)
Abstention can still be praised (as procreation cannot), among other things, for closing the door to future manipulations, beyond the level of the first nothingness. In this context, a curious thought occurred to me: this level was already pre-configured as an imminent danger not by the father, but by the grandfather of the new being. With abstention I freed my child from effective manipulation, but only my grandson was freed in a “more” complete way, of not being manipulated in his first nothingness by his father. I have the impression that I could have been better saved by my grandfather di Diabolis, because the further away a person is from being, the better.
You say that Cabrera’s point is stronger, because from the initial moments (and crucially) he stays at the level of being. I often think of him as a demolition expert! With the ontological bomb, any construction of a procreator who wants to exempt themselves from responsibility will be structurally affected and will remain without foundation. But, as I pointed out, in the case of a “responsible procreator,” the ontic shotgun would be enough (to kill a little bird) and a cannon shot would not be needed.
One could read my text and have the impression of an excessive concession to the “seesaw theory,” and then read Cabrera’s text and end this. One could read Cabrera’s text and, not understanding it, get the impression that he sustains that there is nothing good in life, and then read my text and see that even if a procreator finds life great, it is still a crime to procreate. I think that if someone understood well that nothing can be taken away from a non-being, there will be no problem with the “seesaw theory” (this theory will not take away the intra-worldly “joys” of the sunny days).
That description of yours is excellent, about a forever denied love, hostage of an initial fault, the only possible love for effective parents.
Good rest! Commiserated hugs,
Thiago di Diabolis.
May 25, 2120 (Later)
And, please, Professor von Kabra, stop calling me an optimist, because I feel offended! It has already been difficult to admit that I am being optimistic when thinking that Cabrera and I can save some new being through our negative literature, counting, of course, with the “good will” of humans! I am not underestimating the embarrassment, but I am proposing to make, with anyone who wants to do this in a thoughtful and sensitive way, a broad consideration of the problem from the perspective of the new being (if you’re going to think, follow the thought until the end)! I am aware that this may raise awareness of a very small part of the population. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they will either heterocide or procreate for nothing or everything, because it was hot or cold, because the day seemed pleasant to them or not, without any justification.
The dominance of the ultra-clumsiness of procreation that you mention (and which applies even in your own case as a father) seems inevitable, but I still see in it the presence of ultra-egoism. It could be said that the elements of ultra-egoism, synthesized to make this distinction, are the following:
• obligation into being (creation) for (solely) one’s own satisfaction.
• the cause of the new being rests on the ultra-egoist (who aims to satisfy himself through the children).
If removed from this context in which I present, that is, that of partial deliberation, and considering procreation in general, we would have:
• obligation into being (creation) as a result (solely) of one’s own satisfaction.
• the cause of the new being rests on the ultra-egoist (who aims to satisfy himself through the sexual organs).
Even if the parents did not even notice the child’s point of view (that the child was going to come into being), even if they were enchanted by the pure beauties of the genitalia and did not think of anything else but to enjoy it, the goal was the same: to seek satisfaction. One may be seeking the pleasure of the act, or one may be seeking the pleasure of the effect of the act. With no deliberation or with some, the effect (albeit collateral) will be the same, i.e. the child! (He ends up worse off.)
May 25 (Later)
I was thinking that although there is a risible phallocentric social imaginary that in copulation the female is ruined, the new being is the one who is really ruined (one more reason for male ultra-egoists to procreate: having a daughter is the only way to ruin a female! Freud would now joke that for ultra-egoistic females who do not want to be homosexual or psychotic, having a child is the only way out!).
I agree that it would be less bad if it were always perversely planned, because then, at least, the child would be considered in some way (albeit as a means of pleasure). What seems to occur, however, is the indifference and insensitivity that (probably due to stupid and extreme egosim) makes one not even notice the perspective of the new being, as if they were never going to exist (a kind of “ultra- insensitivity”!). Perhaps they are even seen as an arm of the individual himself (or as the extension of his sexual organ), having no sense to wonder about what the arm will have to go through. (The new being is seen as something that you own, that is yours, that is you, and not as another being.)
May 25 (Later still, in the midst of insomnia)
Indeed, it is in this way, with this generalized ultra-egoism, that I would have suggested to Cabrera a fourth line (connected precisely with the idea of procreation as an accident) for a possible moral judgment of procreation. In the three lines presented by him, he indicates that it is not correct to give someone something that we consider to be not valuable (first line), to manipulate someone (second line) or to disrespect their autonomy (third line). In the fourth line, the ultra-clumsiness that you mention (or, as I would say, ultra-idiocy) is so big that one is unable to see that someone will receive the lack of value, that someone will be manipulated and that someone will have their autonomy disrespected. This someone is simply not taken into account!
This new line would say something like: it is not correct to be indifferent, insensitive and stupid to the point of not realizing that “the child will come into being,” and that they are someone, another being, who will have their own sensibility and will not only be a piece of the parent’s flesh.
The “Ego of the issue” in relation to the idea of procreation as an “accident” may consist in the inability to perceive the alter ego, the other as other. A kind of deficiency of the perception of alterity. Instead of that rare disease that deprives one of physiological proprioception (affecting less than ten people in the world), a disease that may plague almost the entire world population is one which deprives one of psychological “alterity,” of the perception of the other; a disease as dangerous as only the “trivialization of good” could be!
It is funny that you say that only in Portuguese the procreator creates pain (that is, disrespectful*). This reminded me of an event, reported by my grandfather Diabolis (in his legendary diary). At the time, Cabrera commented with annoyance to him that Habermas (a philosopher who, incredible as it may seem, was very respected in those days, and whom Cabrera called “the affirmative old man”), in his book “The Future of Human Nature,” was indignant at the possibility (at that time, since in our days this is now regularly done) of genetic manipulation to make new beings the way the parents wanted them to be. (I’ll bet Laura Christiana ordered your children with green little eyes, blond hair and chubby body. Sorry for the untimely observation, I could not take it.) The Cabrerian annoyance (which I felt now due to your joke) is that one did not see the manipulation and difficulties always present in the usual procreative acts, from Adam and Eve, if that is the case! I hope that this pessimism cannot occur only in Portuguese or only in genetic manipulation!
Embarrassed hugs, Diabolis.
P.S.: Hauer sends greetings.
* Translator’s note: The original text is written as “desrespeitador,” which is once again a pun on the word “dor” (pain in Portuguese). The word “desrespeitador” (someone who is disrespectful), can have the suffix “dor” stressed to mean “(someone who) disrespects pain.”
