The Revelation of Adam in Modern English

This is the revelation that Adam taught his son Seth in the seven hundredth year.

The Fall of Adam and Eve

“Listen to my words, my son Seth,” said Adam.


When Sakla created me out of the earth along with your mother Eve, I walked about with her in the glory that she had seen in the eternal realm from which we came. She taught me knowledge of the eternal god. We resembled the great eternal angels, for we were higher than Sakla, who created us, and the powers who were with him, whom we did not know. Your mother Eve and I didn’t come from the eternal realm, but knowledge entered into us, we children of the great eternal beings.

Sakla, the ruler of the realms and the powers, was wrathful and divided us, and we became two separate beings. The glory in our hearts left us, me and your mother Eve, along with the first knowledge that had breathed in us. Glory fled from us and returned to the eternal realm. For this reason, I name you the ancestor of the great generation, and its predecessor. After all knowledge of the eternal god of truth withdrew from me and your mother Eve, we learned about the inanimate and about human beings. We recognized Sakla, the god who had created us. We were no strangers to his powers, and served him in fear and slavery. After this, our hearts darkened, and I slept in my heart’s darkened thoughts.

Sakla (the foolish one) is the name of the demiurge, the being that created the physical realm. In other Gnostic books, he is known as Samael or Yaldabaoth. Though he created Adam and Eve, they were imbued with divine knowledge of the eternal realm.

Adam and Eve are Awakened

I saw three people before me who I didn’t recognize. They were not sent by the powers of Sakla, who created us. They surpassed his glory.

“Rise, Adam, from the sleep of death,” they said, “and learn about the eternal being and the embryo of the person to whom life has come, who will be born by Eve, your wife.”

When we heard the words of the great beings standing before me, Eve and I sighed in our hearts.

Later, Sakla, the god who created us, stood before us.

“Adam,” he said, “why were you both sighing in your hearts? Don’t you know that I am the god who created you? I breathed the spirit of life into you as a living soul.”

Darkness came over our eyes. Then the god who had created us created a son from himself and Eve, your mother. The vigor of our eternal knowledge was destroyed in us, and weakness pursued us. The days of our lives were few. I knew that I had come under the authority of death. Yet still I knew a sweet desire for your mother.

Adam and Eve are visited by angels from the heavenly realm who restore their knowledge of the eternal realm. When Sakla discovers this, he curses them with death. This is analogous to Satan enlightening Adam and Eve in Genesis, and Yahweh cursing them with death.

Noah and the Flood

Now, my son Seth, I will reveal what those whom I saw revealed to me, after which I lived until the span of my generation was over.

Rain showers from almighty Sakla poured down to destroy all flesh on the earth, along with the descendants of those who received the life giving power of true knowledge. That life and knowledge came from your mother Eve and me. They themselves were strangers to the eternal god. Afterward, great angels came on high clouds to take those people in whom the spirit of life lived. A multitude of flesh was be left behind in the waters.

Sakla rested from his wrath. He cast his power on the waters, and gave power to his sons and their wives by preserving them in an ark, along with the animals, whichever he pleased, and the birds of heaven, which Noah called forth and released upon the earth.

“Look,” said Sakla to Noah, whom later generations will call Deucalion, “I have protected you in the ark along with your wife, your sons, their wives, their animals, and the birds of heaven, which you called and released upon the earth. I give the earth to you and your sons. You will rule over it as king. You are not descended from the people who would not stand in my presence but gloried in another.”

In a cloud of great light, people came who were sent out with the knowledge of the great eternal realms and the angels. They stood before Noah in the earthly realm.

“Why have you strayed from what I told you?”, Sakla asked Noah. “You have created another generation who scorns my power.”

“I testify before your might,” said Noah, “that this generation of people didn’t come from me or my sons.”

Those people were brought to their proper land and a holy dwelling was built for them. They were called by the name of that place and lived there six hundred years, knowing incorruptibility. Angels of the great light lived with them. No foul deed resided in their hearts, only the knowledge of the true god.

Noah divided the whole earth among his sons, Ham, Japheth and Shem.

“My sons, hear me,” he said to them. “I have divided the earth among you. Serve Sakla in fear and slavery all the days of your life. You children must not turn away from the face of Sakla the almighty.”

“You and lord Sakla will be pleased with our descendants,” said his sons. “Rule them with your strong hand and with fear, and command them, and the whole generation that come from us will not turn from you and Sakla the almighty, but will serve in humility and fear of what they know.”

Sakla sends the flood not to destroy evil in humanity, but to wipe out the Sethians, who inherited the secret knowledge of the eternal realm. Only Noah and his sons, who are faithful to Sakla, are saved. After the flood, the angels bring people who have knowledge of the eternal realm down to the earth.

The Four Hundred Thousand

Four hundred thousand of the descendants of Ham and Japheth entered the land of those people who came from the great eternal knowledge. The shadow of their power protected them and those with them from everything evil and every filthy desire. Then these descendants of Ham and Japheth formed twelve kingdoms.

Their other descendants entered the kingdom of the eternal people. They took counsel with the great aeons of incorruptibility. Afterwards, they went to their god Sakla, lord of the temporal powers, and accused the glorious great ones.

“What is the power of these people who stood in your presence,” they said to Sakla, “and those who are descended from Ham and Japheth who number four hundred thousand? They were received by those who claim to come from another realm, and have overturned all the glory of your power and the dominion of your hand. Noah, through his sons, has done your will, and so have all the powers in the realms over which your might rules. Both those people and those who reside in their glory have not done your will. They have turned aside your whole throng.”

