December is perhaps the most baby-centric month of the year. So it was fitting that a week before Christmas, Current Affairs welcomed the first-ever baby into our extended editorial family. Courtesy of finance editor Sparky Abraham—and of course, Sparky’s fabulous and indefatigable wife—our circle is now one (tiny) human bigger. Congratulations to Sparky and his beautiful family. This is really terrific.
The baby is particularly praiseworthy. Sparky’s baby has a thick and vigorous head of hair, and what has been described as an “off the charts” grip game. New sleeping positions are developed by the baby each day. The baby has already learned to evade the monitoring devices of the surveillance state. Conversely, the baby does get along well with dogs.
All this baby-related excitement got us thinking: what a marvelously odd time it is to be born. Sparky’s baby is not the only pint-sized person to have entered the world recently—while the pandemic has put a bit of a damper on birth rates in the United States, there are still a few million new humans in our midst. More will be born later this afternoon, more in the middle of the night, and still more in the ungodly morning hours of tomorrow.
Hold on there, babies! Do you know what you’re getting yourselves into? There’s a pandemic going on (those little face shields aren’t a thing we usually do, in case you were wondering). And we know the warm December temperatures are fine by you, but that’s a little complicated too. Plus the economy is bad! We won’t get into the whole political situation for now, since it’s almost naptime. Just trust us that there’s a lot to be mad about.
Being a baby in times like these must be a bizarre experience. On one hand, you’re insulated from many of the world’s dangers and annoyances by your parents, even if they have to risk running afoul of the cops to make sure you stay that way. On the other hand, the world’s dangers and annoyances don’t seem to be getting less pressing or prevalent. It is often said that a baby’s brain is like a sponge, and there’s a lot of ambient gunk to soak up at the moment.
Then again, perhaps being a baby today is no less strange than being a baby born just after the invention of the steam engine or the end of European colonialism. The world is changing in ways that are difficult to foresee—and will doubtlessly make life more complicated in some aspects—and there are good reasons to be nervous about the future. There’s a lot to do, and this is scary! As the great Daniel Walden wrote, “a full assessment of the task that lies before us…. may plunge our reasoning minds into desolation, and no one would think us foolish for it.” But luckily babies do not need to make full assessments of tasks, and babies are (presumably) less poisoned by their reasoning minds than the rest of us.
To the babies of 2020, Current Affairs would say, “Save the existential pessimism about the world’s future for your early 30s, and check out all the extremely cool shit Earth has to offer!” Look at the Hawaiian bobtail squid, an inch-long cephalopod that glows in psychedelic colors and munches on even-tinier shrimp! Or this magnificent 15th century Timurid Qur’an written on gold-painted paper in a script so beautiful your mouth will water! Then there’s Mardi Gras, a festival so joyously absurd it defies any description we could give here (though braver souls have tried).
The point is that being a baby—or any variety of human really—comes with a lot of potential upsides. To be fair, right now those upsides are distributed in an unfortunately unequal manner. Babies, this is more of an “us” problem than a “you” problem (though someday you will probably have to help clean up our mess; how the tables will turn). It’s not fair that you will have to deal with the aftereffects of our shitty decisions. If it makes you feel any better, the ethical implications of this have caused no small number of us to lose our hair.
But enough with the negativity: a great multitude of babies have been born this year, and this is reason for celebration. Millions of bright new sparks now illuminate the universe. Hundreds of millions of diapers bear testament to the fact that life goes on in all its messy, smelly “magic.” As we speak, countless tiny human faces are nuzzling the soft, warm shoulders of beings 20 times their size. How neat is this? How bizarre? How lucky are we to be alive?
These are all questions for a different day. For now it’s enough to say: welcome to Earth, babies. We’re glad you made it.