May 26, 2120
Sorry for my current laconism. It is just that I am really worried. In the last few days I have stopped talking to Laura Cristiana about these matters because I believe they are beginning to seriously disturb her. I really do not know what is happening. She gets worse as I get more excited. She is very young and I dare not tell her that I would not like to have a third child, neither with her nor with anyone. I know that Cabrera would say that now it does not matter anymore, that the relevant numerical difference is between 0 and 1, that is, between not having children at all and having at least one. But between having 1 and having 15 there is no ontological difference (although there are great economic differences, I can assure you!). Anyway, I am willing to listen to this late scruple of mine.
So I hug you again, but I no longer send you, as before, the hugs of my wife, because she does not even know that I continue to write to you.
Until next time, Prof. J. von Kabra
May 26, 2120
Yes, I agree to consider all procreation and not just the one initially treated in the text, as a result of a decision. The point is that even in the lower classes the bourgeois imaginary has been introjected (at least some version of it), I would say that mainly through the mechanisms of reproduction of stereotypes, in which television and the quantum Internet are very representative, penetrating (careful with the verb!) in diverse social realities, for example, with the success of soap operas and reality shows (even in the slums).
The aesthetic appreciation of the baby, having been “imported” or not from the bourgeoisie, seems to have arrived together with the usual uproar (the “hysterical excess” to which Cabrera refers in his aphorism 33) to the lower classes.
In any case, ultra-egoism is not limited to the motivations mentioned. I think the most noteworthy thing is to observe (adopting the detective perspective you attribute to me) its modus operandi, as I suggested in the previous letter, which would be basically the movement to seek satisfaction (whatever the object of this satisfaction may be), regardless of anything else and in which an absolutely innocent being is involved.
If we consider that in the lower classes these motivations are not present, the so-called sexual factor seems to speak louder. By serving it (in the search for satisfaction) this may result in the emergence of the new being (which is even associated, in general, with a display of virility). Thus, someone who has had a sexual intercourse and disappeared, unaware of the existence of the child and who may never find him or her, will be framed in my principle of ultra-egoism, they followed the same path. So, as I see it, my idea certainly goes beyond social class limitations.
By the way, taking this opportunity to comment a little more on what I have already mentioned in the preface to the second edition of Nascituri te Salutant, I believe that many people involved with particular “revolutions” should pay more attention to this issue that we are dealing with! It seems that many believe that the “problems of humanity” would be solved if capitalism were replaced by a more fair system, or if women had equality with men, or blacks with whites, or if the poor had minimal conditions, or if Jews and Palestinians (and all) lived in peace (even in attempts at peace, propaganda was already procreative: “Make love, not war!”).
Perhaps the true revolution would come about through the Act of Refusal. Perhaps the only way to not condone with various unfair systems (including the natural system, which furnishes the worst of the matrices) is to refuse to continue with all this (and not just with one part of it). It is of no use to try to respect the “others” and disrespect the most innocent of all others (the person over whom you, and only you, have all the power in the world; only you can save them, they need you!).
Does she, your wife, really want to have more children!? Convince her by the economic factor then! Many people have already seen that it is expensive to have children, although the true “cost” is never considered. (See note 5 of my text.)
Hugs from someone who celebrates the goods of the intra-world and would rather not have been born, Thiago di Diabolis.
May 27, 2120
I apologize to you beforehand if I am suffocating you with my letters!! In these last three days I am very disturbed, suffering excessively, I have not been able to sleep well, and I have had outbursts of production of texts, I cannot contain myself . . . If you still have the courage, take a look at these pages I send you!
I do not know for sure what awakens this passion of mine, perhaps it is my indignation at your report that your wife still wants more children, even after having supposedly read my text and agreed with several of the notes . . . How absurd!!! In this spirit, excusing the expression, I decided to synthesize the many questions and discussions which appeared throughout the text, in a table (what Cabrera would probably call a moral mapping of procreation)! Maybe, after seeing everything together, it becomes clear how sadistic (although not even Sade approve of this sadism) and unscrupulous the procreative act can be, contrasting it with abstention, that is an option open to all.
Here is the mapping!
Unhinged, tabulated hugs, from the agripino baby Thiago.
Act of not having children:
One makes a sensitive and thoughtful consideration of the implications, possibilities and perspectives involved in the act of procreation.
One does not force, impose or bestow anything upon anyone. (One carries their bag of bricks without forcing anyone to carry another one.)
The possibility of participation of the new being in the third group is considered (of being suicidal, for example).
The risk of one’s actions is limited to the individual who made the decision. One adopts a responsible attitude, one keeps the implications of one’s actions to oneself.
Act of having children:
A thoughtless* and insensitive act of procreation is carried out, unconditionally* yielding to impulses and attempting to exempt oneself from responsibility, with total disregard for rationality and sensitivity, and disregarding* possibilities and perspectives.
One forces, imposes, bestows something upon someone. (One carries their bag of bricks and forces someone to carry another one.)
The possibility of participation of the new being in the third group is not considered*.
The child is exposed to the risk, and therefore the risk extends beyond those who made the decision. One throws the whole package on the shoulders of their children, with all its implications; from then onwards, the new being is the one who will have to deal with the problem.
Act of not having children:
One answers “no” to the question: “Do you want to be responsible for the existence of a person (without power or knowledge about the decision to make them exist) who can be so vulnerable to the point of being affected, hurt, devastated, and even destroyed by the pains of existence?”
One does not force the child to pay any debt that they have not incurred. One does not make them a victim of intergenerational tyranny.
One considers the possibility of the new being occupying the position of the intense sufferer.
One does not impose a mortality on the new being, a life that is terminative, debilitating and self-aware, that frustrates every project and generates insecurity.
Act of having children:
One answers “yes” to the same question.
The child will have to pay debts (paid every second and impossible to be removed) that they did not incur (which were inherited). There is intergenerational tyranny.
The possibility of the new being occupying the position of the intense sufferer is not considered*. (Including of the one who wants to die and cannot die.)
One imposes precisely this type of life on the new being. One forces the new being into a life that is always decaying, in which one suffers actions that cause greater limitations to the human condition.
Act of not having children:
One does not force or enable the new being to experience the illness and death of their father, mother, son or daughter, relatives, friends, among others, being fully aware of these possibilities.
One does not condemn the new being to make choices, to go through frustrations and failures.
One does not force a being who is sensible to pain and suffering to be a sufferer, subject to the various natural limitations. (By not forcing someone to have a body, no needle can hurt them.)
One worries (in X 1) about who will suffer the pain.
