29 March, 2018

Influenced

Today, I participated in an art project which will be housed at the Brooklyn Art Library. I submitted a small amount of text to an artist who then drew the scene, bringing it to life. The piece is a book containing quotes, notes, and other such things by various people, each of which the artist, Katherine Hess, interpreted and illustrated within the confines of the sketchbook.

What follows is the text that I submitted to this art project:
Thirty years ago, my uncle rescued two people from a burning building. He’s not a firefighter, but he was in the right place at the right time. 
He became a hero that day. Although we don’t bring it up at family events, we know what he did, and we think better of him for it. He’s a hero because when he was put in a position to help, he did. I’d like to think that I would do the same. 
So when I learned about the effective altruism movement, that giving to the most effective charities could save a life just as real and just as important as those that my uncle saved, I decided to start giving a percentage of my income to effective altruism causes. 
For seven years, I’ve saved lives again and again. I don’t bring it up at family events, but I know what I do, and I think better of myself for it. I feel like a superhero, and it feels good
You, too, can feel this way. If you live in the developed world, you earn more than enough to donate and save lives every year. Visit effectivealtruism.org to learn more. 
Believe me: it’s worth the expense.

This and other sketchbooks by Katherine Hess are available at The Sketchbook Project

24 February, 2018

A Favor Owed

I can’t help but to think of Past Eric as more of an ancestor than merely an earlier version of myself. We are so very different. Not just in how we act and think, but in what we feel and value.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this is my daughter, Adrianah Celes Herboso, who recently graduated from high school. It feels strange to call her my daughter. I never did any of the things that fathers normally do for their children, so I don’t think I deserve the honored term 'father'. ‘Sperm donor’ seems more accurate, given that I never gave care nor comfort to her throughout the entirety of her childhood nor adult life. The ‘father/daughter’ relationship is too special a term for me to just claim it simply because I contributed genetically to her life.

Although I feel no particularly special kinship there, I do genuinely care for her well-being today. When I think through thought experiments about my gut-feeling moral circle, I have to admit that she resides in a secondary ring, alongside all the other family members that I have not seen nor heard from in over a decade: my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, nieces, and nephews, etc. These people are not a part of my life. I do not exchange correspondence with them nor interact with them in any way. I don’t think poorly of them; they are, for the most part, good people. I wish them well and hope they succeed in their particular path through life. It’s just that I don’t have a feeling of kinship beyond accepting them into my secondary moral circle.

It has been argued to me that my daughter is a special case. I owe duties there that I do not similarly owe to my other blood-related family members. By helping to bring my daughter into this world, I have a responsibility to give care beyond the minimal well-wishing I give to others in my fanily.

I honestly don’t know to what extent this may be true. I suppose that, if asked, I would grant reasonable accommodation to a request that she might ask of me. But seeing as how I have no existing relationship with her, I would be doing so only out of a sense of duty and well-wishing, rather than from emotion. I honestly believe that I would need to establish an ongoing dialogue with her before I could respond to her on the basis of something like love or deep care.

It’s difficult because I don’t really view the Past Eric who contributed to her birth as anything more than my ancestor. I have changed too much from that young age of 15. Back then, I did not comprehend the feeling of love as I do now. I was selfish and violent; uncaring and generally pitiful. Thankfully, most of the disarray I caused back then has been dissipated through the flow of time. But at least one action I took back then still reverberates today: the generation of my daughter. And so I must remain open to the possibility of being there for her, should she need it, at some point in the future.