Growing Generationally

Saturday, January 13, 2007

First Draft

You may have heard the stories. In the old country, families were large. Huge even. Some families were the size of villages, and distant cousins shared beds under leaky roofs. Entire generations resided in harmony under these conditions, the younger generation bringing joy to the older generation, and the older generation providing wisdom and care for the younger generation.

Then like a freight train ramming a hastily constructed brick wall, something happened. We entered the modern times. Modern times were supposedly better. Technology improved, and standards of living increased (at least in the places that could afford it), alongside longevity and decreases in infant mortality. In short, modern times introduced utopia. Only it didn’t.

Modern ideals and goals splintered families and split them apart. Technology replaced human contact and people drifted away, becoming less involved and less caring about the family that welcomed them into the world. I don’t say this to judge others. I am no better. I live across the country from my family. I’ve moved further west each year until I arrived as far north and west as I could go without courting bears.

People like to think that the old country was a simpler place. Today feels very complicated compared to that place. They did not have the internet or telephones or televisions or large libraries or modern science and medicine or any of the conveniences we could not imagine living without today. When I think of the past, I usually imagine what the future will think of us. Will they laugh at our naiveté, our simple way of life? If they did they would be as wrong as we are in thinking that the past was simple. People of all times are complex and live complicated lives. Life’s meaning and complications are not about the technologies or jobs or even standards of living. Life’s complexity is about, always was about, and always will be about human relationships. Relationships are a constant that has followed human development. I dare say relationships are what make humans human. And the most complicated and rewarding of all relationships are the family relationships.

They say blood is thicker than water. It’s true. What they leave out, however, is that blood is also hotter than water. Family provides the greatest opportunity to learn about connections with other people. The danger with those connections is that there’s a risk involved. Once you’re in that circuit, your connection can easily burn you. To have a relationship you have to let people close to you. And once they’re close, they know about you, they understand your weaknesses.

It’s not that we’re able to escape

And living close together with anyone is a recipe for an argument. Living close together used to mean geographically close. Thanks to the information age, living close together has a different meaning, at first more complex and in some ways shallower.

There were strange findings in genealogy over the past ten years (see Slate, Nature (partial), and Atlantic (partial). The findings made the headlines and have been used both appropriately, and inappropriately in supported of some questionable racial findings. What has been interesting, however,

Seeing as we’re talking about what people are saying, there was a study done