Act of having children:
One forces or enables the new being to experience the illness and death of all these people, and, in general, the coexistence with the suffering of loved ones.
One condemns the new being to make choices, to go through frustrations and failures, to be disrespected and hindered by others.
One forces a sensible being, of particular perception, to be a sufferer, imbued by the various natural limitations (not chosen and immutable). And all this without any choice, power or responsibility on the part of the new being. (By forcing them to have a body, a
needle can always be stuck into them.)
There is no concern with who will suffer the pain. On the contrary, the exploitation of the new being begins, mentally, already in XI, as part of the performance of an absolutely indefensible attack against the prototypical innocent victim.
Act of not having children:
For the already existing individual, there can be resignation to life (it is “like that”), but not for the new being, who was not forced into the same painful situation.
One either does not fit into any of the three categories (egoism, super-egoism, ultra-egoism), or at most one is characterized as egoistic, or super-egoistic, or both, about other already existing people.
One considers the consequences of one’s own action, which may be pleasant for oneself, but which will be painful for the new being.
One does not force someone to be an agent of nature (in particular, a reproducer).
An attitude of respect for human suffering is adopted, particularly with regard to the child.
Act of having children:
For the new being, life will be “like that,” just as it is for the already existing individual, because the parents decided for them.
It is the exercise of ultra-egoism par excellence, the maximum degree of egoism (that is, it is the creation of a new being only to satisfy oneself).
One does not consider* the painful consequences for the other, resulting from one’s own satisfaction.
The child is forced to be an agent of the natural system (in particular, a reproducer).
An attitude of disrespect or indifference towards human suffering is adopted, particularly with regard to the child.
Act of not having children:
One does not force the new being to be an agent of the parent’s belief system. One does not force a new being to be a means to anything. The new being is not seen as a means but as an end.
The new being is maintained in X1, in the privileged status of the first nothingness, without the prospect of the 2nd nothingness, without limitations, without powerlessness, without anguish, without pain, without suffering, without worries, without losing oneself
One harms the non being’s right to come into being, only in XI, that is, it is not an effective harm, since nothing was taken away from him, because he simply does not exist.
One reacts responsibly to the current regencies, to the traditional simian inertia.
Act of having children:
One forces the child to be a means wthin the belief systems of the parent.
One forces the child to be something and nothing more, at least not much more than being. One forces them into a subtractive and debilitating life, directly facing the second nothingness. One forces them into a limited existence, of negative power, powerless, fearful, anguished, worried and painful, of loss of oneself every day. One forces the child into being, “taking” them away from the privileged status of the first nothingness.
One harms the being’s right to not come into being, in X2 and forever (something irremediable even with suicide), in addition to the abuse in XI.
One repeats the same irresponsible, thoughtless, insensitive, and traditional act.
Act of not having children:
One does not condemn or sacrifice what would surely exist, that is, the body, sensibility, thoughts and feelings of the new being, in potential benefit of what may or may not exist.
The proposal of having the well-being of the new being as one’s main or sole objective is accepted entirely.
One answers “yes” to the question: “Would it not be better to satisfy yourself without doing harm to an absolutely innocent individual?”
One thought about the reasons that the new being would have to come into being.
At the moment XI, one thinks about the well-being of the new being, one reveals a moral concern and love for him, for the sensible and absolutely innocent element.
Act of having children:
One sacrifices and condemns what assuredly exists: the body, sensibility, thoughts, and feelings of the new being, in potential benefit of what may or may not exist.
The proposal of having the well-being of the new being as one’s main or sole objective is entirely abandoned.
One answers “no” to the same question.
One forces the new being to come into being, even without any undoubted and necessary reason for all new beings to come into being.
One does not think about the well-being of the new being, one does not worry about it as such, properly speaking. There is concern and love for oneself, in a very high degree of involvement with oneself. No love is devoted to the sensible and absolutely innocent
element, nor is there any moral concern with it.
Act of not having children:
One does not fetishize or objectify the new being, treating it as non-human.
One does not commit a crime to then protect the victim; one thinks before doing so and one decides, first of all, not to make a victim.
One thinks of the many difficulties that the new being would face, the necessary conditions of their existence, inherent in the human being, and does not force them into that.
In the attempt to reconcile self-satisfaction with the well-being of the new being, the well-being of the new being is prioritized, even to the detriment of one’s own interests (perhaps, to “experience parenthood”). But there is the option of being satisfied in a deeper way, knowing that one is effectively doing the best for the possible new being.
Act of having children:
One utilizes the child as an object, a thing, for one’s own satisfaction. The distinction between a thing and a human being is lost; the child becomes a fetish.
One commits a crime whose victim is one’s own child, of which one afterwards tries to spare them (from being victimized by others).
One does not think about these difficulties. Even with human life being (naturally and socially) very difficult, one forces the new being into all this only by virtue of one’s own ultra-egoism, even though it was avoidable.
In the attempt to reconcile self-satisfaction with the well-being of the new being, at best, one’s own contentment is prioritized, even with the total and irreversible damage done to the new being. In most cases, however, one cannot even consider that there is a prioritization, because indifference and insensitivity are such that one does not even notice the existence of the perspective of the new being (completely ignored under the ultra-egoistic view). In these cases, only one thing is seen: “I, I, I. . . .”
* If the concern for the son or daughter’s well being is maintained.
Septober 8, 2120
I had to interrupt our epistolary for several months (from May to Septober, more precisely) because a serious conflict with Laura Cristiana took away all my concentration. At this moment, I write hidden in the basement, with an improvised light, to try to finish my comments even in a precarious way.
After all, you convey the following idea: two totally unscrupulous beings, bored and empty, for their own entertainment (the term is yours), decide, more or less thoughtfully but always irresponsibly, to play a joke on a third being who, until then, had rested peacefully in the first nothingness. UItra-egoistically, they then create a new being, which I imagine has the face of that charming little baby you put some pages later. (I suspect this little baby in the picture is you, but I have no proof.) The parents are seen as criminals and procreation as an atrocity; all they do after that is mitigation and adjustment. The damage is done. Crime without punishment. Procreation is, in a way, the perfect crime, even socially consecrated.
It seems to me that this picture lacks some mediations. In the way you put it, there really are no differences between procreation and crime. I once read somewhere that it seems Cabrera got furious at a talk about suicide, offered at some Brazilian university, because someone from the audience told him that if human life had no value (as Cabrera maintained) then suicide was the only way out. He replied that the human condition was composed of the tension between the terminal structure of being and the intra-worldly creation of values, and that the choice as to what to do with this delicate balance belonged to the individual human being in each case and therefore there could not be any general prescription about suicide or non-suicide. It seems to me that this response (having actually been given by Cabrera or not) could be harnessed to the issue of procreation.
