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How lucky we are as accidental collisions of sperm and egg to have been raised by anyone at all, in this chaotic and meaningless world in which even though our life spans have been increasing (primarily in western countries), the extreme shortness of our personal existence on this planet is a reality that stares us in the face until our last breath. Geologically speaking, evolutionarily speaking, we are less than grains of sand in the greater scheme, and to those who have helped us survive, most importantly in those early years when we would not have been able to fend off the environment bent on our very destruction, we owe a debt which none of us can comprehend, much less, pay.

Family then refers to those that took you under their wing, regardless of the circumstance, in order to invest both time and money, so that you would flourish. Those that you regard as your family have come with you through all the ups and downs of your life, and so the relative nature of family can also be understood as essential in our survival. Certainly, those that helped us when we were five years old, may not in fact help us now. So if you step outside the conventional definitions which may link the concept of family only with your blood relatives, then you will be emancipated of such thinking so that you can look upon your own life to choose those that you value as such. That is to say, you are only born into a context in which you need individuals to help you, otherwise you will die, but these individuals can be kept by you, in your own life, as family, or they can be left by the wayside.

Connections to others do not happen overnight. Your family that has enhanced your life in the present may be those that you confide in, they may be those that you spend the most time with, or whom you hardly ever see---the fact remains, that you alone decide who it is that you attribute your upbringing to. An individual’s upbringing does not stop anywhere along the path of life, as we are constantly learning more from people with whom we may be most intimate, as well as complete strangers with whom we engage with for only a moment. Ironically, in a world of utter nothingness, every human that you come in contact with, matters. Objectively, one can look upon another’s life and suggest that said person matters, but it is only the individual in question who makes that choice. A person’s family can come and go.

What then can be said about the supposed permanence of family? To those that define family conventionally, as if only those that physically produce you qualify, one must pose the question, “What about the family and friends of those individuals?” For many, the family and friends of one’s parents automatically become the child’s family, as they are constantly taking part in the raising of it. In situations where the one or both of the biological parents isn’t present and others step up to care for us, we know nothing else than these other individuals. For a short bit of time, we are at the will of people who took it upon themselves to value our very survival.

A family can be ones’ neighborhood. People who live near you in the close confines of an urban or suburban community can all take part in your upbringing, even though they may not even live in the same home as you. Even in those cases where the state is left to care for you, you adapt to some kind of network of caregivers who you yourself regard as your family.

The family can extend to the workplace, as for those of us who spend a good portion of our week in a facility outside our own home, separated from our personal lives, the workplace consumes us. Places of work would not function if everyone was trying to kill each other, and so in caring for one another in our place of work, to whatever extent, we generate another ring of those around us that enhance our lives in some fashion.

As your immediate family is specific to you and your choices as to whom you alone decide to incorporate into it, this family cannot be said to be that greater family in which we all coexist, that of humanity---that of our species as a whole. As the whole of our species has not taken it upon themselves to take a personal role in your own specific life, and for that matter, is indifferent to your survival by default, the choices we make as to who we feel qualifies as those that we trust in a continuing connection seems to be that much more important.

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The following comments are for "On Family"
by delapruch

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