The heavenly people pass on their knowledge of the heavenly realm to four hundred thousand of Noah’s descendants. The twelve kingdoms may represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Fire, Sulfur and Tar

The great ones who had not been defiled were not defiled by any desire. Their souls did not come from a defiled hand, but from an eternal angel’s great command. Sakla, the god of the earthly realms, commanded some of those who served him. They descended on the land of the undefiled. Then fire, sulfur and tar were cast upon those people, and fire and blinding mist come over their realm, and the eyes of their rulers and luminaries were darkened, and the inhabitants of the realm could not see.

Great clouds of light descended from the great eternal realms. Abrasax, Sablom and Gamaliel descended and bring their people out of the fire and the wrath, and took them to the eternal realms with their rulers to dwell there with the holy angels and the eternal beings. The people were like those angels, for they were not strangers to them, but worked with the imperishable children.

Sakla attempts to destroy the people of heaven, but the archangels descend and remove them to the eternal realm.

The Illuminator of Knowledge

The whole creation that came from the dead earth is under the authority of death, but those who reflect on the knowledge of the eternal god in their hearts will not perish. They have not received their spirit from the earthly kingdom, but from something eternal, angelic. The illuminator will come, Seth. He will perform signs and wonders to scorn the earthly powers and their ruler.

Once again, for the third time, the illuminator of knowledge passed by in great glory to leave some of the descendants of Noah, the sons of Ham and Japheth, as fruit-bearing trees for himself. He redeemed their souls from the day of death.

“What is the power of this person who is higher than we are?” Sakla, the god of the powers said.

He brought great wrath against that person. Glory withdrew and lived in holy houses it had chosen for itself. The powers did not see it with their eyes, nor did they see the illuminator. They punished only the flesh of the one over whom the holy spirit had come.

The illuminator is, of course, Christ. Sakla is behind his death, but does not see that Christ has left his flesh. Interestingly, Christ is not born, but has merely “come over” Jesus.

The Origin of the Illuminator

The minions of Sakla all the generations of the earthly powers used his name in error.

“Where did he come from?” they asked. “Where did these words of deception, which all the powers have failed to realize, come from?”

The first kingdom said that the illuminator came from the eternal god, and emanated as a spirit in heaven. He was nourished in the heavens. He received the glory of the eternal one and the power. He came to the bosom of his mother, and in this way he came to the water.

The second kingdom said that he came from a great prophet. A bird came, took the child, and brought him onto a high mountain. He was nourished by the bird of heaven. An angel came forth there and said to him, “Rise! God has given you glory.” He received glory and strength, and in this way he came to the water.

The third kingdom said that he came from a virgin womb. He was cast out of his city, he and his mother; he was brought to a desert. He was nourished there. He received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water.

The fourth kingdom said that he came from a virgin. Solomon sought her, he and Phersalo and Sauel and his armies, who had been sent out. Solomon himself sent his army of demons to seek out the virgin. They did not find the one whom they sought, but the virgin who was given to them. It was she whom they fetched. Solomon took her. The virgin became pregnant and gave birth to the child. She nourished him on the border of the desert. When he was nourished, he received glory and power from the line from which he was conceived, and in this way he came to the water.

The fifth kingdom said that he came in a drop from heaven. He was thrown into the sea. The abyss received him, gave birth to him, and carried him up to heaven. He

received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water.The sixth kingdom said that one of the angels came down to the realm below in order to gather flowers. She became pregnant from the desire of the flowers. She gave birth to him in that place. The angels of the flower garden nourished him. He received glory and power there, and in this way he came to the water.

The seventh kingdom said that he came in a drop from heaven to earth. Dragons brought him down into their caves, and he became a child. A spirit came over him and raised him to the place from where the drop had come. He received glory and power there, and in this way he came to the water.

The eighth kingdom said that a cloud came over the earth and enveloped a rock. He came forth from it. The angels above the cloud nourished him. He received glory and power there, and in this way he came to the water.

The ninth kingdom said that one of the nine muses separated. She ca

me to a high mountain and spent some time seated there. She desired her own body and become androgynous. She fulfilled her own desire and became pregnant. He was born. The angels who had created her desire nourished him. And he received glory there and power, and in this way he came to the water.

The tenth kingdom said that a god loved a cloud of desire. The god spent his seed in his hand and cast some of it upon the cloud above him, and the illuminator was born. He received glory and power there, and in this way he came to the water.

The eleventh kingdom said that a father desired his own daughter. She was pregnant by her father. She cast her child into a tomb out in the desert. An

angel nourished him there, and in this way he came to the water.

The twelfth kingdom said that he came from two luminaries. He was nourished. He received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water.

The thirteenth kingdom said that one born of their ruler was a word. The word received a mandate there. He received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water, that the desire of those powers might be satisfied.

But the people without a king said that the eternal god chose him from all the eternal realms. He caused knowledge of the one of truth, which is undefil

ed, to reside in him. From a foreign place, from the mighty eternal realm, the great illuminator appeared. He made the generation of those people whom he had chosen for himself shine, so that they would

shine on the whole eternal realm.

Sakla and all the people loyal to him did not know Christ. The first kingdom, the true heavenly kingdom, knew that he was an Aeon, an emanation from the eternal god, who was born to an earthly mother. The remaining twelve kingdoms, established by those who had lived with the people of heaven, had various misunderstandings of his origin. The people without a king, presumably the people of heaven who were rescued by the archangels, knew Christ was a heaven being as well.