Many parents are simply unscrupulous and your idea applies perfectly to them. But I can imagine parents of another kind, for example, that make calculations like the following: “Human life is a delicate balance between the terminal structure of being and the intra-worldly creation of values. I want to have a child and I think they will be able to keep the balance between both things.” I believe that all of Cabrera’s philosophical criticisms as well as yours apply to this procreator: they are thinking about their own pleasure (I prefer not to use the word “entertainment”), in their own life project, they have no guarantee that their child will be able to maintain such a balance, they condemn the child to structural sufferings and pains, and to compulsively create values for them (the child) to attempt to fill their constitutive mortality in a tolerable way.
However, I cannot think of this procreator as a criminal, but at best as a clumsy human being who made a mistake in the calculations, a person with inadequate ideas and optimistic expectations. I would have no problem assuming the full weight of my paternal responsibility in those terms. I consider myself something much worse or something much better than a criminal, but certainly not a criminal, just like that, without mediations. In this sense, it seems to me that your idea offers a simplified picture of the morally problematic nature of procreation.
(Later, after helping Laura make the children sleep)
But on the other hand (and if you hate Christians you may be outraged by the compliment I am going to give you now), it seems to me that your text crosses something that I call “metaphysical charity” or “charity for the non-being” in the sense of an immense love for the unborn child, an immense pity and commiseration, ultimately, for the human race and a presentation of the act of abstention not only as a moral act but as a sublime display of consideration and affection for the other. Because I love you, you will not be born, would seem to be your motto.
With this, the apparent cruelty of your previous assertions (which so horrified my wife over the past few months) is balanced by a kind of Great Metaphysical Affection of last instance. All hatred for being seems to be a counterpart of an immense and unconditional affection for the non-being (of the child). Given the highly manipulative treatment given to infants and toddlers, abstention is seen as a living sample of a negative love never before explored by philosophy.
I was wondering if you could safely adopt Cabrera’s statement that it is not possible to be a good father or good mother except in a “second degree” (like the murderer who kills their victims without pain), without accepting any version of the ontological difference: because of course Cabrera would make the distinction (and here we have another mediation) between the father who ontically harms his children (for example, by forcing them to work for him on the streets, or preventing them from studying or, in even worse cases, sexually abusing them) and the ontological harm that any parent imposes on their children in birth, whatever their concrete attitudes toward them may be. But you do not have that difference, and therefore, coherently, you simply state that, starting from procreation, it is no longer possible to be a good father or good mother. I think you could survive a few more minutes in the wrath of the League of Mothers if you made some difference between being and beings.
In the twentieth century, Cabrera got tired of responding to the argument that he called “the Adam and Eve argument,” which he was often inquired: “If Adam and Eve had been negative, then there would have been no humanity.” I know Cabrera’s answer well (I know it as well as if I had formulated it myself), but what would be your answer to the Adam and Eve argument? Without generations of parents you could not have written “Considerations about the decision to create a new being.” What would you say?
Thiago, I think we will not be able to communicate for some time. I would very much like to send you our address for you to visit us, but now everything will depend on the unfolding of events. I do not want you to be mad at me or, even less, impose a great spiritual crisis on you, but I suspect that Laura Cristiana is pregnant, and I do not know from whom.
Fraternal hugs (not paternal, let alone maternal), from your friend, Professor J. von Kabra.
Septober 15, 2120
I hope things are not as serious as you put them, that you improve your situation with Laura Cristiana and that we can continue with our comments, despite everything.
Of course I will not deny what you consider to be an exacerbation of my moralistic tone, but I can agree with Cabrera on this point: what to do with the “delicate balance” (between the mortal structure of being and the creation of values) is up to each individual. What my text adds to this is just an attitude of coherence: to frankly admit ultra-egoism before the child. To tell the child where they really came from (from a bloody vagina and not from a white stork), why they exist (to satisfy a demand of another animal) and where they are going to (to the cemetery and perhaps to the hospital), and not a ridiculous little story that they were brought into existence (for their own good) to fulfill their mission on Earth.
I am entirely in agreement with your praise (regardless of Christian coincidence) of “metaphysical charity.” True compassion for mankind can only be demonstrated to those who do not yet exist. Whoever has an immense love for their child cannot give birth to them, because I love you, you will not be born (and rereading “The genetic difference”—52—I get the impression that Cabrera would fully agree with us). That is really how I feel! It really is my motto! You understood me well! No love considers the other more than the negative love, perhaps the only one that can be truly ethical.
Regarding the Adam and Eve argument, I can say the following (and I hope, with my radical ideas, not to disturb you even more, since I was worried by the tone of your last missive). We should think seriously about this: what is the problem with the extinction of humanity? Let us consider different perspectives. From an environmental standpoint, there is even a philosopher named John Gray who published his works at the beginning of the last century. He predicted that humans will not populate the Earth beyond the 22nd century because of the destruction they have been causing in the environment. But he said that the planet will be very well after our departure.
As far as we know, the planet will really not miss us (including other animals that have escaped our expansive vitality). On the contrary, we should do good by not being here, killing, polluting, destroying, deforesting, contaminating, consuming, depleting, extracting, exploding, among other human abilities.
From a macrocosmic perspective, the universe will also continue very well without us; we will stop polluting outer space with our satellites, space stations, and space junk. Anyway, what are we needed for, ontologically? For nothing at all . . . Only in an epistemic dimension could something “miss” us. Only humans themselves (or most of them) think humans would be missed. But without humans, humans are not missed. Yet they want, want and want . . . Humans want to take forward the same nothingness! Although their departure would not be bad in any other instance, they find themselves the most important and the most special, the unique ones, better than everything.
Thus, I think that if the “Great Inaugural Moral Act” (Cabrera, 38) of Humanity had taken place, it would have been the most beautiful and perfect act, a true gift. When one asks of its possible occurrence with sorrow, we would have to ask ourselves: what harm would it have caused, and to what? What have we done on Earth that is so great?
In any case, as far as we know, Humanity will become extinct one way or another. We have already passed 95% of the Earth’s habitable time span; the Sun will die and will swallow a lot of things, there will probably be nowhere to escape. But one does not need to worry about this. Most likely, well before that, we will become extinct (in a war or through the destruction we caused to the planet, or in a pandemic, or in a collision with an asteroid, etc.). Why not do it peacefully, lovingly and decisively? Sounds much better to me! I see no possibility of more worthy death! I would love to hear your opinion about this.
