“It dawned upon us that the family was more important than the state, that man had become man through parental love, and that nature was right in turning our eyes from the problems of the universe to the needs of our little house. We found our place, and were content; in the fulfillment of function we had discovered happiness.” – Will Durant, Transitions, (speaking of he and his wife on being first-time parents).

We have seen that since human purpose is ultimately subjective, it is individually defined. A limited number of persons may identify purpose as completely internal or found in hermit-like solitude (for example, the Cynics, the desert fathers, or Soren Kierkegaard), but for most of us extreme isolation is unfulfilling. Instead we often reach into proximate space for companionship, love, and connectedness especially within our family. Such connections are typically automatic when we are children and follow us into adulthood. In parallel, as adults, we seek the passionate love of another with whom to couple and shape a new family. In my reading I find philosophers generally overlook the importance of these relationships, but common sense and nearly universal experience is that family in both configurations informs significant purpose in life.

In earlier blogs, I determined that the word purpose refers in part to place and function or role. In family the sense of place is unique in that it is fixed – one simply is the fourth son or the second daughter, the father or mother, and so on. Place in family is essentially relational, much like numbers when counting or in an equation. This is not the case with respect to role which is highly malleable. Today’s dependent daughter is the future host of the family gathering or caretaker of the fragile patriarch. The grandson on his grandmother’s knee of yesteryear may provide a home in her ailing widowhood. Familial purpose then is reflected in acknowledging position while accepting shifting roles.


(continued next post)

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