In the Highlander series, when an immortal kills another immortal, they gain the deceased’s memories and all their power. The process, called “the quickening”, leaves them changed. They are burdened with impulses and instincts without necessarily knowing from whence they came. I’ve taken to calling my process of embracing parenthood The Daddening. It is strange and foreign to me, but none the less, real. Which is why, a few days ago I spent hours looking at knives. Well, not just at knives, but for a knife. The perfect knife.
Unfortunately, I’m a respectable, intelligent, computer nerd. If I need to reach for anything, it’s usually a calculator. As a result, I know nothing about knives. My nerd brain couldn’t handle that. In response I deftly compiled a series of guides, forum postings, and user reviews and proceeded to gorge. In a matter of minutes, I knew I needed a knife with a frame lock, sturdy clip, and a sheepsfoot blade made out of American steel.
It wasn’t until I clicked “Buy Now” that I began to question why.
Apparently, something biological happens to a man when he has a child on the way. Something deep within compels him to make the world safe. A better word might be survivable. That used to mean ensuring there was enough food, that there was shelter, and that it was secure. With the advent of supermarkets and plentiful housing, those conundrums have been solved, but that primal urge still exists. I realize, most dads probably haven’t been in a situation where a knife was key to their child’s survival. (At least not according to the parenting books I’ve picked up… Last I checked, “Childbirth Without Fear” didn’t have a chapter on proper knife handling.) However, this wasn’t a question of logic, it was a question of control: I needed to procure a knife so I could affect and shape the environment around us. Buying that knife helped me feel like maybe… somehow, we could survive the wilderness we live in. No, there aren’t as many wild animals these days, but the world still feels plenty dangerous.
The impending introduction of Pigment to the world has changed everything. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The truth is, it has changed me and the rest of the world is the same old shit-show it always has been. Which, is kind of the problem. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it turns out, there’s some really fucked up shit going down on the regs out here. I’ve spent most of my adult life recognizing these things and then determining how to skirt by them without raising too much of a kerfuffle. Confrontation isn’t my thing. It makes my face hot, changes my body chemistry, and leaves me squicky. Much better to go completely invisible and sneak past the gates rather than pounding your knuckles bloody on them while they heat the oil.
But this kid… This tiny, defenseless lump is almost here. In just a few more weeks it will reside in the same world as racism, ignorant Americans, advertising, evangelicalism, Iggy Azalea, and police brutality. It’s my job to help him learn the skills he needs to navigate these minefields by himself, and I’ve got to tell you, that feels like a tall order. The people that run everything are, at large, against us. All of us. Regardless of our religion or our ideals or our race or our gender, they’re looking for ways to exploit us for their own gain. Do I teach my kid to duck and dodge and play it safe, or to point out the injustice with a megaphone and get a target painted on his back?
I’m not entirely sure how to exist in this world anymore, and I’m certainly unsure of how to teach someone to do the same. How do you explain to a child that if they’re ever in danger they can trust a policeman to help them when every week there’s new footage of a police officer shooting an unarmed civilian? How do you tell them that god is all about love when everyone seems so content to use her as an excuse to hate? How do we teach our children to survive in this broken, ugly, fucked up world without allowing them to be destroyed by it, but also, without becoming it?
I don’t have a clue. But I have a knife. And with it, maybe I can teach our son how to reveal the beauty hiding in a piece of wood. Maybe I can teach him how to build new things and create art. Maybe I can show him that the whole world isn’t broken; there are still parts that are beautiful and true. I’m not sure if that’ll be enough, but it seems like a good start.