Sunday, June 20, 2010

Create Your Own Lineage

The other day I was talking with my sister about "stuff," and particularly the handling of non-digital materials such as photographs, slides, LP music albums, audiotapes, videos, and books. The actual process of sorting can be daunting, and you still have to find ways to store some items and dispose of others. In addition, processing may involve the transformation of a fossil (e.g., slides) into a digital piece of contemporary culture (e.g., photos on an iPhone).

Over the next day, I reflected on the countless repetitions of this cycle through history. Forms from a particular era eventually become obsolete, or are challenged, and are replaced by the latest innovation. Along the way, "users" must make an active decision about whether they will accommodate the newer forms and assimilate them into their lives.

Besides concrete objects, these forms may pertain to societal issues including healthcare, education, religion, politics, and customs, or personal matters like values, beliefs, aspirations, choices, and actions.

When forms are maintained through the efforts of identifiable people over time, you might conclude that a lineage exists. For example, many spiritual traditions have sustained forms of belief and practice for hundreds of years through oral, then written means, with traceable teachers as their different lineages.

On this Father's Day, I'm reminded of the family's significant role in establishing lineage. Within this context, consider these questions:
  • What is your family's lineage?
  • What "forms" have members of your family sustained through generations?
Remember, these forms may be "abstract" (e.g., aspirations) as well as material (e.g., bequests). In your responses, write a list of the various forms that demonstrate the traditions, styles, and qualities of your family. Give yourself plenty of time and space for this exercise. You may come back as needed to complete your observations.

Here are some examples:
  • Higher education is the key to success in the world today.
  • We always have lasagna for Christmas and Easter.
  • Laboring with your hands represents an honest way to make a living.
  • We only buy cars made in the US.
  • Charitable giving and community involvement are necessary family responsibilities.
  • Having dinner together as a family is important.
  • Certain jewelry has remained with the women in the family.
  • Providing for the family is the man's job.
  • We're cat lovers.
  • The women often act with anxiety and have low self-esteem, despite being smart.
  • We have a big Superbowl Party every year.
  • Many of the men in the family are rough and uneducated.
  • Church attendance on Sundays is expected.
  • We don't like to eat fish.
  • Our summer vacations include outings all together.
  • Road trips are an essential mode of travel and education.
  • And so on . . .

When you're finished, you may express silent gratitude to your ancestors for all the characteristics of your lineage. You know they did their best, and your heritage has helped you become the person you are today.

Now, ask yourself:
  • Which characteristics from my list do I want to end, and which to sustain?
After you have carefully identified those qualities you wish to continue, respond to this question about characteristics you'd like to add:
  • What other forms do you deliberately choose in order to establish a lineage that supports and expresses your own way of living?
Finally, combine the old and new characteristics. You can periodically review this list, incorporate any changes, and share the content of your consciously created family lineage with your children or interested relatives.

Enjoy your lineage--your inspired legacy!

Love and Peace,

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