Quantum physics tells us that linear time is an illusion. It says that the past, the present, and the future can cross paths. When we read about, study, write about, and create family history, we can make those paths cross. Genealogy and family history work can prove this.
My journey to write this book has literally brought me to tears with anticipation and excitement of discovery of my living relatives and ancestors, and those emotions were sometimes confusing to me. I was not clear on what I needed or wanted when I started this journey. While my motivations haven’t always been clear, my feelings told me this is important. Motivations are related to intentions. I will write more on the role of emotions later.
See the title of this book, Family Hunger? I ask you: What are you hungry for that made you pick this up and read this? Do you recognize what you are longing for? What nutrition do you need? What do you want?
It is important to know that there is a difference between “wants” and “needs”. What we need are basics like food, water, housing, stability, belonging, security, etc.- things we need for our survival. What we want are metaphorically like frosting on the cake of life that we can survive without but which makes our lives richer - things like the desire for creativity, beauty, peace, balance, connection, purpose, and deep meaning. Wants are things we want that help us thrive, beyond mere survival. Maybe some of what we want are just distractions, but we need those for respite or rest sometimes (like “mindless” entertainment). (from “Introduction to Psychology” Sixth Edition, by Ernest R. Hilgarrd, Richard C. Atkinson, and Rita L. Atkinson, Harcourt Brace Javonovich, Inc., 1975).
Is family a basic need for you? Family may not be a basic need, but family is one of the ways we get our basic needs met, a means to the ends. Have you learned not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg? Have you learned that access to the resources that allow us to fulfill our basic daily needs - stable relationships - is much more valuable over the span of our life time than winning the lottery?
Speaking for myself, I have my basic needs met, AND I want the full course meal! I want to taste that desert! I want to survive, and I want to thrive in the richness of life! And my family can help me do that. (I define family as those significant relationships who are kin by blood or marriage, as well as “fictive kin” who are friends and sometimes acquaintances who are my chosen family).
I believe in families. I have faith in families. My family brought me into this world, nurtured me to the best of their abilities, and I enjoy my family now. I know that is not everybody’s experience and it has not always been my own experience. I know for some people that families mean hurt, abuse, neglect, or abandonment at many levels.
I have had unpleasant family experiences ranging from my own adopted brother telling me “I don’t want to anything to do with you Neel children”, to my cousin who told me essentially to “go to hell …”, to my work as a social worker in a public child protection service agency where you see the really bad ones. I know that family experiences can hurt. And I understand why some people may want to give up all hope of getting their needs met from their own families.
But I have not given up hope. In fact, I am very hopeful in the healing potential of families. I love my family that I live with. I miss my extended family that I don’t live with. I grieve my family that has passed on. And I embrace my chosen family - my friends and spiritual brothers and sisters, and even some of my co-workers that I interact with regularly.
I have seen the healing power of families from a professional point of view where old patterns can be changed, old injuries can be taken responsibility for and the recovery process can begin. I have seen and been a part of new generations become healthier and less damaging to the next generation.
And I have experienced my own family-of-origin heal from where things seemed pretty hopeless, to where we have moved to stages of healing to where we now seek one another out and regularly gather together again and re-established new traditions of family gatherings.
I recognize my own needs for human interaction and my needs that are met by my family (including my chosen family), for the most part.
There are many ways to record history: verbal story telling, sharing by the written word, audio recording, video recording, electronic digital recording, scratching on the stone walls of our caves ...
But think about which kind of record endures longest, and might be viewed in such a way as to make a difference in the reader's or the viewer's life? In audio recording, wax cones have evolved to vinyl LP records, to cassettes, to CDs, to MP3s, etc. Oral/verbal/audio recording mediums change very quickly. Video formats change so quickly I can't keep up with those changes.
I am advocating a written record (but I do not discount other forms of recording our families' histories).
Carl Sagan writes in Cosmos about books, “… one glance at it and you hear the voice of another person— perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic … Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries, and then flower in the most unpromising soil … If I finish a book a week, I will read only a few thousand books in my lifetime, about a tenth of a percent of the contents of the greatest libraries of our time. The trick is to know which books to read”.
Family Hunger – Breathe Life Into Your Own Family History will inspire you to connect to your living and historical relatives, and to recognize that we leave traces of our lives behind. So be conscious and deliberate about your footprints, the written word being one form of those footprints.