The People Acknowledge Their Error

Those who received his name upon the water fought against the earthly powers. A cloud of darkness came upon them. Then all the people cried out with a great voice.

“Blessings are upon the souls of those people because they have known the true god. They shall live forever, because they have not been corrupted by their desire, along with the angels, nor have they performed the works of the earthly powers. They have stood in god’s presence and knowledge of god like light has come forth from fire and blood. But we have foolishly done every deed demanded by the earthly powers. We have boasted in the transgression of all our works. We have cried out against the god of truth because all his works are eternal. This weighs on our spirits, for now we know that our souls will die in death.”

“Why do you cry out against the living god with lawless voices and tongues, and souls full of blood and foul deeds?” said Micheus, Michar and Mnesinous, who were lords over the holy baptism and the living water. “You are full of untrue works, yet your ways are full of joy and rejoicing. Having defiled the water of life, you have given it over to the will of the powers who you serve. Your thought is not like that of the people who you persecute. Their fruit does not wither. They will be taken up to the great eternal realms, because the words they have kept, of the god of the eternal realms, were not committed to a book, nor were they written down. Angelic beings whom all the generations of your people will not know, will bring them. They will stand on a high mountain, upon a rock of truth. Therefore they will be called by words of incorruptibility and truth, as those who know the eternal god in wisdom of knowledge and the teachings of angels forever, for he knows all things.”

These are the revelations that Adam made known to his son Seth. Seth taught his descendants about them. This hidden knowledge of Adam, which he gave to Seth, is the holy baptism of those who know the eternal knowledge through those born of the word and the imperishable illuminator, who came from the holy seed: Yesseus Mazareus Yessedekeus, the living, water.

This apocalyptic passage speaks of the end times, when the followers of Christ rise up against the earthly powers. Then everyone else realizes that they are doomed to die, whereas the followers of Christ will be taken up to the eternal realm. As in all Gnostic texts, it is knowledge that saves, not faith.

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Reviews of “Messiah” and “Dracula”

Why am I reviewing two series at the same time? To illustrate an interesting point.

* * * * A

messiahMessiah is a Netflix series in which a man claiming to be the messiah appears out of the Syrian desert. Watched by the CIA, he builds followings in Syria and America. The series walks the knife edge: is he for real, or is he a con man and a terrorist.

I really enjoyed this series, and am hoping that it is renewed for a second season. When I checked it out on Rotten Tomatoes, I discovered that 90% of the audience agreed with me. Yet what rating do the critics give it? 40%, rotten.

* * C

dracula-bbcBBC and Netflix have released a new version of Dracula that tries to take a fresh take on the Bram Stoker classic. Jonathan Harker, the hero of Bram Stoker’s novel, becomes a victim in this remake, and Dr. Van Helsing is replaced by Sister Agatha Van Helsing. There are some interesting ideas, particularly that Dracula can absorb the knowledge of his victims and that his brides are ghouls.

Unfortunately, the writing is terrible. After watching the first two episodes, I’ll probably give up on it. Again, checking out Rotten Tomatoes, the audience agreed, giving it a 55% rotten rating. Yet what do the critics give it? 70% fresh.

The Point

Film critics have always been rather out of touch. Often in the past they would rate things 20% higher or lower than the audience. Usually I would agree with the audience and occasionally with the critics. But now, the majority of critics seem to have lost touch with what makes film good.


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Films I’m Anticipating (or not) in 2020

Here’s a list of the films coming in 2020 that look interesting or not worth watching.dune2020

Jan 3, 2020

The Grudge

Why? The original Juon and the Hollywood remake the Grudge were great. The sequels sucked. Heard this is terrible.

Jan 10, 2020


Gritty looking war movie. Unless I hear this is a must see in the cinema, I’ll wait to stream it.


Kirsten Stewart undersea thriller. Will likely stream this, as I’ve heard its decent.

Three Christs

Drama about a psychiatrist with three patients who all think their Christ. Doc is Richard Gere, on of the Christs is Peter “Tyrion” Dinklage. Might be a streamer.

Jan 17, 2020

Bad Boys for Life

Will Smith crime comedy. Meh.


Robert “Ironman” Downey Jr. can talk to animals. Might be worth streaming.

Jan 24, 2020

The Gentlemen

Guy Richie gangster pic with Matthew MacCaugnahey, Hugh Grant. Might be a streamer.

The Turning

Horror film, possibly based on James’s Turn of the Screw. Has Fynn Wolfhard from Stranger Things. Looks meh.

Color Out of Space

H P Lovecraft story with Nick Cage. Might be streamable, but I want to hear it’s decent first.

Jan 31, 2020

Gretel and Hansel

Storybook horror. Looks meh.

Feb 7, 2020

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Margo “Harley” Robbie leads this sequel to suicide squad, with Ewen “Obi-wan” McGregor as the villain. Will see if this get a good rating. Might be a streamer.

Feb 14, 2020

Fantasy Island

Horror take on a mediocre 70’s TV series with the mediocre Michael Peña as Mr. Rourke. Meh.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Jim Carrie as Dr. Robotnic. Looks Meh.

Feb 28, 2020

The Invisible Man

Horror take on H G Wells classic sci-fi. Looks promising.

 Mar 13, 2020


Vinn Diesel as a nanotechnology enhanced cybersoldier. Hoping to hear this is good.

Mar 20, 2020

A Quiet Place Part II

Still haven’t seen the original. Probably a streamer for me.

