Not only do I feel that notions of ‘family’ might be worth writing about because so many people for a lot of different reasons hold them dear, but also because, in relation to others, I have struggled with these notions for quite some time. After all, I’ve been hearing about them since birth. And the reason I say this struggle is in relation to others is because the struggle is not my own; it’s always brought about by having to explain things in conversation with others, when it is assumed that I too hold notions of family dear, and when I am asked about what they call “my family.”
Part of the reason I can’t consider struggles with notions of family to be my own is because I don’t recognise or make such an absolute relationship-distinction, of who is family and who is not. Nor have I ever really felt – if such a thing is a feeling rather than a matter of thinking – any ‘special affinity’ to what could be called my bloodline, which would in any case be the foundations on which any concept of family I might have would rest. To say that I recognise no affinity to these people is not to say that I feel nothing for them, but simply that I do not feel an affinity for them which I can’t say I don’t also feel for those not directly related to my ‘bloodline.’
I won’t play dumb; I know exactly what people mean when they say family, and I still refer to those I’ve known as ‘family’ all along with the same terms… but with a certain awareness of psychophysiological responses to the distinctions we evaluate our world by, or the kinds of semantic reactions we can have to our own complex associations, this reference no longer begins with a capital F, and no longer comes with any silent clauses or catches, whatever…
Before gaining any kind of insight into this kind of thing, ‘my own’ distinction of ‘family’ really was not my own at all, but it was handed down to me, so to speak, by the definitions and the expectations of others. It had been defined for me and I hadn’t thought to make sense of it myself. It’s rare that I’ll use the word ‘family,’ but now it isn’t so restrictive, and certainly isn’t so blinding as to how I relate just as intimately with everyone else on the planet.
Why I’ve chosen to renounce my given family name, without having to cut off any kind of relation to the other people bearing this title…
There are a number of reasons why I choose not to identify with the given family name, or surname. I suppose first and foremost that it’s been because I can find literally no reason to identify with such a name, especially not in casual and social situations. All sentimental reasons aside, there seems to be no reason to identify with any kind of surname except in terms of the paper trail linked to an official social identity, which is no more ‘me’ than the National Insurance number attached to the same name.
Human beings find unbelievable amounts of ways to set themselves apart from one another. Family name is one such arbitrary distinction. I’ve heard many people say something to the effect of, ‘so long as me and my family are OK, I don’t care about anyone else,’ which is something I don’t subscribe myself to at all.
Some years ago, I began to be able to take people and situations as they were, and no longer through the projected lens of verbal abstraction. ‘Family,’ just like ‘friends,’ became an unnecessary distinction to make, as the relationships I’d been blindly classifying with such terms before them seemed to speak a lot for themselves. For the most part I’d only maintained such ideas due to the ‘obligations’ that came along as imposed associations with such abstractions.
To realise that the words or opinions or inferences you project onto people are not the people themselves, you might also find it impossible to see people through the labels you’ve given them. For me, the people in my life began to seem strangely human, more human, more alive than before. I could finally take them as people like other people; as they are, with behavioural characteristics which are intrinsic to human beings as a whole rather than behavioural characteristics which merely existed to live up to my own ideas of them, who they are, who they should be based on what I thought, and so on…
I can relate with these people much more effectively now. They exist, and not as part of a world of words and opinions inside my head.
Not limited to those who I distinguished as Family, but to everyone else I’ve ever met too, I saw that the people <em>are</em> people, and they will be people despite what I think. It can be a tough realisation to take, depending on how much ‘identity’ you have invested in your abstractions, that your mental model of the world is not the world itself. On the opposite side of this same coin, I can’t stress how much shit I’ve had to deal with, how many of my relationships have gone down the drain due to what people considered to be ‘Aden’ and how many times they’ve rejected me in favour of their fixed ideas of me.
This kind of insight can lead to a more general knowledge about relationships; that when people’s abstractions become detached from the actual relationship, so much imbalance and unnecessary disturbance can be caused by it. Relationships stagnate… they can become empty… because relationships of all kinds are ever-changing whereas language is not so flexible. Wrapping relationships up in words can sometimes be the finest way to kill it slowly.
It struck me quite early on that I had to embrace people and communication as it was, with as little interference from thinking as possible. One of the first steps I took to this effect was to renounce any and all arbitrary distinctions and classifications I imposed on these relationships, beginning at home with Family, all the way to the streets with Friends.
As I looked around me at a huge human mess of what was vainly called relationships, what I saw and what I see appears a lot more ugly when all romantic notions are pushed aside and relationships are taken as they are. For a start, a great majority of relationships are strained under imposed verbal standards and definitions of who people are and what their ‘kind’ of relationship should be. Not to mention, I have seen people in the heat of moments betray their very own abstractions of “relationship-types,” be it from within a family, a so-called friendship, or more intimate, passionate relationships. After all, there are times when even people who do engage others only under the strain of their abstractions let their definitions and complex associations slip away, and decide for a moment to operate in a completely different way; as if these other people… are just people.
People can forget their arbitrary distinctions for one another so easily when it suits them to do so.
In many cases, ‘relation’-ships can go for the longest periods of time even if no actual ‘relating’ takes place. In these cases it seems to become a game of sorts, where the only relating that takes place is in the imposing of expectations based on ideas of what relationships of certain kinds should be, demands based on those ideas, and so on…
I can almost completely understand why people are quick to distinguish one another by all kinds of verbal standards; in many cases such abstractions are thought to bring people closer together. The problem is, a lot of the time they can do nothing but get in the way, and actually separate the people it is assumed these abstractions will bring closer together. People can take a look, and they will see this kind of thing for themselves.
Not to mention the arbitrary and sometimes painful separation between people and others who don’t fall into their relationship distinction, for example; by calling these people my family under such rigid terms, I am, in effect, claiming that you are not. In these cases, the people held under these relationship distinctions never meant to set themselves apart from others, but that comes naturally as a consequence to the steps they’ve taken to try bringing themselves closer to those they’ve distinguished.
Sometimes, brothers and sisters may live as though they hate one another. I doubt they do really, but how much of this comes about as a kind of misdirected rebellion against the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ and all the associations, the expectations and demands, the obligations that have been imposed upon them by their parents, by their societies, that they are expected to live up to simply by being cast under such a distinction?
Instead of being taught how to relate, how to communicate, it comes as an expectation based on accepted mental models of relationships, and rarely works. (It always stands out to me to witness ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ so to speak, who actually have strong, fluid, reciprocal relationships… because this is fairly alien to me. I like it.)
There are many people out there whose lives and relationships are based on the pressure of maintaining and/or living up to ideas of the imposed abstractions of relationships of all kinds. To be able to see through these impositions… to recognise what is actual and without having to project any kind of verbal distinctions… people may find their bonds with one another strengthened a thousandfold, and many others can be free of relationships they have been trapped in for the longest times based on verbal distinctions of those relationships, and what is accepted by those involved and by the ‘society’ around them.
Understanding, rather than opinion, will free people in cases like this. Relationships speak for themselves; they don’t need humans’ lack of knowledge speaking over them. And how much more interesting all kinds of relationships can be once they are freed from people’s sentimental notions of what ‘should’ be!!
I’m your friend, but I’m not <span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>your</span> “Friend” …