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wundayatta's avatar

What are your criteria for a reasonable life?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) June 7th, 2012

Over here, a jelly wrote “If we had a kid, it would be an overweight, diabetic, nearsighted, paranoid savant with a short lifespan.” This was given as a reason not to have a kid.

This made me feel sad. It seems to me that one can have a very nice life despite many different kinds of problems, depending on what one’s attitude towards that life is. Many people enjoy short lives. They live the hell out of them. And many people cope with all kinds of illnesses just fine.

I have bipolar disorder. I’m fat. I’m near-sighted. I have diabetes in both my grandparents. There’s heart disease. Bipolar on both may parents sides. But I’m pretty well off. I’ve had a good education. I have two lovely children and have been loved by several good women. I may have been depressed enough to want to die, but I didn’t, and I feel like I have a very good life.

I have advantages, but it also seems to me that even if I was poor or had more medical issues to deal with, I could still be happy. It all depends on my attitude. I know people who seem to have horrible lives my various material standards, and yet they are very happy.

Some people seem to think that if you can’t guarantee 80 years and decent health and especially mental health, then you wouldn’t want to visit such a life on a child.

What are your standards? What are the things that would make you not want to have a child? What would make you say, “I wouldn’t make my child bear that?” Why is it that you wouldn’t want to have a child if they had to put up with that? Why couldn’t a quadriplegic child have a good life, for example?

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12 Answers

Coloma's avatar

As long as one remains open, curious and has a good sense of humor, life is worth living.
While material comforts are nice, by far, what’s most important is to have a life long love of learning and the ability to really SEE and embrace the beauty of life.
I taught my daughter to be an ever curious person, we can talk for hours about all manner of interesting topics. Of course she’s a chip off the old mother block, our brains function as one a lot of the time and we are both bright, tenacious and humorous quick thinking types.

Just now I was captivated with the way the morning light is filtering through my house.
I feel blessed to be an acutely aware type that notices subtle beauty in everything. :-)

Mariah's avatar

It’s about stacking the deck in their favor, I guess.

Of course a quadriplegic COULD have a good life. A lot of it has to do with their outlook and attitude, I guess. But is it likely? I don’t know. It’d be a lot more likely if they weren’t quadriplegic, I’m sure. Is this a chance I’m willing to take?

If I take those chances and have a child, and the child is sick and miserable, that’s pretty tragic. If I play it safe and choose not to have a child, when really the child would have had a happy life, then that’s too bad, but no one is experiencing pain as a result of my mistake.

thorninmud's avatar

My mother-in-law grew up with some impairments—a prosthetic eye and one bad ear—that really seem to have impacted her sense of quality of life. Out in public, when we see someone with a serious disability, she often makes some comment to the effect that it would be better not to live than to deal with that. I imagine that she’s extrapolating out from the traumas she has suffered from her comparatively milder issues.

By vivid contrast, in my work I deal all the time with severely disabled people, mostly having developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy, who are some of the most upbeat and good-humored people I know. I don’t get the impression that many of them spend much time at all thinking about how miserable their life is. I recognize that it’s quite different for people who grow up able-bodied and lose function to accident or illness. If they knew that my mother-in-law is out there thinking they’d be better off dead, I’m sure they’d be very puzzled.

Seems to me that many people with severe disabilities develop an interesting transcendent relationship to their bodies. That is, they don’t see their bodies as defining who they are to as great an extent as most able-bodied people. Their sense of self extends beyond their body. Maybe that’s because they’re used to extending it to all of the mechanical and human infrastructure that it takes to get them through the day. Some handle their powered wheelchairs with the kind of seamless grace that you and I feel for our bodies. Some have an electronic device to which they outsource their voice. Most have a circle of intimates who can understand their words and wishes in ways that no one else could begin to do. This leads to a far more open and flexible sense of self.

Which may actually go a long way toward answering this question. I’m inclined to think that the main criteria for a reasonable life is just this: having an open and flexible sense of self. Being able and willing to broaden the notion of who you are to beyond your little organism to include the larger world, seeing our mutual dependence.

annewilliams5's avatar

I’ve been through some things, that when I sit down and talk about them, they seem horrible. But, I survived them. I carry these times with me, but I also carry the great times, the quiet times, the happy times, as well. My mother died young, sad, and a bit bitter. She didn’t waste her whole life, but she didn’t live it either. My son lives his, I hope I had a hand in teaching him that. As long as the people who can only hate can touch you, those that live on love can too. You pick and choose the route you want. Any diversities, obstacles, changes in life make us stronger. The problems arise when others can’t see that everyone is different, and that makes life, and meeting new people, more interesting.
I don’t know whether this answers your question. My son says that he wouldn’t pass up life for any reason. It’s too much fun.

6rant6's avatar

No more than $3,000 debt per year.

Leanne1986's avatar

I was going to say that the only criteria for a good life is that there mst be a dog in it. Then I read the blurb and realised it required a bit more thinking than that!!

I saw that thread and comment and, whilst I agree with you that people can have a wonderful life in spite of many ailments and issues, I understand why that person chose not to inflict them onto another life. Whilst my problems are not nearly as bad as some mentioned on that thread, my mental health has caused me to wish I wasn’t alive. It still does (not always but regularly enough for it to take a toll on my general state of mind). As I am sure that, judging by family history, these problems are partly hereditory, I don’t want to pass those onto my own offspring. Now, they may have a more positive outlook than me and deal with it better but I am not willing to take that risk. I have blamed my mum (in my head, not to her face) for my mental state and I hate to think of anyone blaming me for their problems, especially as I am aware of what I could pass down to my offspring.

Paradox25's avatar

Maybe some people deep down just don’t feel that they would be good parents, so they say something else to mask their real reasons for not wanting any children. I’m in my late thirties and I myself have doubts about whether I would be a good parent. I would also want any kids of mine to grow up in a stable enviroment with two loving parents. I do get to spend a reasonable amount of time with my nephew, so that’s something I guess.

ucme's avatar

Be happy in your own skin, no matter what.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I can go to bed hungry and I can wake up hungry but at least sometime during the day I want to feel not hungry and not afraid of ever really having to go hungry. Friends are important to me, I can’t imagine not having the kind I can see, talk to and share with in person. Love is important because it has been a balm for the times when I’ve been afraid, overwhelmed by responsibility or financial insecurity. Each day, if I can note a few positive things, good memories and feel I’m on track to achieve more positive things then I’m good.

mowens's avatar

Life is about making sure that YOU are happy with who you are and what you have done. Whenever I wake up unhappy too many days in a row, I say to myself… what needs to be changed?

mattbrowne's avatar

Feeling happy and content 80% of the time. Many people with handicaps actually are.

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