Dreadful dads

Parenting authentically also involves coming to terms with what children are really like. They are not angels or hellions, sweethearts or monsters: they are little people who, as Kierkegaard suggests, are both angelic and beastly. This banal platitude expresses a deep truth about the human condition, namely that we are the sorts of creatures, perhaps the only ones, who possess radical freedom. Most of adult life is geared to ignoring this aspect of human nature, and modernity sets artificial constraints on behaviour, pretending that these constraints are God-given. Of course, for an existentialist, as for a child, all of this is nonsense – nothing is God-given. The boundaries that define civilised life are, more often than not, self-imposed, which is to say radically contingent. A child knows, in a way that most parents intentionally forget, that the range of life’s possibilities is always profoundly open. And the difficulty of life is to choose for oneself which possibilities should become actual.

Image result for Father and daughter, 1961. Erich Hartmann/Magnum

 

Dreadful dads — Few of the great existentialists had children. How can their philosophy help with the anxiety and dread of fatherhood? https://www.munkdebates.com/debates/progress
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