Your Children Are Not Your Children

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Khalil Gibran, from The Prophet

Likewise, your Art is not your Art. It too belongs to Life.

Copyright terms were initially 14 years – about the time it took to raise a child to adulthood. After 14 years (or 18 years now, we’ve extended legal infancy) parents really have to let go of their children, and acknowledge they don’t “own” them. In fact they never did.

So it is with Art. An artist nurtures a work from an invisible little idea into a form that can stand on its own. But eventually they have to let go of it. Letting go is essential for the growth of both the “child” and the “parent.” Parents who don’t let go of their children never mature; children who are never released wilt. 14 years is a long time to “own” a child…50 years is ridiculous. Imagine changing your kid’s diaper for 50 years! And life plus 70 years is simply obscene. Would you want your kid beholden to your rotting corpse? Would you rather it belong to your corpse than to Life?


11 thoughts on “Your Children Are Not Your Children”

  1. What if I’m not creating Art?

    What if I’m creating a product that I cultivate -like Charles Shultz or Fats Domino? These people are only good at one thing, Snoopy and the Twist.

    Would you throw them to wolves in their old age as a free-for-all engulfs their work? Sorry, Charlie (Brown), you should’ve invested better in your youth -at least Medicare can cut your prescription costs on some generics!

  2. Then you’re “creating” a product or commodity or property, not Art (although Art can slip in to commodities, and commodities into Art – the boundaries are far from clear).

    I’m all for commodities. I like Property, and Free Markets. But not everything is or should be a commodity. Humans, for example. Commodified humans are called slaves, and while slavery has had its periods of popularity over the years, most people wouldn’t want to enslave their children (though some parents do a little; those boundaries aren’t totally clear either). Commodified Art is called…well, some people just call it art, but I think the name should be qualified somehow. Suggestions? I seem to be using capital-A Art for Art, and lower-case-a for commodified art, product, or property, but we could do better.

    And if you’d rather create a product than Art, go for it! And raise your kids however you want, too. I’m just sayin’ if your main concern is the life and well-being of the Art or the kid, you might choose not to enslave it.

  3. I recently had a discussion with an artist friend who was raised by Communist theorists who said: “An artist who is a commie is about as misguided as a Faberge-egg-maker who is a commie.” And I think the spirit of that statement is that anyone who creates art has to realize that the work of their passion is not a commodity, and is not just a product of labor, but has inherent aesthetic and cultural value and uniqueness that defies any conversion into a commodity. It has a value greater than the sum of its parts, and goes above and beyond its monetary value.

    In other words, you can’t have something that has the special value of a Faberge egg and also give everyone in society a Faberge egg, because part of its value is its luxury status and rarity. But at some point, the Faberge egg should ideally go into the possession of a museum so everyone can enjoy it and understand its cultural significance…

  4. Actually I don’t think the Faberge egg needs to go into a museum. But I do think if someone wants to make knock-off Faberge copies, they should. Copies don’t diminish the value of the original Faberge egg, which is one-of-a-kind. This is the difference between “fine art” and “popular art.” Fine art refers to unique, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable objects like paintings and Stradivarius violins and Faberge eggs. Often private ownership preserves those things better than public ownership does. I’d like all my original “Nina’s Adventures” strips to eventually be owned by individuals or well-endowed foundations, in the hopes they’d be best preserved that way.

    But the images of those comics are “popular art,” and I want those to be free. Images of Faberge eggs should be free, so we all know what Faberge eggs are (and it is we who assign meaning to Faberge eggs, and give them cultural significance). Charles Schultz’s original drawings can be privately owned even while the images, which belong to popular culture, circulate freely.

    If I communalize (remove from your private possession) your Faberge egg, you don’t have it any more. If I copy it, we both have one.

  5. But what happens if it’s not a copy or an image of the Faberge egg, but a Star Trek replicator type exact duplicate of the egg? No difference from the original, except that the person holding the original says “this is the original”. That does make the egg less rare and more popular, doesn’t it?

  6. I suppose if the Star Trek replicator ever comes into being, the Faberges will try to litigate it out of existence, to preserve their old business model. The Faberges will have to time-travel to the Future to sue the Star Trek people, but hey, it’s Science Fiction. Just like how Big Media time-travels back to the 1920’s, to give the composers of that era a greater incentive to create works based on copyright extensions of today. Which is why we have so many more 1920’s-era creative works since the Sonny Bono Act was passed.

  7. Bingo! Luckily technology can never really be legislated, and people will just keep coming up with bigger and better replicators. The will of the people can’t be denied forever, only delayed for a little bit.

  8. I would just like to add: Fats Domino has nothing to do with the Twist. Confusing Fats Domino with Chubby Checker is just wrong.

  9. Regarding the original post on product, which I’m not sure covers the whole of Peanuts due to Schulz still nailing it once or twice in his later years- Now that Peanuts is no longer in production it should have a few years left before its copyright expires. It was in use most of Schulz’s entire life and now it’s not anymore, so the clock should be ticking. Seems fair to me, at any rate.

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