Okay, so here I sit (lying down, actually) on a pull-out bed in a recovery room at a hospital, looking over at my lovely wife, and our brand new baby boy, Declan Emerson (his middle name in honor of Ralph Waldo), reflecting on the fact that I am now in complete command of the definitive answer of how the birthing / new parenthood experience compares to the euphoria I experienced while passing through the portal most commonly called “enlightenment”.
It had always been a curiosity of mine, you see. After becoming a parent later in life (40 for me, 35 for my wife), I had always been told by my friends who had become parents previous to us, that becoming a parent for the first time is an amazing awe-inspiring experience that simply cannot be put into words… an experience that brings the universe into focus, and reduces all the clutter of life’s distractions into a singularity of clear and simple understanding of existence. A convergence into love itself.
“When you hold your son or daughter for the first time, you will understand,” I was told.
“It is a more amazing and awe-inspiring experience than you could ever possibly imagine,” I was told.
And so today I got a chance to see and experience exactly what it was all those friends were talking about. After 9 months of a wonderfully uncomplicated pregnancy, my wife and I brought into the world a 6 lb 13.5 oz, 19.5″ baby boy.
As Declan took his first breaths, and his cries of protest were recorded for the world to hear, my tears came, and filled my eyes beyond capacity. To give my friends credit, I do have to admit that it was truly an amazing moment. It was truly the textbook definition of the words awe-inspiring. I looked at my wife, who’s eyes were also filled with tears, and reported, “He’s beautiful”.
My heart was full. I felt the elation. I felt the agape. I felt the selflessness of existence that could have easily had me offering up the immediate end of my life for the continuation of his (given the opportunity to make that weird Hollywood-script-like decision).
It was magical. I felt the meaning of existence itself emanating from the moment. I felt a connection to this baby and my wife that surpassed any connection I had ever felt with any other living beings at any other point in my life… save one.
That one exception… was my enlightenment experience… that specific time I attained the phenomenon of spiritual communion with the Life Energy of the universe itself that is so commonly called God. That one exception was the time that I had I felt that same compassion, that same connectedness, and that same unconditional love… for all of humanity… not for just one being… but for all life in the universe… and for the existence of the universe in its entirety. That time I learned the compassion to be able to die for a perfect stranger, even one of different heritage, different political beliefs, different moral beliefs, or different religious affiliation.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. I love the experience of being with my son. I love the connectedness that I share on a mindful, biological, and spiritual level with my son. Becoming his Father has certainly and forever changed my life for the better, and I look forward to every moment I am going to share with him from this moment forward as the sun rises above the horizon on what will be his first full day with us. But if posed with the question of which of the two experiences, enlightenment or the birth of a child, was more flabbergastingly amazing… if posed with the question of which experience was more truly and completely awe-inspiring… if even posed with the question of which experience was more spiritually fulfilling… the answer to that question is that enlightenment wins, hands down.
Maybe it’s a little because for me, enlightenment came before the birth of my son. It’s a fact that both experiences are very transformational individually… and both introduce you to the new (to most) concept of unconditional love. And it’s a fact that I went through the enlightenment experience first, so maybe the offspring experience seems less dramatic than the enlightenment experience, because enlightenment transformed me first, introducing me to ultimate love, complete inner peace, and selflessness. And maybe because of this major transformation that happened with enlightenment, I am less affected by the birth experience that takes you toward the same space.
But still… when I think about that possibility, there’s that gnawing reminder that the birth experience allowed me to feel unconditional love for my son, while the enlightenment experience allowed me to feel unconditional love for everyone, including the crackhead bum down the street, for the radical muslim who would kill me, and for all my ex-girlfriends who probably would want to watch. There’s the fact that the enlightenment experience gave me the wisdom to understand all human emotion, and the reasons for all human actions and reactions. There’s the fact that touching and interacting with my son for the first time, although an incredibly profound experience, pales a little in comparison to touching and interacting with God for the first time. Maybe Abraham had a little of that feeling when he was ready to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Maybe not. If I had to choose, which would I give up?
Thankfully, I don’t have to choose. I’m blessed enough to be able to have and experience both. And happily, both experiences enrich the wisdom and understanding of the other experience. I’m glad to have had both. I’m blessed to know God beyond the depths of how most others know Him (although my goal is to have everyone reach that same place). And I am blessed to know my son better than most others will know him (and I would be pleased for everyone to feel the same way about him as I do).
Now… as I write these thoughts… please understand… I do not want to denegrate or discredit the emotional and spiritual transformation that can come about by being in the room when your wonderful little baby comes into this world. Speaking from experience, it is a unique and special occurrence. I’m just saying that with even as special and transformational that occurrence is… as a teaching tool for those who may be parents, and who may also have not yet discovered the experience of enlightenment (the experience that I believe God put within all of us to find)… I have to tell you that from my perspective the experience of becoming a parent is eclipsed by the bigger and more powerful experience that is communion with the Universal Intelligence of God, without which none of all this other cool stuff would even exist. The enlightenment experience has helped me love everyone in the world with as much compassion as I feel for my new born baby boy. It has allowed me to understand the bigger model of existence within which my son has become a part. It has granted me the wisdom to see the birth of my son for what it is… a continuation of the wonderful existence that is God.
So in closing, I’m almost certain that there are tons of parents reading this who are saying to themselves, “There’s something wrong with this guy”. Or, “He didn’t experience the same thing I experienced, or he would feel differently. He would be speaking about it differently. He didn’t get the full power of this incredibly emotional experience.”
And to those people who have passed through the portal of new parental bliss, I would just like to repeat some words that were once shared with me:
When you experience IT for the first time, you will understand.
IT is a more amazing and awe-inspiring experience than you could ever possibly imagine.
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