Mar 27, 2020


Another Disney live action remake. Haven’t watched one yet, and don’t really plan to.

Apr 3, 2020

The New Mutants

Finally, the long delayed horror X-Men film from Fox. Will stream unless I hear its great.

Apr 10, 2020

No Time to Die

Woke Bond. Won’t see unless I hear its good.

Apr 17, 2020


Guillermo De’Torro horror about a Wendigo. Will at least stream this.

May 1, 2020

Black Widow

First Marvel pic of the year. Will likely see this.

May 8, 2020

Legally Blonde 3

Second one sucked, so no.

May 15, 2020

The Woman in the Window

Thriller about an agoraphobe who sees a murder, then things get weird. Might be a streamer.

Untitled SAW Reboot

Haven’t saw one of these yet, and don’t intend to.

May 22, 2020

Fast & Furious 9

Would have to watch 1-8 first, so likely won’t see this.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run


May 29, 2020

Artemis Fowl

Will likely wait to stream this on Disney+

Jun 5, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984

Will likely see this, or at least stream it.

Jun 12, 2020


Never saw the original, so I won’t see this reboot.

Jun 26, 2020

Top Gun 2: Maverick

Will see this if I hear it’s good, otherwise likely stream it.

Jul 3, 2020

Minions: The Rise of Gru

The original (Despicable Me) was OK; haven’t watched any of the sequels.

Free Guy

Corny looking Ryan Reynolds video games reality comedy. Might be a streamer.

Jul 10, 2020

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Will probably at least stream this. Has Paul “Antman” Rudd and Fynn Wolfhard from Stranger Things.

Purge 5

Haven’t seen 1-4, so no.

Jul 17, 2020


From Chris Nolan, the maker of inception, this mindbending thriller looks awesome.

Bob’s Burgers: The Movie

Haven’t watch the series, won’t see the film.

Jul 24, 2020

Jungle Cruise

Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson leads another Disney ride based movie that looks meh.

Jul 31, 2020


Jared Leto enters the Spiderverse as the titular vampire. Will he redeem himself after his failure as Joker in Suicide Squad? Here’s hoping.

Aug 14, 2020

Escape Room 2

Haven’t seen the first one, won’t see this.

Aug 21, 2020

Bill & Ted Face The Music

Bogus Journey was bogus so unlikely I’ll see this.

Sep 11, 2020

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Haven’t seen the Conjuring 2, so likely won’t see this.

Sep 18, 2020

The King’s Man

A prequel to the Kingsmen films. Might stream this.

Oct 9, 2020


Aretha Franklin biopic. Not for me.

Death on the Nile

Hercule Poirot mystery. May stream this.

Nov 6, 2020

The Eternals

A new entry to the Marvel universe. May see it if I hear its good.

Nov 20, 2020

Godzilla vs. Kong

The last film (Godzilla, King of the Monsters) was bad. Will at best stream this.


One of the GOAT science fiction novels. I’m in, here’s hoping it’s good.

Dec 18, 2020

Coming to America 2

Liked the original, but not expecting much here.

Dec 25, 2020

The Tomorrow War

Haven’t heard much about this, interested tho.

TBA 2020

The Fantastic Voyage

Presumably a remake of the Isaac Asimov novel.

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Is Birthrate Decline a Bad Thing?

birthrate-declineI’m going to comment on the New York Times opinion piece The End of Babies by Anna Louie Sussman.

In the fall of 2015, posters appeared around Copenhagen. One, in pink letters laid over an image of chicken eggs, asked, “Have you counted your eggs today?” A second — a blue-tinted close-up of human sperm — inquired, “Do they swim too slow?” The posters, part of a campaign funded by the city to remind young Danes of the quiet ticking of their biological clocks, … drew criticism for equating women with breeding farm animals.

I agree these ads seem unlikely to encourage young people to want to have children, but saying that they’re equating women with chickens seems like faux outrage to me. Did anyone complain that men were being shamed for being infertile? No? I thought not.

The timing, too, was clumsy: For some, encouraging Danes to make more babies while television news programs showed Syrian refugees trudging through Europe carried an inadvertent whiff of ugly nativism.

I don’t blame Danes for wanting their native population produce more children, rather than importing unskilled refugees from another culture who don’t speak the language and will likely take more from the welfare system than they contribute in taxes. Calling nativism ugly doesn’t change the fact that it’s practical.

Dr. Soren Ziebe, the head of Denmark’s largest public fertility clinic, thinks these kinds of messages, fraught as they are, are sorely needed. Denmark’s fertility rate has been below replacement level — that is, the level needed to maintain a stable population — for decades. The decline is not solely the result of more people deliberately choosing childlessness: Many of his patients are older couples and single women who want a family, but may have waited until too late.

Like the grasshopper in the famous fable, they spent the summer of their youth chasing pleasure or career, not realizing that when the winter of their infertility arrived, they would be starved for children and family.

If any country should be stocked with babies, it is Denmark. The country is one of the wealthiest in Europe. New parents enjoy 12 months’ paid family leave and highly subsidized day care. Women under 40 can get state-funded in vitro fertilization. But Denmark’s fertility rate, at 1.7 births per woman, is roughly on par with that of the United States. A reproductive malaise has settled over this otherwise happy land.

Paid family leave, subsidized day care, and “free” in vitro fertilization may improve fertility marginally, but even paying women to have children hasn’t returned countries like Japan and Russia to the replacement rate of 2.1.

Declining fertility typically accompanies the spread of economic development, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. At its best, it reflects better educational and career opportunities for women, increasing acceptance of the choice to be child-free, and rising standards of living.

