Family and Authenticity

In the Saturday February 21 edition of the WSJ, there was an essay by Nicholas Eberstadt entitled “The Global Flight from the Family”. In it, he describes the increasing numbers of single mothers in this country, but also the same phenomena on a global basis. But he adds further depth to this observation, by pointing out the ever-growing proportion of people living alone, and the ever increasing number of childless couples. His essay is a long and complex study and should be read. Here, I want to focus on one derivative observation that he makes.

“Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness.” Are self-actualization and self-sacrifice inevitable poles of the same continuum? Is Authenticity achievable only in solitude?

I deal with this question in my book.”see my book
It is a troubling question. Is this global drift toward solitude the inevitable solution to the search and discovery of one’s true self? Is the classic image of sitting alone in a vast forest, or sailing alone on a vast ocean, or climbing alone to a mountain top, or living alone in small room in the wilderness the only true way to find one’s self?

My answer would be that there are various forms of authenticity. My authenticity is not yours. I believe my book is a handbook for a process that can be used to assess one’s own current authenticity, and methods to correct any shortcomings. One’s personal authenticity can be found alone, or in a profound relationship with another, or inside a family unit. If you are in one of these three places and have found happiness, then you are authentic. But if you find yourself unfulfilled, one needs to explore what other composition will more authentically fulfill you. Sounds simple, but there are myriad social impediments to this search that will fetter your steps.

The search for self-truth and validation has been around for centuries. It is a worthy search. See my book and the early chapters on the history of self. Mr. Eberstadt’s research is a troubling observation. It probably has multiple causes, but the search for Self is clearly one of them. These thoughts only deepen the issues we examine here. I welcome your intelligent commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Family and Authenticity

  1. I read the WSJ article. Thank you. Again, your post targets an unnerving trend toward the dissolution of the family structure and the embrace of solitude as potential paths toward an authentic self. Your book answers this concern and, furthermore, gives specific guidance of how to be on the path toward an authentic self in relation to oneself and others. We need both. There’s the story of a great Tibetan Buddhist monk who as a young disciple went into a mountain cave to learn patience. His master, after a year, went to see him. When he found him, he struck him with his walking stick. The young disciple jumped up and yelled as his master,”why did you do that?” His master replied, “just seeing how well you’re learning patience.” The disciple returned to the town to learn patience in the world. Of course, perhaps, he had to go into the mountain first to learn that he could not learn the lesson of patience alone. As you correctly lay it out, we need all three relationships; with ourselves, a significant other, and companions. The continuum of which relationships wax or wane, I guess, depends on each of us. It’s hard to say. This trend may be a momentous but temporary shift, one that mankind must go through to find itself globally and individually. The trouble is to move into solitude and never venture out again. My best teachers are those who challenge me, including my wife, who sees no end to my faults or to my potential.

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  2. Its an interesting question. Living in cities I notice more people with Dogs than kids. I suppose it depends what one desires in their life to feel authentic. To be honest with yourself in what you want; not just what “society” tells you is right or to follow the Norm. I think it took some time for human kind to evolve into not thinking procreation was part of survival. This is a basic animal instinct..perpetuate the species at all costs. Perhaps its just an acceptance by the individual as well as society that its ok not to perpetuate the species. Perhaps like the dew claw its becoming an un essential appendage or survival tactic. Not for all that still desire it ; but free to take it or leave it.

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