There are those who say that morality depends on life and thus morality could not “suggest” its own elimination. Adopting the perspective of an anthropomorphized morality, a few things could be said about that. The development of morality has as an empirical condition the existence of human beings, but this can only be seen as necessary because it is a demand of this same animal. If withdrawn from its selfish center, there would be no problem that morality no longer developed, because its demand would also have been eliminated together with humanity itself. That is, there are no problems in the elimination of moral sensitivity if this is due to the very elimination of the human being, of that particular being that has (or intends to have) morality.
Moral sensitivity in itself, so to speak, is not concerned with survival, nor with itself (it is not, as Cabrera would furiously say, a fanatic “life-lover”—45—who values himself to the detriment of everything else—2)! It can commit suicide, from the death of those who give it empirical support.
If we were in Cabrera’s time (the time of electronic computers), it could be said that morality does not care about this hard, low, assembly, structural, mortal, mechanical level, proper to existence, to being. Morality is like a high-level language, which is situated in a much more virtual environment than in a basic one. And while morality depends on this level of hardware to keep running, it does not have a commitment to defend it unconditionally, to say yes to everything.
Kant failed to observe, as Cabrera points out (in 36), that morality is suicidal, that it “endangers life radically.” And it seems that Nietzsche has failed to get rid of a contamination that he himself denounced: “Philosophy is infested with theological blood.” Maybe in his birth he became infected, and he did not free himself from this puerile exaltation of life, so well grounded as the Christianity he “adored.”
I hope that, against all obstacles, we can continue our communication, and that your marriage crisis will be resolved without the emergence of a new being.
Inescapable hugs and, until next time!
THE LETTER THAT IS NOT PART OF THE BOOK
(FINALLY, THE WOMAN SPEAKS!)
November 23, 2120 (7:30 p.m.)
Strange idea of writing about my feelings in private letters, in pieces of paper that will never be read by anyone but you.
I have felt the need for this, to write, to write to you, something that I have not done since my university studies on literature, which I totally abandoned to marry and have children (a decision that to this day makes me me proud and calm).
I do not know why I feel an irresistible urge to tell you all this, even though you already know everything and I know that you know. But two men like you talking about procreation without the intervention of a woman is not something at least suspicious? Why is the person who really knows about the subject never called to testify, the one who suffered to have her children and raise them? Is it just because this person does not know anything about philosophy? But is procreation really a philosophical problem? Is there not a terrible mystification here?
Even before our marriage, already in our first encounters in Germany (me with my scholarship, and him visiting European relatives), this man always had a soft spot (and how he would like this expression!) for mixing life with philosophy. I have always found this very dangerous: philosophy can destroy a life, pure and simply, especially when it starts to talk about what nature provides in the most basic and spontaneous.
In this sense, I see a profound mismatch between women and philosophy. What is happening to my husband, I believe, could only happen to a man: the total loss of ability to see the miracle of life through rational, confident and “well-grounded” categories.
It was with much reluctance that he accepted our (so to speak) union, always under the firm and everlasting promise of not having children at all. He made me swear I would take great caution to never get pregnant. The world was bleak and he did not want to contribute in populating it. He loved me very much (he said), but no children.
I showed him the books I had bought over the years (Raising Babies, Advices For a Good Mother, and My baby is Coming), I tried to argue in favor of all that life had to offer. I just did not understand how he closed himself to the extraordinary experience of parenthood. “Extraordinary for whom?” You would ask me from your own argumentative certainty. For both parties, I would respond without hesitation. Despite sufferings and disappointments, there is much to offer to a child, and it is good for them to be born despite everything.
But my fragile intuitions, without great philosophical background, were quickly destroyed by his arguments, long reflected: despite pleasures and joys, there were sickness, pain and death, of oneself and others. We would be condemning the baby to all kinds of suffering, starting with the suffering of losing us, his beloved parents (discarding the possibility, always open, of us losing him). Decidedly: no children. It was part of our signed contract. (When we were married, many of my friends stopped visiting us because of our bizarre decision; many of them thought I had been seduced by the devil.)
When our children were born, it was not by “carelessness” of either of us, nor by any cunning on my part. I tried to be faithful to our promise. But over the years, I kept trying to persuade him, developing speeches and discussions throughout our travels abroad, in our courses, in our moments of entertainment, in the bars and the movie theaters, for months and months.
He knew perfectly well that I could cheat on him and have my baby against his will. And I think he felt moved by the fact that I had never wanted to use this possibility against him. I wanted this child with his full consent. This was part of my personal battle against philosophy.
I had already made the effort to take a look at the despicable texts of Julio Cabrera, both in Project of Negative Ethics (which I had tried several times to convince him to throw it into the trash), and in the text that you have now published, perhaps against the will of your unusual grandfather. His texts always seemed cold and distant, typical of a solitary and unsatisfied personality, unable to think beyond himself and his books, perhaps the least authorized person to write about procreation and birth; a kind of spirit that is completely excluded from any possibility of understanding the primordial experience of parenthood.
Deprived of any deep social relationship, of any engaging, committed, and loving experience, the world became empty for him and generated that painful pessimistic litany. I could not understand the fascination this prose exerted on Julius, to the point that he fed the myth of being Cabrera’s descendant, a sort of spiritual grandson of that miserable man.
Life is something very basic to be questioned, and whoever questions it was already questioned by life. Pain is not a novelty to a woman, who lives with it calmly. No woman would ever think of pain as a hindrance to procreation, a serious motive for “stopping life” (if such a thing were even possible!), or for bringing humanity itself to its end, as you seem to desire so hard. (Your most unpleasant letters refer to this issue of the end of humanity.) Because you too, my dear, are fascinated by this pseudo-thinker, by this repressed human being.
In spite of what I have learned to feel for you in recent times, I believe you have made a serious mistake in submitting your own intelligence to the delusions of a clearly disturbed, and possibly homosexual writer. “Three lines for a possible moral judgment of procreation”! What absurdity! And on top of that, you make efforts to add a fourth!
In all this “ontological” or “structural” approach, feelings seem to be completely absent. What does Cabrera know about feelings? To want to live, to want life to be is not something that can be grounded rationally. But without the emotions, we will not understand the world or human life. If I had to choose between not having reason or not having emotions, I would not hesitate a second to give up my reason. And leaving aside the arguments, our whole body would say yes to life, our whole being would want to create, to procreate, to give rise to new lives, to populate the world with new beings and new promises.