It is a good thing. In the short term, we may have some adjusting to do, but in the long term, we will need to reduce the world population from its likely peak of 11 billion at the turn of the century.

At its worst, though, it reflects a profound failure: of employers and governments to make parenting and work compatible; of our collective ability to solve the climate crisis so that children seem a rational prospect; of our increasingly unequal global economy. In these instances, having fewer children is less a choice than the poignant consequence of a set of unsavory circumstances.

Nothing employers or the government can do will making parenting and work compatible; they are fundamentally at odds. Solving the “climate crisis” requires reducing birth rates. The unequal global economy cannot be equalized at the level that we in the west expect without reducing birth rates.

Decades of survey data show that people’s stated preferences have shifted toward smaller families. But they also show that in country after country, actual fertility has fallen faster than notions of ideal family size. In the United States, the gap between how many children people want and how many they have has widened to a 40-year high. In a report covering 28 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, women reported an average desired family size of 2.3 children in 2016, and men wished for 2.2. But few hit their target. Something is stopping us from creating the families we claim to want. But what?

In urban areas, two incomes are almost a necessity, at least until couples are established. This mean that families are started late. With the high cost of day care, couples can’t afford to have too many children.

There are as many answers to this question as there are people choosing whether to reproduce. At the national level, what demographers call “underachieving fertility” finds explanations ranging from the glaring absence of family-friendly policies in the United States to gender inequality in South Korea to high youth unemployment across Southern Europe. It has prompted concerns about public finances and work force stability and, in some cases, contributed to rising xenophobia. But these all miss the bigger picture.

I agree these “answers” don’t fit the big picture. Family-friendly policies have been shown to have very little impact, gender inequality correlates to higher birthrates, not lower, and high youth unemployment does not lead to low birthrates in the third world.

Our current version of global capitalism — one from which few countries and individuals are able to opt out — has generated shocking wealth for some, and precarity for many more. These economic conditions generate social conditions inimical to starting families: Our workweeks are longer and our wages lower, leaving us less time and money to meet, court and fall in love. Our increasingly winner-take-all economies require that children get intensive parenting and costly educations, creating rising anxiety around what sort of life a would-be parent might provide. A lifetime of messaging directs us toward other pursuits instead: education, work, travel.

The third world also has many with precarious financial straights, long work weeks and low wages, yet has high birth rates. In the west, one can live on government assistance, and yet still women choose not to bear children. Children do not require intensive parenting and costly educations, though they may well benefit from them. Messaging can be ignored, but is only likely to be if one understands the alternatives.

These economic and social dynamics combine with the degeneration of our environment in ways that hardly encourage childbearing: Chemicals and pollutants seep into our bodies, disrupting our endocrine systems. On any given day, it seems that some part of the inhabited world is either on fire or underwater.

For young, healthy women, I don’t believe pollution is a major cause of infertility.

It seems clear that what we have come to think of as “late capitalism” — that is, not just the economic system, but all its attendant inequalities, indignities, opportunities and absurdities — has become hostile to reproduction. Around the world, economic, social and environmental conditions function as a diffuse, barely perceptible contraceptive. And yes, it is even happening in Denmark.

Greed is hostile to reproduction.

Danes don’t face the horrors of American student debt, our debilitating medical bills or our lack of paid family leave. College is free. Income inequality is low. In short, many of the factors that cause young Americans to delay having families simply aren’t present.

Student debt is very much a first world problem, and can be avoided by self educating or choosing a traditional lifestyle in trades. Young people don’t normally have debilitating medical bills, though they may have poor access to healthcare. College is not free in Denmark. It is paid for by very high taxes. The point that Danes have a larger welfare state than Americans yet still have declining birthrates points to the fact that socialism will not increase fertility.

Even so, many Danes find themselves contending with the spiritual maladies that accompany late capitalism even in wealthy, egalitarian countries. With their basic needs met and an abundance of opportunities at their fingertips, Danes instead must grapple with the promise and pressure of seemingly limitless freedom, which can combine to make children an afterthought, or an unwelcome intrusion on a life that offers rewards and satisfactions of a different kind — an engaging career, esoteric hobbies, exotic holidays.

First world problems.

There are, to be sure, many people for whom not having children is a choice, and growing societal acceptance of voluntary childlessness is undoubtedly a step forward, especially for women. But the rising use of assisted reproductive technologies in Denmark and elsewhere (in Finland, for example, the share of children born via assisted reproduction has nearly doubled in a little more than a decade; in Denmark, it accounts for an estimated one in 10 births) suggests that the same people who see children as a hindrance often come to want them.

Making something that could be done cheaply and naturally an expensive option. By 40, the chance of getting pregnant naturally each month is just 5%, and the average woman has only 50000 eggs left. As these are released 1000 per month, this means a forty year old has about 4 years before becoming infertile. If a woman chooses to delay having children and then pays for IVF, it is her choice, but I would argue it’s a poor one.

Kristine Marie Foss, now 50, always dreamed of finding love, but none of her serious boyfriends lasted. She spent most of her 30s and 40s working as an interior designer, created several social networks (including one for singles, “before it was cool to be single”), and expanded and deepened her friendships. It wasn’t until she was 39 that she realized it might be time to start thinking seriously about a family. Ms. Foss is now the mother of a 9-year-old and 6-year-old via a sperm donor. She has joined the ranks of what Danes call “solomor,” or single mother by choice, a cohort that has been growing since 2007, when the Danish government began covering IVF for single women.

