I started writing this book in the months following the news that my partner Sara was pregnant. I’ve finished it in the many (many) months after my son Owen was born.
Watching Owen slowly come fully to life has been one of the deepest joys I’ve ever known. Every day he emerges just a little more. Every day he becomes a little more himself. Every day I get to know him a little more deeply.
I’ve watched him become more alert and aware of his surroundings. I’ve watched him discover and create new aspects of his character. I’ve watched him learn to take food from his mom, to smile to show delight, and to get sad when I say “No, I think that’s enough cheese.” I’ve watched him come to learn who I am, to get excited to see his grandparents and cousins, and to pick out his favorite book and insist on reading it five times in a row.
In many ways, Owen’s growth and development could not be more ordinary. Nearly every one of the billions of humans who has ever existed has gone through this same process, or one similar. Owen is just one of millions of babies his age around the world today. Nothing about his story is particularly unique or exceptional.
But at the same time, it could not be more extraordinary to experience Owen’s emergence right in front of me. It is not only one of the deepest joys I’ll ever know, but one of the greatest mysteries, something I believe my mind will never fully comprehend. How does his body know to grow itself like that? How is it possible this wonder of life that smiles into my eyes and grabs on to my finger was just a cluster of cells? Who will he grow up to be? What will make him him?
I can’t imagine experiencing something more worthy of my awe.
This book springs from a simple thought: If Owen’s life is worthy of my awe, then so must be that of all humans. Their lives must all unfold in equally beautiful and mysterious ways. If I were their parents, I’d be just as dumbfounded, just as in love. And if it’s true that the growth and emergence of all humans is astonishing and worthy of my awe, then perhaps so is that of humanity itself.
All too often, our view of ourselves is one of cynicism, outrage, despair, and shame. We believe we are born shameful sinners. We believe nothing ever changes. We despise ourselves for our wastefulness and lack of care for one another and our planet. We believe we are the disease.
Ultimately, I believe at the core of all humanity’s problems today is the pervasive, ancient belief that we are ugly, not capable or worthy of a better world. Humanity is afflicted with a disease of despair. Our story about ourselves becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many of us don’t dare to imagine something better because we don’t believe it is possible.
So think of this as a self-help book, not for you or for me, but for humanity itself. It offers a new story for humanity. It asks: What if we looked at humanity with the same awe, compassion, and good will I have for Owen or any parent has for their child? What if we allowed ourselves to see humanity as a growing, emerging being that has just scratched the surface of its gifts and potentials? What could we overcome, build, and dream up if we truly saw ourselves as beautiful?