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.