Waiting this long is risky. Fertility can be prolonged with expensive freezing of ova and IVF, but the chances of conceiving are worse than for a young woman conceiving naturally. Tax money spent on offering IVF to single women is money taken away from other causes, such as helping children, the poor, and the elderly. This seems highly irresponsible.

There are those who have always sought to lay the blame for declining fertility, in some way, on women — for their individual selfishness in eschewing motherhood, or for their embrace of feminism’s expansion of women’s roles. But the instinct to explore life without children is not restricted to women. In Denmark, one out of five men will never become a parent, a figure that is similar in the United States.

Historically, far more women than men have passed their genes on. One man can fertilize many women, but a women can only bear a few children in her lifetime. Men are able to conceive children naturally far into middle age, meaning they have the luxury to postpone fatherhood for far longer than women can put off motherhood.

Are all these options not precisely what capitalism promised us? We were told that equipped with the right schooling, work ethic and vision, we could have professional success and disposable income that we could use to become the most interesting, most cultured, most toned versions of ourselves. We learned that doing these things — learning, working, creating, traveling — was rewarding and important.

Individualism has little to do with capitalism. Freedom and the right to pursue happiness means having to choose what it is that will bring happiness.

Trent MacNamara says that having children may appear to be no more than a “quixotic lifestyle choice” absent other social cues reinforcing the idea that parenting connects people “to something uniquely dignified, worthwhile and transcendent.” Those cues are increasingly difficult to notice or promote in a secular world in which a capitalist ethos — extract, optimize, earn, achieve, grow — prevails. Where alternative value systems exist, however, babies can be plentiful. In the United States, for example, communities of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Mormons and Mennonites have birthrates higher than the national average.

Having children will always be an instinctual imperative. This difference today is that there are so many ways of preventing or aborting the consequences of the reproductive act. Is parenting dignified, worthwhile, and transcendent? To some, certainly, but it is hard to argue that merely becoming a parent confers dignity, worth, or transcendence of the human condition. The “alternative value systems” noted are all systems where the individual lacks freedom. I.e. they are regressive systems, from a liberal point of view.

Lyman Stone, an economist who studies population, points to two features of modern life that correlate with low fertility: rising “workism” — a term popularized by the Atlantic writer Derek Thompson — and declining religiosity. “There is a desire for meaning-making in humans,” Mr. Stone told me. Without religion, one way people seek external validation is through work, which, when it becomes a dominant cultural value, is “inherently fertility reducing.”

Men have always sought external validation and internal purpose in their work, without reducing fertility. When women do the same, they naturally defer bearing children.

Denmark, he notes, is not a workaholic culture, but is highly secular. East Asia, where fertility rates are among the lowest in the world, is often both. In South Korea, for example, the government has introduced tax incentives for childbearing and expanded access to day care. But “excessive workism” and the persistence of traditional gender roles have combined to make parenting more difficult, and especially unappealing for women, who take on a second shift at home.

Tax incentives have been tried in Japan and Russia as well, and while they increase the birthrate by a marginal amount, they have failed to do more than slow the decline. Too many women are forced to choose work just to make ends meet. How many of them are happy doing so? This is the dark side of the freedom that the birth control pill brought.

If Denmark illustrates the ways that capitalist values of individualism and self-actualization can nonetheless take root in a country where its harshest effects have been blunted, China is an example of how those same values can sharpen into competition so cutthroat that parents speak of “winning from the starting line,” that is, equipping their children with advantages from the earliest possible age. One scholar told me this can even encompass timing conception to help a child in school admissions.

Competitive nature is part of the Chinese culture. China is the farthest you can get from being a culture of individualism and self-actualization, give that it is controlled by a totalitarian communist regime.

The Chinese government has long sought to engineer its population, reducing quantity in order to improve “quality.” These efforts are increasingly focused on what Susan Greenhalgh, a professor of Chinese society at Harvard, describes as “cultivating global citizens” through education, the means by which Chinese people and the nation as a whole can compete in the global economy.

I’d rather not be part of an engineered population.

By the 1980s, she said, child-rearing in China had become professionalized, shaped by the pronouncements of education, health and child psychology experts. Today, raising a quality child is not just a matter of keeping up with the latest child-rearing advice; it’s a commitment to spending whatever it takes.

Manufacturing obedient workers for the state.

Joyce Yuan, a 27-year-old Beijing-based interpreter, was quick to note China’s harsh economic conditions, a factor that rarely, if ever, came up in Denmark. She cited, for instance, the high cost of urban living. “Everything is super expensive,” she said, and quality of life, especially in big cities, “is extremely low.”

Sounds terrible.

The factors suppressing fertility in China are present throughout the country: In rural areas, where 41 percent of its nearly 1.4 billion citizens still live, there is little enthusiasm for second children, and policymakers can seemingly do even less about it. In Xuanwei Prefecture, after the central government announced in 2013 that couples in which one spouse was an only child could apply for permission to have a second baby, just 36 people sought such approval in the first three months — in a region of around 1.25 million people. “Local family planning officials blamed economic pressure on young couples for the low take-up,” the authors of a study on China and fertility wrote.

This is good news for the environment. The sooner the world population stops growing and begins to decline, the sooner we’ll be able to live sustainably.

In urban settings, the opportunities for education and enrichment are more abundant, and the sense of competition more intense. But Chinese couples everywhere are responsive to the pressures of the country’s hyper-capitalist economy, where setting a child down the right path could mean life-changing opportunities, while heading down the wrong one means insecurity and struggle.