And if the one who is going to be born could opine about their own emergence, it is clear that he or she would choose to be born, even knowing the pains and sorrows. Feelings demolish Cabrera’s three lines (and the fourth you want to add) in less than a second: because life is beautiful despite death, and it is as manipulative as any natural force. A good psychiatric treatment would end Cabrera’s negative ethics in a few minutes. He still could, in his life, write a book that would give people hope instead of depressing and disappointing them.
One night, it seems to me that Julius was a bit “high” (we came back from a quite harmless university event, where they served only liquor and soft drinks); He looked dizzy and a little confused. In recent times we had revolted against the hypocritical morals of our colleagues and friends on various everyday issues, and we were in disgust with the “present morality.” For example, many of Julius’s academic friends had stopped visiting us because of my liberal way of dressing, which they considered provocative. We were indignant and felt self-sufficient and hyper-critical compared to them.
Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, while almost falling on my shoulder, he said: “Only the moral point of view condemns procreation, dear Laura; Cabrera himself says there are many other justifications for having children.” We looked at each other in the moist moonlight and he saw in my eyes the imperturbable decision to explore, in that very night, those other justifications that were so pleasurable.
When Lucas was born, Julius’s behavior was that of a normal, loving and dedicated father. I always thought a single child would be the most I could get out of him. But Érika came soon after, as if he had finally broken his philosophical-affective blockade. I was happy, I left my studies at the university and dedicated myself entirely to my children.
Julius was for years an exemplary father, the best possible. But something profound had been broken. A philosopher father was something very strange to him, despite the precedent of the German idealists, as he always remembered. (It seems that these thinkers had interrupted, thank God, the celibate tradition of philosophy. Yes, from the nineteenth century onward, philosophers married and started having children, like normal people.)
I felt that despite his attentive behavior, our children represented something very disturbing for him, not a challenge, but something like . . . a refutation. Yes, that was it: Julius walked through the world as a refuted philosophical thesis. For years this crisis dragged on but with no consequences other than his crises of melancholy that invariably were well capitalized in the making of a book or an article. Those crepuscular feelings seemed to inspire him. He also read very much, more than before, as if it were good for him to delve into worlds of thought.
And when the children interrupted his reading, he ran his hand through their blond little heads, smiling from far away, and continuing to read as if nothing had happened. Everything was unfolding in this way, calm but tense, until this horrible book (how can I forgive it?), Nascituri te salutant, awoke his old-fashioned pessimistic reflection again. Reading that book sent him back into an uneasiness which seemed to have been overcome.
At first I saw nothing wrong with him wanting to write his comments and send them to the author (he had done this before). I thought that because of his rich experience as a father, he would write harshly to the author (or authors), criticizing the anti-birth point of view and expressing the beauties of marriage and parenthood. I candidly thought to have exerted a good influence on him in this regard. But, to my surprise and concern, that book made Julius recover, one by one, his old nihilistic ideas (Cabrerian, of course), as if these texts had succeeded in stimulating his negative thought that apparently had been overcome by marriage.
I myself participated actively in this whole endeavor by giving tips about Julius’s letters, reading your answers, making comments, and sympathizing to points of view that fascinated me, never by way of agreement, but by the admiration I always had for the talent of others. I was always incapable of any speculative thinking and admiration was one of the reasons of my marriage with Julius. (Perhaps a stigma of women is their vulnerability of being seduced by the talent—even negative—of men.)
During that time, I reserved the moments after lunch, when the children left me alone, to do this work with Julius, as if I feared to leave him by himself with those execrable texts. So I feigned a certain interest to be able to follow the whole process more closely. But little by little I began to realize how our discussions about this infamous book and the letters that Nascituri was motivating were severely damaging our relationship and even our relationship with our children.
He was very benign to the texts of your monstrous book. In reality, he was ambivalent. I think the texts fascinated and irritated him at the same time. The aphorisms of Julio Cabrera and your own texts, in very different styles, gave expression to old ideas that Julius had never been able to express in his own style, that perhaps he did not even dare to think for himself. He had already read a lot about Cabrera (he considered him to be one of the most thought-provoking philosophers of the last decades of the twentieth century, which seemed to me a complete absurdity), and had done researches about him, even suspecting (as you know) to be his descendant.
This should have provoked a very strong inner commotion in him: that the Hero of Non-Procreation could be his grandfather! I thought all this was nonsense until I read your letter (one of the most repulsive ones, I assure you), which weaved considerations about this obscure Julius von Kabra/Julio Cabrera ancestry, fruit of a morbid speculation only legitimized by a so-called “oracular” resource.
The texts of Cabrera always seemed very well written to me, but they had something pompous in them. I liked your youthful and lighter texts more, which approached life with a pessimistic naturalness, with the mild pessimism of young people. Even for blaspheming and denigrating life. It was a strange experience: in reading your text (Considerations about the decision to create a new being), even in your harshest moments, I was able to have a calm and kind relationship with the negative ideas. (Another kind of seduction, for a change?)
Julius, of course, never suspected the real reason for my systematic defense of your views, which I still find abhorrent. In our discussions at home (after putting the children to sleep), I was pleased to put myself on the side of the young man against the old philosopher, so admired by Julius. I confess that the fact that Cabrera committed suicide increased my dislike for him even more. You two seemed to admire him for the traits I most loathed. Julius began to mock me because I was putting myself on the side of the one that I, as a mother, should criticize. And he was right. All of that was a huge “make believe.”
The situation was getting worse and worse throughout our conversations and discussions until it finally got to the current state that I can qualify as pitiful. Yes, Julius and I are going to get a divorce, and I would like you to know this, and your responsibility in this decision. Cabrera is dead, but you, fortunately, are alive.
Julius was very fond of that aphorism of Cabrera, “The genetic difference” (the number 50 or 51, I do not remember, I do not have this idolatry for quotations that you both have, of remembering exactly the precise place of a text), where he said that the children could be beautiful, but, despite that, it was better not to have them. Sometimes he looked at Lucas and it seemed to me that he was internally saying to him: “You beautiful little thing, you were not supposed to be here!” As if it were some kind of mistake, a delivery at a wrong address. I knew he was deeply sorry. The book only gave him the vocabulary of his regret.
Julius entered completely into the spirit of that book (I often had the impression that you wrote this book with him), and if he defended Cabrera’s point of view, it was to adjust this or that thought in detail but without any fundamental objection. The general feeling of the matter was accepted from the beginning, as if they were perfectly assimilated old thoughts. (I felt like Lysianne’s character in Querelle de Brest, in which abstention, like the crime, seemed to be an exclusive subject of men. I was excluded.)
