Monday, May 15, 2006

Followup on "Utopia vs. Families"

I was struck by the urgent and personal nature of the dialogue triggered by my "Utopia vs. Families" post.

While it might appear that "utopia" is a pretty abstract topic for a parenting blog, I'm relieved to discover that I'm not the only one who is struggling to find connections with other parents and family members, and with the future, through the medium of shared ideals. The concept of "utopia" that emerged in dialogue seems to me to be more about finding a better way to live, than it is about the blueprint for a perfect society. For most of us, the extended family my father describes is gone. In the Sixties and Seventies, young people proposed Kibbutz-style communes as an alternative, yet time proved their vision incompatible with contemporary life.

What can replace lost families and lost ideals? It seems to me dishonest for any one of us to claim we have the answer, but we shouldn't stop trying to find one. Antonio Gramsci: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born." Gramsci is also the guy who argued for pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the heart.

My friend Karen (mentioned in the first line of "Utopias vs. Families") described in a comment the origins of the "Peace Trek" coloring book, which I think is worth elevating to a post:

Jeremy found the said item hidden behind a big basket of toys, an oversized Richard Scarry book and a picture book of cloud nebulas. It was buried sort of like it was porn. Buried because there are things I find particularly annoying about the Peace Trek coloring book, things which more or less echo Jeremy’s sentiments.

The book was brought into our home by Mark. Mark is Argus’ father and the man that I love. Mark is an engineer/scientist who listens to Deepak Chopra and doesn’t find him kooky. Mark takes things at face value and does not devolve into worst case scenario. Mark thinks not only that the world can be good but that essentially it is good.

When Jeremy looked at the coloring book, I both avowed and disavowed it in the same breadth-saying I was too cynical for that kind of thing, but admitting, no gushing, how cute it was when Mark read it to Argus.

I responded that I love the image of Mark sharing with his infant son the utopian vision in "Peace Trek," no matter how flawed I think it is. It gets to the unstated question behind my post: what positive vision of the future can we impart to our own kids, through both words and actions?

Because I think you have to do that, even if we as adults are too corrupted by our experience to believe fully in that vision. It's a balancing act: we work to realize a vision of a good life and good society even as we try to train our kids to always question that vision, to modify and improve upon it as life and history goes on.

Hats off to Mark for providing us all with an example to follow.


Anonymous said...

Dear Daddy Dialectic,

I didn't know how else to contact you. So I'm doing it via this blog.

My name is Hogan Hilling, husband to wife, Tina, and father to three boys, Grant (18), Wesley (16) and Matthew (12). And 15 year at-home dad veteran.

I’m co-writing a book with a mom, Jesse Rutherford. The tentative title is What Dads Want Moms To Know.

Jesse and I have already received some great input from many fathers and are looking for other fathers who would like to contribute their experiences and/or opinions on fatherhood. And more importantly share comments on what they would like moms to know. My email address is - Subject: Proud Dads.

Here is your chance to voice your opinions and thoughts. Anonymously if you like.

Feel free to forward this message to other fathers in your social circle.

We have several publishers reviewing our proposal. One has already made us an offer. We hope to have this book available in the bookstores by summer of 2007.

I posted a brief bio at the end of this post.


Hogan Hilling

Hogan Hilling, is a 1995 California Courage to Care Award recipient; author of The Man Who Would Be Dad, Capital Books, 2002 and Motivational Speaker.

For 15 years Hilling has served as an instructor for expectant father classes at various hospitals in southern California; as a facilitator of open discussion groups with fathers; and conducted workshops for mothers on fathering issues throughout the United States.

Hilling has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s The Other Half and Unsung Heroes, and in an ABC “Fathers and Sons” Documentary. His writing has been featured in newspapers such as the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Portland Oregonian, and Christian Science Monitor. Hilling has also worked as a guest columnist on fathering issues for the Orange County Register.

Hilling has also been a featured speaker at the Lamaze International Conference,
Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum, Conferences for Parents of Children With Special Needs and other Parenting Events.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Hi Hogan. I went ahead and allowed this to post because I figured you might want to publicize the project, which sounds interesting. I'll be in touch.