China is not capitalist. There may be competition, but it is not free. There is still an authoritarian party in tight control over all opportunities.

In my own experience as an American, I am one of the lucky ones: Thanks to scholarships, and my mother’s tremendous sacrifices, I graduated from college without debt. Thus unencumbered, I spent most of my 20s working and studying overseas. Along the way, I got two master’s degrees, and built a rewarding, if not especially remunerative, career. In my late 20s, I learned about egg freezing. It seemed like a secret weapon I could use to stave off the decision of if and when to have kids — an absolution, of sorts, for spending these years abroad and not searching terribly hard for a partner. At 34, I finally underwent the procedure. Last year, I did another round.

Sounds fairly typical for a woman who achieves two post graduate degrees. This is not the norm.

According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, I should have $200,000 saved before having a child. I am fully aware that people far worse off than me have children all the time. I know that even the prospect of a pre-pregnancy savings target vaults me firmly into the realm of tragicomic middle-class absurdity. I am resolutely not saying that if you don’t have this (or any sum of) money, you should reconsider children.

If you have a partner who can support you, you don’t need to save this much before having a child.

Rather, this number is a hybrid — an acknowledgment of the financial realities of single parenthood, but also the arithmetic crystallization of my anxieties around parenthood in our precarious era. To me, it demonstrates that even with my abundant privileges, it can still feel so risky, and on some days impossible, to bring a child into the world. And from the dozens of conversations I’ve had in reporting this essay, it’s clear these anxieties are shaping the choices of many others, too.

Planning on single parenthood is again not the norm. Why would you do this?

Where did I get the $200,000 figure from? First, there’s at least $40,000 for two rounds of IVF. (That I am contemplating this route also speaks to the obstacles of dating under late capitalism — but that’s a subject for a different article.) Thousands of dollars in hospital bills for a birth, provided it’s not a complicated one.

You chose to put off dating. When you are young, the obstacles are much smaller.

As a freelancer, I wouldn’t be eligible for paid leave, so I’d either need child care (easily $25,000 a year or more) until the child starts prekindergarten, or have enough saved to support us while I’m not working. I could sell my studio apartment, but homeownership is a key means by which parents pay for college, and I am as terrified of relinquishing this asset as I am of launching a child into the job market sans higher education credentials. On some days, I tell myself I’m being responsible by waiting. On other days, I wonder how this anxiety over my present might crowd out the future I envision.

Why have a child if you aren’t even going to raise it?

The point is not really whether $200,000 is reasonable; it is that the very notion of attaching a dollar figure to an experience as momentous as parenthood is a sign of how much my mind-set has been warped by this system that leaves us each so very much on our own, able to avail ourselves of only what we can pay for.

Everyone should make sure they are committed to parenthood, including dealing with the expense, before committing to it. The “system” is not at fault.

For decades, people with as much good fortune as I have were relatively immune to these anxieties. But many of the difficulties that have long faced working-class women, and especially women of color, are trickling up. These women have worked multiple jobs without stability or benefits, and raised children in communities with underfunded schools or poisoned water; today, middle-class parents, too, are time-starved, squeezed out of good school districts, and anxious about plastic and pollution.

Since birth control arrived, allowing more and more women to delay having children, fewer are willing to sacrifice their lifestyle in exchange for raising a family. As the rewards of fatherhood have been eroded, fewer men are interested in doing so.

In the 1990s, black feminists, facing the conditions above, developed the analytical framework known as reproductive justice, an approach that goes beyond reproductive rights as they are usually understood — access to abortion and contraceptives — to encompass the right to have children humanely: to “have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” as the collective SisterSong put it.

Safe and sustainable communities have to be built and maintained. They are not a right, but a privilege.

Incremental improvements like paid parental leave are only a partial fix for our current crisis, a handful of crumbs when our bodies and souls require a nourishing meal.

Who pays for parental leave? If it’s employers, we should expect them to avoid hiring people who are likely to take advantage of it. If it’s the tax payer, the burden of ever increasing entitlements is swollen further.

The problem, to be clear, is not really one of “population,” a term that since its earliest use, according to the scholar Michelle Murphy, has been a “profoundly objectifying and dehumanizing” way to discuss human life. Hundreds of thousands of babies are born on this planet every day; people all over the world have shown they are willing to migrate to wealthier countries for jobs. Rather, the problem is the quiet human tragedies, born of preventable constraints — an employer’s indifference, a belated realization, a poisoned body — that make the wanted child impossible.

Employer’s are not responsible for helping you have children, unless forced to do so by government regulation. Poisoning is something the government should be preventing. Belated realization is on you.

The crisis in reproduction lurks in the shadows, but is visible if you look for it. It shows up each year that birthrates plumb a new low. It’s in the persistent flow of studies linking infertility and poor birth outcomes to nearly every feature of modern life — fast-food wrappers, air pollution, pesticides. It is the yearning in your friends’ voices as they gaze at their first child, playing in their too-small apartment, and say, “We’d love to have another, but …” It is the pain that comes from lunging toward transcendence and finding it out of reach.

And yet, ideally, we want to reduce the global population.

Seen from this perspective, the conversation around reproduction can and should take on some of the urgency of the climate change debate. We are recognizing nature’s majesty too late, appreciating its uniqueness and irreplaceability only as we watch it burn.

Over population is the direct cause of climate change.

