In that post in which I humorously converted to humor (or attemptedly so), I mentioned that I was reading, or re-reading Barbara Kingsolver's, Pigs in Heaven. Since I only recalled fragments from my initial reading, I must say that I found it quite enjoyable the second time around. However, it left me kind of wistful, an emotion that I'm fairly sure I didn't experience the first time through. But I'm older now.
The theme was largely about Native Americans and their extended kinship relations. At least in this novel, set amongst the Cherokee of Oklahoma, they placed great value on the tribe and extended family. It caused me to feel for the first time of which I am cognizant, the hole that exists in our culture and my life. While those Indians (please permit me that term) in the book always felt that sense of belonging, I think that our English-based culture has lost that sense of connection.
We' re so flipping mobile that we can barely keep our nuclear families intact, never mind our extended families. And the concept of belonging to a larger tribal or clan has just about been extirpated. I think certain subcultures do a lot better than the dominant English culture, and I begin to wonder if our larger society is really a true society at all.
As I said, there are subgroups that do better. My Jewish DIL is very connected to all things Jewish, all of the rituals and observances, and I'm pretty sure that most of it has to do with feeling connected to a larger group. In the Jewish experience especially, that connection is not just spatial but temporal. I'm sure that it feeds a need that most of us even fail to realize that we have.
I guess we do the best we can to maintain connections; we telephone, email, Skype, and make those long flights but brief visits to stay in touch, but it's pretty much like swimming against the current. In order to maintain familial connections as best we could, a few years ago Cuppa and I moved quite a long way to be near at least part of our family. That has been meaningful and rewarding, especially in experiencing the joy of our grandchildren. It was a good move and about the best we could do to stay highly connected to at least a few people.
But it would be nice also to feel a larger connection. Somehow, nationalism just doesn't really do it although perhaps it did at one time, such as wartime — at least like the World Wars when nations became quite unified in a common cause. I suppose people research their genealogies and visit their places or origin if possible to try to make some connections, and to figure out where they came from. As helpful as that may be, I think we've still lost out somewhere along the way, and I don't think there's a cure. We've drifted too far for a do-over.
I don't suppose there's anything to do about it other than experience this momentary wistfulness and keep the connections that remain as best we can.