Suddenly, I felt like a perfect idiot floating between two kinds of discourse, one of them trying to show procreation as a crime, and the other as stupidity and accident. Neither of you, not even Julius in his quality of father, could at any moment attain the true meaning of the issue. At no time did you perceive the beauty of the union of two persons blessed by the arrival of children, the immensity of this sublime love, the total dedication to everything that constitutes the creation of a child as an absolutely essential part of existence. There was something missing in this barrage of considerations.
I believe that both of you (Cabrera and you) convinced Julius that he is a fool and I am a criminal. Your idea (much criticized by Julius in his letters) that parents are criminals is the most repulsive thing I have read lately. But now I know you better, I know your tenderness and your care, and I know that you do not really believe what you write, it is not possible that you do.
When Julius began to write his first letters, I felt it was best to give him support, as I had already done with his other idiosyncrasies. He would show me everything he wrote while I tried to find your address. Until then, he knew other books by Cabrera (“Condemned Logic,” of 1987, the book on cinema and philosophy, whose title I cannot remember because it was translated in several different ways and, of course, “Project of Negative Ethics” and “Diary of a philosopher in Brazil”). But I had never read the texts on birth and procreation. These had disappeared throughout the 21st century, and you, unfortunately, exhumed them through your grandfather’s intellectual heritage. The excitement of Julius when he read those texts was immense and the arrival of the book coincided with Érika’s birthday, our youngest daughter.
Now, with everything in crisis (and me being pregnant again), I see how much I have feigned during all this time of seemingly mild readings and discussions. When Julius was finally able to find out your address, I wish I had spoken to you before, to anticipate what was to come (a regretful father commenting on ideas of abstention and sending hugs from his wife!), but it was not possible. The first letters came into your hands before I could take a stand on everything that was happening. My agreements with your ideas before meeting you in person were mere strategies to get me away from the author of the “Project of Negative Ethics.” Nothing more. You should not have been excited. You did not have arguments that (as Julius naively thought) would be accepted “even by a mother.”
I think he was very benign in the first letters. I tried to influence him, but he wrote like crazy. He did that in the middle of the night, when I was exhausted after a day spent with the children. I only ended up knowing the content of the new letters in the next day, and in some occasions (it happened a few times) he sent them before I could even look at them. I feared what had finally happened, that the exchange of letters would intensify the state of anxiety in which the book had already left him.
At first, I had hoped that you would not respond to the letters. I confess that the first response (of maypril 29) relieved me a little for having nothing personal, merely commenting on Cabrera’s extravagant ideas.
November 23, 2120
(10h 00 min)
Lucas and Érika are in the school camping, so I take this opportunity to write this letter all at once, in only one breath. I do not want to leave anything for later, when they return and demand everything from me, as I like them to do. Julius got up early and went to university, where he will stay until night. So I have all the time for myself.
I confess that the harsh and distant tone of your letters about procreation made me extremely irritated. You really seemed to be someone who was angry to have been put into the world (and I wondered so much about your mother, about what she was like and how she had influenced your gloomy thought). Curious that Cabrera, despite giving me unpleasant ideas, wrote in a more elegant and literary style, as if trying to avoid frontal offenses. Maybe that is what first fascinated me in your prose. You put in harsh words what I most hated to hear, as kind of a challenge.
On the other hand, reading your text “Considerations about the decision to create a new being” had disturbed me in a way that I myself could not understand. Your attempt to put yourself in the place of the child that was going to be born especially intrigued and seduced me. It was as if you yourself were in the situation of being brought into the world, you were that little and gracious baby worried about your future fate, a baby philosopher thinking before being born. That struck me as a charming literary fiction, despite its negative outcome. These texts almost put me in the attitude of talking to that baby (actually, with that non-being) with the utmost conviction to say to him: “Come here! Cheer up! Do not be fooled by philosophy! Decide to be born, you will not regret it!”
It was as if I were meeting you in your own inaugural act, in your earliest origins. No two lovers ever went so far in their mutual knowledge, as if every love somehow followed the matrix of motherly love, the most sublime of all. I began to love you with all my powerful ultra-egoism: I wanted you to be born for me. I wanted to love you in the bosom of the second nothingness.
I loved the poem of Augusto dos Anjos. A simple poem that proves nothing, that only makes one laugh.
It was interesting to note how your cold, objective letters could awaken so many ideas and images in my husband, as if all this (the “asymmetry of birth,” the “lack of value of human life,” and nonsense like that) had been stuck in his throat for a long time, even in the experiences we had, in the trips we did together, even in the joy of seeing our children grow up. His defense of Cabrera’s point of view (to first show the lack of value of life and then the inconvenience of being born) launched me resolutely towards you. I was pleased that your dislike of life was something natural and direct, and not the product of a “structural” reflection. I was beginning to feel a strong desire to meet you in person.
The first symptoms of the disaster were the impatience and irritation that Julius began to manifest when Lucas or Érika interrupted him in writing his letters. His tone, once sweet, became dry, almost harsh. The infrequent entrances of the children in the office, once so natural and greeted with affection, were gradually and subtly banned. There was not really a prohibition, but the children themselves acknowledged that they should no longer bother him. Not that he did not love them, on the contrary, he seemed to love them as never before. But it was a terminal and late love that came limping when it was all over. There was nothing wrong with the children and neither with me, but with him. I think he noticed that he was not really a father, and that he never would be.
I was the one who suggested to him that we should invite you to come here once. The tea was just an excuse. We really wanted to meet you. I personally felt that many of your ideas would be clearer to me the moment I saw your face, learned the movements of your arms, the way you pick up a fork, and get up from a chair. How does a convicted abstinent, a pessimistic young man who refuses to reproduce, drinks juice or open doors? Why did these ideas irritate me when they came from Julius or Cabrera, and now, in reading your letters, they began to fascinate me? In fact, I was anxious to ask if your desire to have no children should necessarily impoverish your sex life. But I knew I could not ask you about it except in an indirect way. Paradoxically, the only way to do this was a face-to-face meeting here in our house.
Of course, when we finally met (I do not even remember when the first time was, after so many encounters), you asked me why I had found your style to be so rough, since it was so natural for you. Ah, because of things like “The baptism of the child happens by its own tears (when not mixed with maternal feces and blood),” or “And while he no longer carelessly places his finger in the electrical outlet, he carelessly puts the penis in the vagina,” needles stuck in children and things like that, which at the same time disgusted me and interested me. It seemed to me that there must be a gentle human being behind all those vociferations (just as there was a despicable human being behind Cabrera’s elegant prose, who would never allow himself a dirty word).