“I see a lot of parallels between this tipping point that people feel in their intimate lives, around the question of reproduction under capitalism, also playing out in broader existential conversations about the fate of the planet under capitalism,” said Sara Matthiesen, a historian at George Washington University whose forthcoming book examines family-making in the post-Roe v. Wade era. “It seems like more and more people are being pressed to this place of, ‘O.K., this system of value is literally going to kill us.’”

Not having children does not kill you. Having the freedom to choose what you want to do with your life is good. The tragedy of the commons, which freedom often leads to, becomes inevitable when the population cannot be sustained by the environment.

Conversations about reproduction and environmental sustainability have long overlapped. Thomas Malthus worried that population growth would outstrip the food supply. The 1970s saw the emergence of ecofeminism. Since the 1990s, reproductive justice groups have sought a better planet for all children. Today’s BirthStrikers disavow procreation “due to the severity of the ecological crisis.”

Malthus failed to foresee the increases in food production brought about by commercial fertilizers. These fertilizers are produced from petrochemicals and are a key contributor to global warming. Eventually, if we continue to push the system past its carrying capacity, it will fail catastrophically.

The first step is renouncing the individualism celebrated by capitalism and recognizing the interdependence that is essential for long-term survival. We depend on our water supply to be clean, and our rivers depend on us not to poison them. We ask our neighbors to watch our dogs or water our plants while we’re away, and offer our help in kind. We hire strangers to look after our children or aging parents, and trust in their compassion and competence. We pay taxes and hope those we elect spend that money to keep roads safe, schools open, and national parks protected.

I agree that we need to address the destruction of the environmental commons. The best way to do that is by making sure that we reduce the population to a sustainable number.

As I reflected on the immaterial gifts I like to think I inherited from [my father], it became clear I craved genetic continuity, however fictitious and tenuous it might be. I recognized then something precious and inexplicable in this yearning, and glimpsed how devastating it might be to be unable to realize it. For the first time, I felt justified in my impulse to preserve some little piece of me that, in some way, contained a little piece of him, which one day might live again.

How is genetic continuity fictitious? The yearning is a primal instinct. Even the totalitarian Maoists were only willing to try to hold their people to one child per couple, and that was largely unsuccessful. Lamenting the falling birthrate while simultaneously bewailing the damage overpopulation does to the environment shows the cognitive dissonance that our deepest instincts can cause us to indulge in when confronted by facts.

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Review of “Freaks” (mild spoilers)

* * * B

freaksFreaks is the movie that Dark Phoenix should have been. It’s hard to say much more about the film without spoiling it further than the trailer already does. Though made on a fairly low budget (I haven’t found an estimate for it, but it’s clear it was a small fraction of a block buster), the film makes up for it with complex characters and an original plot.

The X-Men property I’d most closely compare Freaks to is The Gifted. It has the same oppression of mutants, and an even darker tone. But where, after watching the first few episodes of The Gifted, I found it dull, Freaks is disturbing and surprising. Bruce Dern, whom I first saw in Silent Running back in 1972, gives a standout performance, though the entire cast is solid.

The X-Men’s themes of xenophobia and discrimination are better captured by this film than anything recently produced by the X-Men franchise. All in all, a solid science fiction film.

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Review of “The Last Jedi” (Ivan Ortega’s edit)

* * * B

tlj-reeditFilm editor Ivan Ortega, on his YouTube channel FilmFix, has been documenting his efforts to produce an edit of The Last Jedi that fixes many of its problems. He finally released the fine cut about six months ago. While the story remains largely unchanged, the end result is a huge improvement over the original.

The improvements that work the best for me are:

  • General Hux is now a serious villain
  • Luke actually trains Rey as a Jedi
  • The Canto Bight subplot is much shorter
  • Vice Admiral Holdo’s roll is reduced, making her less annoying
  • No more “Leia Poppins”
  • In general, dumb humour has been removed

I won’t spoil any of the plot changes Ivan has made, but there are a few, and in all cases, they improve the film for me. Ivan’s labour of love is a worthy addition to The Phantom Edit, Attack of the Phantom, Dark Force Rising, and the despecialized editions of the original trilogy. My one gripe is that he didn’t give it a new title to distinguish it from the original.

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The Truth about Sea Level Rise

sea-level-riseThere is a lot of misinformation out there about how much sea level will rise due to global warming. The current best information (from 2018) comes from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report in chapter 9, Sea Level Rise. Page 278 of the report concludes that in the worst case (business as usual, no reductions in growth of emissions before 2030), the sea level will rise by 30 cm (12″) by 2050, and 41 cm (16″) by the end of the century.

So what impact will a 1 foot increase in sea level have, assuming that we don’t change our ways? You can see for yourself on the Surging Seas Risk Zone Map. In metropolitan Vancouver, the most affected areas are the airport and the city of Richmond. Richmond already has an extensive system of dykes, and they investing in upgrading them (see Richmond’s $300 million dyke plan forges ahead). According to the YVR 2037 Master Plan, the airport authority “are currently implementing a multi-year program to raise our dyke levels to 4.7 metres geodetic—a new height standard—and we are partners in the regional lower Fraser River flood management strategy.”

While the IPCC could be wrong (Vancouver’s Coastal Adaptation Plan pessimistically plans for increases of 50 cm (20″) by 2050 and 100 cm (40″) by 2100), and low lying islands areas in the third world which cannot afford to build dykes may well be inundated, to call this a global climate crisis is irresponsible. We’re likely to do better than the worst case scenario. This means Vancouver’s pessimistic (2.5 times worse than the IPCC’s worst case) plans are likely more than we need.

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