Confessions of an Antinatalist, by Jim Crawford
Jim’s book is part memoir, part exposition, all rendered through Jim’s muscular, tell-it-like-it-is narrative style. He interweaves his personal story — from stoner, to born-again Jesus freak, to cult member, to atheist and anti-natalist — with his personal takes on the Buddha’s life story and the axiological assymetry, and ends with a faux Q&A (not entirely unlike the Q&A that ends Mishri/Coates’ “Anti-Natalism: Rejectionist Philosophy from Buddhism to Benatar”. )
Rather than describe the book to you, I think the two page prologue speaks for itself. All I have to say is: Bravo, Jim!
Imagine you’re standing at the top of a sheer, high mountain. You peer over the edge. You can’t quite see the ground below, because there’s a layer of fog, or clouds. But you know you’re high enough that, if you jumped off, the impact would be fatal. Imagine, now, that you have a child with you — let’s say, a little girl.
The thought suddenly enters your mind that it might be fun for your child to take a little flight down the side of the cliff-face. You’ve always dreamed about what it must be like to fly! Whatever the risks, it must be more fun than sitting around in this empty place on top of the mountain. Why, all your daughter has done since she’s been here is sleep! Peacefully, to be sure, but so peacefully it’s as if she doesn’t even exist! But why should she not exist, when she could be FLYING? There’s just something wrong with that idea.
And so you slap her on the rump to wake her up. She starts to cry, but you cradle her in your arms, and coo at her, and tell her how much you love her. You tell her how lucky she is to be alive. Your soothing voice settles her, and she hugs you as you walk back to the cliff’s edge. With one last kiss for luck, you pry her arms from around your neck, and launch her over the edge — granting her the gift of flight! You watch as her form slowly disappears into the fog below.
But the fog has lifted a bit now, and you can make out some shadows that resemble boulders jutting form the cliff’s face. Surely your child won’t be so unfortunate as to encounter any of those. No! After all, she’s your child, and you love her so dearly. Still, you shout words of encouragement, last minute instructions and advice. At times, you catch a glimpse of her through little holes in the cloud cover. Look at her! How fast and true she soars! How proud you are of her — and of yourself, of course, for you have bestowed this precious gift to such a special child! You are a giver!
You are so preoccupied with your child’s progress that only after a time do you notice other givers gathered along the cliff’s edge, casting their own children over. You become friends with some of them. You chat with one another about the marvels of giving flight, and about how good it is to see the children soar. The experience is so fulfilling, so spiritual, and you’ve all learned so much about yourselves, and about life.
Then a lone voice calls everyone over the edge. His tone is one of concern, and… regret? You and the others move toward him. At once, you notice that the fog has completely burned away. Spread out below, there is a giant, empty valley, the terrain of which appears to be much like the top of the mountain — the children’s point of departure. Only the valley below is a blotchy red color. Looking closer, you see that the boulders and outcroppings along the face of the mountain, which are far more numerous than you had perceived before, are also stained with red, and seem to be blotted with little shreds of hair and clothing.
The flight-giver who was the first to notice all this begins to cry. Soon, some of the others join him. You begin to feel sad, and maybe a little guilty. But you don’t really like to be sad, do you?
Another giver who doesn’t want you to be sad lays her hand on your shoulder. “But wasn’t it all worth it?” she asks softly, “They flew!” And she’s smiling as if she almost believes what she says. You smile back. Together, you chide the few who can’t smile for being pessimists. You join the welcoming committee to greet the long queue of hopeful givers bearing sleeping children in their arms, waiting for the moment when their kids, too, can fly. You counsel the new arrivals to shun the ones who weep, and you encourage them to give as you have given. In their company, you soon forget all about the strange lone voice. And you feel better. Don’t you?
Well, don’t you?