Sometimes you were not exactly rude, but just cynical and disloyal. This attracted me immensely, as when you wrote: “If they want to procreate, then procreate, but tell the children the truth, and not that stupid little story to try to hide the truly motivating ultra-egoism.” I am, therefore, this ultra-egoist who wants her children for herself, for her full accomplishment and pleasure. Yes, I am, and this thought never seemed so sensual to me, so absolutely possessive. It was as if you were some kind of forbidden child, born at an inopportune time, vociferating his revolt against my self-admitted ultra-egoism. I once read somewhere: “Your children are not yours, they are children of life”; but precisely because they are children of life they are deeply mine.
That is why I did not like at all that you compared me with your grandmother, who also likes your writing.
I also began to wonder, with Julius, about your age; and the thought of you being extremely young, almost a child, left me in a state of total disruption. My husband never knew how erotic the text where he said this to you could be: “I am suspecting that you might have, at most, twice the age of my children, or even less. A precocious philosopher! . . . You are an enigma . . . A boy editor?” Because he saw (and made me see) that your texts were naive, clumsy, juvenile, very juvenile, a mild, gracious, almost acceptable pessimism.
At one point, Julius suspected something about my insistence on meeting you. “Do you not think it is premature to invite him to dinner?” I thought he’d rather finish all the letters before meeting you in person, not knowing (and how would he know?) that the end of the process would interdict any dinner after the last letter was sent. My vehement defenses of your views became so suspicious that I began, against my nature, to defend some of Cabrera’s ideas, like that of the unacceptable nature of any human life. (I got that far!) He often placed a veiled invitation at the end of his letters (and even the promise of a present), as if he wanted to postpone any real meeting indefinitely.
It was a crazy idea, but sometimes I thought he did not want me to know you. I noticed this, for example, in the particular way in which he sent you the letters. He showed them to me without shame, but when he put them in the envelope, he preferred to be alone. He never told me where he sent them, nor did he ever ask me to put them in the post office. I totally ignored the fate of these letters.
That letter of yours about the plausible extinction of humanity was decisive! It was such an abominable text that it was, after all, irresistible. It was from this moment onwards that I began to do my own research to discover your whereabouts.
November 23, 2120
(14h00 min, after lunch)
Curious sensation of eating lunch alone (I also gave time off for the employees), of being alone, of having no family, no husband, no children . . . a feeling of not being born. Strange that an empty house (not simply empty, but empty of the people who inevitably occupy it in daily life) can offer (perhaps you do not know) a splendid image of the abstention of procreation, a home for your philosophy.
On another day like today, alone at home, I entered Julius’s office and sought your address everywhere. As I had suspected, it was well kept on the desk, locked, and I could not force the lock without everything being discovered. I did not understand myself when I asked myself why I did not just ask Julius for the address. What could happen? That he flatly denies it? But I would have to give a good reason. It would be embarrassing for both of us. Perhaps I should insist on the convenience of inviting you to dinner, but I could once again receive Julius’s kind, but strict refusal. I did not know what to do.
During this time interval, Julius gave you my name, “Laura Cristiana (curious that I never told you my wife’s name),” and that seemed lascivious to me. (Now I felt like the protagonist of Contempt, by Moravia/Godard.) The first step was taken. On the days when Julius wrote about procreation in the lower classes, a unique opportunity appeared. He was being invited to lecture at a college, and when they called him from there, he had already left the office and Lucas answered the phone in the living room. It was a long call. While he was stuck on the phone, writing down the details, I had all the time in the world to enter the office and peer into the open desk; it took me only a few minutes to find your address (which, like all the addresses of Brasília, looked more like an encrypted key).
Now you had my name, and me, your address. The letters kept coming and going but now everything was different. In those days, you sent, with some delay, that horrible missive about Julius’s possible Cabrerian ancestry. We already had met once, in circumstances I do not need to remind you of. You were shocked when I first approached you. I was very formal and said that we wanted to welcome you in our house (I tried to reduce your astonishment by informing that many writers already had visited us in the last years). But I also said that Julius never felt ready to receive you, that he seemed to be anxious to finish commenting on all your texts, and that it would be best if he did not know of our meeting at all. I do not remember if I said all this in the first or second (or the eighth) encounter.
Many of my suspicions, however, were confirmed. You showed yourself to be a sensitive and shy person, far from your abusive and mocking texts. During the period of our meetings, nothing had noticeably changed in your epistolary exchange with Julius, and you have honored the promise not to tell him anything about me. But in the sixth meeting (it seems to me) I finally asked the crucial question. Your frugal and humorous answer was, “No, Laura Cristiana, I am not sophosexual, like Cabrera; I act, I perform. I do not abstain from pleasure, only from creating children.” From then onwards, you proceeded well beyond my name; you no longer had to name me. Your letters were becoming more scattered. You ended up being a passive receiver. Julius finished his comments and you finished yours with me.
I fully agree with Julius when he speaks, in the last letters, of your “metaphysical charity.” He does not know that his wife physically lived that same charity. In spite of your immense love for non-beings, you were perfectly able to love a being. During the elaboration of the last letters, I was no longer capable of any lucid comment, even if I feigned so. Julius interprets my silences as a deep sorrow because of all this epistolary situation, without suspecting anything. He thinks I want a third child from him, when, in fact, I am cheerful to be getting the first one from you, the first and last, I know that very well. (You do not even need to say anything.)
I know your “moral mapping of procreation” well, and I know how I am situated in it. I acted recklessly, I am imposing existence on someone, I do not know if they will be suicidal and I do not care; I exercise an intergenerational tyranny on them, I force them into a mortal existence, I condemn them to witness our own deaths. They will have to buy the whole package. I am, therefore, an ultra-egoistic procreator, I send them to the second nothingness, I use them as an object and fetish, I expose them to the hostility of others. Nevertheless, I love them with all my human love and I know they will be very much like the little baby of your illustration, who already looks like you.
I do not like how Julius treats our children now. He seems to increasingly fear and distance himself from them. Throughout this painful and denigrating correspondence, he showed me his true nature. I prefer a non-coherent procreator than a regretful father. And, surely, my pregnancy will become more and more evident. The situation, as they say, is unsustainable.
They called me from school and Lucas and Érika will be arriving in a few minutes. Julius will have dinner with colleagues and will return late. I must have a serious conversation with him. I furtively fold these pages and keep them to myself. Not these, these you will not publish in the third edition of that disgusting book, so different from you, my beloved Thiago, my new and authentic love.
Laura Cristiana von Kabra.
[End of the book]