Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #239 - The imprint of the formative family

Tower-Delbridge family December 1997

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #239 - The imprint of the formative family

Hi Mom,

You are proud of me, I know, for selecting this photo as I share content (very directly copied but credited) from Maria Popova's  BRAIN PICKINGS on the importance of the formative family.

First, a word about copying. Often when I share the content of others, I am doing so to give myself a place to read it, as I did with this content last night in bed. I always give due credit to sources, and sometimes I dispense with the original formatting, but in this case, I like the set up of Brain Pickings, and so, here's some of the content from that great web site.

I have never read Willa Cather. I have nothing against her. She's just one of those authors whose work I have not yet explored, and none of my classes assigned her as reading in earning my bachelor's and master's degrees. Though perhaps one such class should have. Had I been in a REAL Studies in the Novel class and not one organized by a stubborn professor stuck in works pre-20th century, we might have read Cather's most famous, My Ántonia, though she won the Pulitzer for One of Ours.

This article caught my attention when it came in the weekly BRAIN PICKINGS as it had to do with the family, and I have spent a great deal of time thinking about family as I try to make sense of our family without you as physical presence, Mom.

I love this quote: “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote in his short, potent meditation on how to love.

I think I know how to love, and I know because I learned from you, Mom. (And from Dad, but there's differences in the way of each of expressed love.) These family dynamics discussed here in this article have imprinted on me and have shaped my whole life, how I live, how I see the world, and what I have to share with others.

I am also very interested in how this article ends. There's much to explore there, but especially: "revisit philosopher Martha Nussbaum on how storytelling rewires our emotional patterning," which is something that I have invested thought in recently, especially as I watch Monica Byrne build her writing career and share her work with us, her patrons (more on her in a future entry that I need to finish).

Since next week is Spring Break, which starts tomorrow, I will surely take time for some of these explorations, and finish several blog posts that require more time than I have had lately.

Until then, this content...

The Tragic Necessity of Human Life: Willa Cather on Relationships and How Our Formative Family Dynamics Imprint Us

“In those simple relationships of loving husband and wife, affectionate sisters, children and grandmother, there are innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish which make up the pattern of our lives day by day.”

The Tragic Necessity of Human Life: Willa Cather on Relationships and How Our Formative Family Dynamics Imprint Us
“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote in his short, potent meditation on how to love. Developmentally, we humans learn — or mislearn — how to love through our formative attachment patterns, modeled by and cultivated within the family — patterns that imprint our emotional identity and shape the defaults of how we connect, be they wounding or harmonizing. Family dynamics thus become inseparable from our sense of identity, and although we might eventually rewire our attachment patterns through new relationships and ample self-work, we can never fully unmoor ourselves from those formative affections, for they are woven into the mysterious thread that makes us and our childhood selves one person.
That peculiar, inescapable dance between the family and the self is what beloved novelist Willa Cather (December 7, 1873–April 24, 1947) explores in one of the pieces found in her altogether magnificent 1936 nonfiction collection Not Under Forty(public library).


Willa Cather (Library of Congress)
Willa Cather (Library of Congress)

In a beautiful appreciation of Katherine Mansfield’s genius for conveying the complexities of human relationships, Cather writes:
I doubt whether any contemporary writer has made one feel more keenly the many kinds of personal relations which exist in an everyday “happy family” who are merely going on living their daily lives, with no crises or shocks or bewildering complications to try them. Yet every individual in that household (even the children) is clinging passionately to his individual soul, is in terror of losing it in the general family flavor. As in most families, the mere struggle to have anything of one’s own, to be one’s self at all, creates an element of strain which keeps everybody almost at the breaking-point.
One realizes that even in harmonious families there is this double life: the group life, which is the one we can observe in our neighbor’s household, and, underneath, another — secret and passionate and intense — which is the real life that stamps the faces and gives character to the voices of our friends. Always in his mind each member of these social units is escaping, running away, trying to break the net which circumstances and his own affections have woven about him. One realizes that human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life; that they can never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is half the time greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them.


Art from In Pieces by Marion Fayolle , a wordless exploration of human relationships
Art from In Pieces by Marion Fayolle, a wordless exploration of human relationships

And yet even amid this glibness, Cather does what she does best — out of the seemingly damning, she wrests the redemptive:
In those simple relationships of loving husband and wife, affectionate sisters, children and grandmother, there are innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish which make up the pattern of our lives day by day, though they are not down in the list of subjects from which the conventional novelist works…
These secret accords and antipathies which lie hidden under our everyday behavior … more than any outward events make our lives happy or unhappy.
That Not Under Forty has gone out of print is nothing short of a tragedy, but used copies are still findable and well worth a trip to the public library. Complement it with Cather on how to persevere through difficult times and the life-changing advice that made her a writer, then revisit philosopher Martha Nussbaum on how storytelling rewires our emotional patterning, immunologist Esther Sternberg on how relationships affect our immune system, Charles Darwin on family, work, and happiness, and Adrienne Rich on honorable human relationships.

SOURCE: BRAIN PICKINGS - WILLA CATHER



Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
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- Days ago = 241 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1603.02 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only
matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
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