April 2011

Family – What Does This Mean?


During a recent visit to New Zealand, my husband and I re-connected with 2 of his brothers, their wives, their kids and even their grandkids. I was amazed at how happy we were to be together and how quickly deep bonds were established. In addition to the fact that they were delightful, gracious, fun people to visit, there was something more - the realization that we are “family.”

What does it mean to be “family”? I suppose the simplest explanation is common roots and a shared history — biological, social, cultural. Even family members separated by time and distance can relate to this, though not everyone chooses to build on this foundation in a loving, unified way.

In a larger sense though, it is more than just having DNA in common and being on the same genealogy chart. I did a word search through the electronic version of the Baha’i Writings and came up with 3251 “hits.” Clearly this is worthy of close investigation and thoughtful reflection.

Affirming the larger sense of the word “family,” Abdul-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah, wrote “All men are of one family. . . let us join together to hasten forward the Divine Cause of unity, until all humanity knows itself to be one family, joined together in love”. This suggests to me that seeing ourselves as one family, and expressing love for the family, is even a prerequisite for peace.

When I think about the diversity of the human family and that “it should be the cause of love and harmony” I find myself comparing it to music, with notes blending together. I wonder if this is what peace is — the most magnificent music imaginable created by the full blending of all people.

What if we were to compare the nations of the world to the members of a family? Perhaps we could think of a family as a nation in miniature. Then if we simply enlarge the circle of the household, we would have a nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and we would have the entire world and all humanity. In this metaphor, the conditions surrounding the family surround the nation, and the condition of the nations is the condition of the world.

I admit that this is all sounding very idealistic. My own family, like most others, does have its troublesome relationships. Old grudges, mis-communications, unresolved disputes, indifference — yes, it’s all there. So maybe our own physical families are a parallel to the larger, human family. Imperfect yet still worthy of love, compassion and forgiveness. As messy as the world is today, there is also an undercurrent, a focal point, moving us toward the establishment of Universal Peace. If we were to truly recognize that we are all one family, then peace would be inevitable.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2011