Once upon a time (in time-honoured way), there lived a young boy and his family.
The family lived across – and had already drunk greedily from – many cultures, expectations and failures.
Although God lived in the soul of one parent and science in the brain of the other, in both lived the goodness of doing what was right, whatever that might be – even when one’s heart really wasn’t up to it.
There seemed to be more virtue and rightness about doing what was right when doing what was right felt the hardest thing to do, than when doing what was right was the easiest of ways forwards.
The family was forged of Mediterranean unconditionality alongside northern Socialist succour – a powerful mixture of contrasting methods whose results in both cases aimed at societal cohesion, both within and without, both internal to and external of.
Society, quite naturally, was important – was key – for such a family. In this sense, the society all children are taught as children to value – kindness, gentleness, looking out for others … all that stuff and damn-fool jazz – was how this family was made, and wonderfully shaped. The society – at least as explained in those childlike promises some of us carry with such yearning – faithfully matched the nature of that family I’m describing; the nature of what had striven so much to continue to be a microcosm of a wider set of promises, a wider social contract.
But what’s equally clear is that as we climb towards societal success, we must leave that set of promises – that set of premises, even! – well behind anything we once planned to be.
The families we build, out of the societies we have consented to, are designed from the very beginning to thrust out anyone who looks to success. The family here is a kind of reverse-cuckoo: “You really want to be happy?” it asks. “Remember all those nice embraceable-me things you learned to value as a kid? All lies!!!”
And so it is that this reverse-cuckoo demands that anyone who believes they want to be happy – and in exchange for the only success grown-up society/family cares to recognise – must leave society in order to be happy in the same!
An impossible compact; a trick, were it ever consummated, of magical brilliance.
Translate what could have happened to the specific family under discussion – a family which may or may not always have wanted to destroy itself – to a wider, broader set of human relationships, and we have an environment so full of self-hatred and loathing that it’s hardly surprising so many people are sad these days.
Our society is telling its offspring all the time: “You want to be happy? Leave everything social behind you! Forget everything essentially embraceable now.
“Clamber up that pyramid, dear worker … you have only your bonds of humanity to lose!”
It’s sad, so sad, that the family which is all our society doesn’t have sufficient confidence or pride in itself to believe success can be properly built on foundations of childlike premise.
Yet not all families, not all microcosms of that society, allow themselves to give in without a fight.
Of the six people in that picture you see, none has fully climbed the pyramid so far that they must feel, on their shoulders of work at least, the gnawing daily wit of a rather cruel universe. The only one who may be this unlucky is taking the photograph, out of the family frame.
And even in this one case, their humanity remains intact.
I should know.
For it’s my family we see.
Perhaps then, even now, there is hope out there for us all – and if not for us all, at least for those deserving souls, brains and hearts which make up the braver of anatomies amongst us.
The family that wanted so badly to fit in, that was being forced – like so many others – to want to destroy the very socialness which otherwise would preserve its grandeur, has overcome with a persistence of vision and determination all the efforts and blandishments of modern society to make it give way, to make it forget what truly leads us forwards: that particular ability of our species, when given half a chance, not to choose to treasure what is easy but, instead, to choose to value what demands of us most our humanity.
Love over money, every damn time.
The society which always wanted to destroy itself? Maybe so. Maybe on that road, we’re well on our way. But not the family. Not all families. Not every one, anyway.
And if you still have the grace to want to embrace yours, don’t let it thrust you out towards lonely success.
Remind it, above all, that what’s lost is society itself.
Family, meanwhile, may still be pretty free. Keep it that way, will you? We need you more than ever.
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