Sunday, December 8, 2013
The Family of All Man And Woman Brothers & Sisters
(If you enjoy watching people, you’ll understand how complex and unique we are as a species. I continue to be fascinated by the animal and mammal known as a human. For me, this essay speaks for the global family of Man and Womankind.)
It seems remarkable that as we approach our thirties and forties, and become parents, aunts and uncles for the first, second or third time, we become aware of the fragile nature of our lifespan. We grow accustomed to the illusion that the birth of another generation in our family ensures our personal longevity, as though we can live another 20-30 years longer than our usual expectancy, simply because someone closely related to us has been born.
And yet it seems strange to realize that as another child arrives, so do we ourselves grow older. Where once we were the celebrated new arrival to be hugged and played with by adoring relatives, we now find ourselves on the giving end of the same idea. We cherish the miracle of birth, with ourselves as the adult bestowing affection. There is a certain outspoken joy that we offer, inspired by the new baby and delighting at the pleasure of certainty of life. I have heard of new grandparents, who, visiting their first grandchild in the hospital nursery, find themselves bursting into tears. Perhaps what they felt is something that is part of our collective past. We recognize we start out in life as an infant. Perhaps their grandparents were there to herald their birth. Now, with the years rolling by and time moving ever quicker, the new grandparents have seen the cycle of generations brought to full circle.
We have taken the roles that grandma or grandpa, and mommy and daddy once filled in our lives. We have become the older members of the family. Our new son or daughter, niece or nephew will someday take their own place as an adult member of our family, and generate their own branch on the Family Tree. A fact of life becomes apparent, one that we wish to ignore: our own mortality means that we will no longer be here to share life with loved ones. We will become memories in the minds of those new babies whom we welcome to the world. In time, we will become faded images in pictures, and stories passed on to future generations.
Most amusingly, we hold fast privately to the idea that somehow, the new infant will somehow be able to see us, to really know us, for whom and what we think we are. We want the new baby to relate to us in our own terms of self-image, to recognize us as competent, productive members of the family. We want to hear, “Yes, I understand how you felt growing up, what your day-to-day struggles and ambitions meant, with hopes and worries, joys and sorrows.” And we especially want their recognition that life’s challenges merit the younger generation’s respect and honor. Of course, we all play the role of looking back at the “younger generation,” thinking that they won’t understand or appreciate the opportunities that we struggled to learn and master.
And we certainly looked at older relatives, certain that we had a more difficult time than they faced! We yearn to hold back the framework of Time and the cycle of aging, to let our children catch up to us as adults. Part of the illusion is to say to our children, “I know how it feels, because when I went through what you’re experiencing, I felt it too.” The hope is there, that we can bridge that gap. We want to say, “Hold back the years, I know what this child will experience and I want to share my knowledge, I have learned so much and need to share it!” Our parents felt it for us, and our grandparents for our parents, and as far back in the chain of human existence as can be imagined. But there is no dimension of life that holds back the march of Time. We are not immortal.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is the realization that we experience our own mortality in terms of a larger sense of the world and universe. We hopefully pass the mantle of our name, gene pool and experiences with someone, in order to perpetuate our species and ourselves. We become extended members of our family.
And so, it is part of a man’s world to understand he may take a wife who will bear him children. Separately, she brings life to both her husband’s world and to her own, in the unique capacity of motherhood. The sharing of creation and the new life is brought forth, and the mysteries of how far our generations will stretch. How will we be remembered? And who are those yet to be part of our heritage? It is a wonderful dream to consider.