Saturday 1 August 2015
For a long time I was unenthusiastic about the idea of having children. After being a Christian for a while, I knew raising children would be a good thing to do, that I should do it, and that given the opportunity I would do it ... but I never thought of myself as someone who'd enjoy being a father or be good at it. (At heart I feel more comfortable with technology than with people.) I'll wait for God's judgement on the latter, but on the former, by God's grace, I was totally wrong. I definitely, thoroughly enjoy raising my children. More than that, my children quite often give me moments of sublime joy.
For someone who thinks a lot about mind and machines, watching children develop from helpless babies into the full flower of human physical and mental ability is truly awe-inspiring, and helping to guide that development is a great privilege and responsibility. It's all the dreams for AI coming true before one's own eyes! They learn language, they learn to read, they develop empathy and morals, they learn from what they read, they create new ideas, they pursue their own goals by creating and executing complex plans, and before you know it they're full-fledged people who surprise you, charm you, spar with you and teach you.
There's joy when I see one of my children teaching another. There's joy when my children use words I don't know from books I haven't read. There's joy when one of my children cracks a good, original joke. There's joy when my children see something that needs doing and do it without being told. There's joy when I give a vague instruction and my children work out how to do it and do it well. There's joy when I do something wrong and my children correct me. There's joy when I leave them with my parents for days and get a good report on their behavior. There's joy when my children choose to do something they don't want to do, just because it's right. There's joy when one of my children beats me in a board game I'm pretty good at. It's true that some of these joys don't come along very often :-).
As a Christian, I'm led to understand that God has some of these feelings towards us. He lets us take risks with ourselves and others --- not so that we can be independent of him or surpass him --- but so that we can be full-fledged people whom he can delight in and who can love him in return.