FLAVOR: Confucian essay
Spinning, spinning hopelessly—
The flesh is in the chemistry.
In a perfect world, the governing principles of friendship would prevail.
There would be no need for laws or government, for each would abide by the two tenets of friendship: harmonious coexistence, and perfect self-autonomy. But that is not the world we live in.
Ours is a world of conflicting values. Individuals are wired by private interests, some of which are selfish, antisocial, even horrifying. Biology is an inescapable fact of life, as sex is to the duality of procreation. Differences in ability, in the allocation of resources, roles, property, and relationships are very real affairs.
The concept of a "family" emerged out of necessity. It is humanity's counterpoint to realities of our world, to the ideal of something more perfect—an artifice upon which the subtle laws have enacted to contrive spiritual qualities, of order and harmony, in an otherwise chaotic, materialistic world.
Whereas the motto of friendship, is, "to each their own," —meaning, to live by, at the very least, the Kantian categorical imperative: where any individual is at liberty to pursue his private interests so long as it is not detrimental to the same liberty in others, the basic idea of family is "unity."
Families act as a single unit. Individuals come together, sometimes forcibly against their will, to learn about tolerance. The concept must exist, to check otherwise outrageous individual tendencies. But, more important, it serves as both microcosm and building block to society; a community of well-organized families governs itself.
Ultimately the idea exists to teach the principles of friendship—but they are not at all the same thing. And it is the common mistaken view of not differentiating, that is cause to some of society's more persistent issues. We will address some below.
The primary issue, of course, is one of liberty. United under one will, as, for example, a company, a state, a partnership—freedoms that are tolerated by friendship, at least by arm's distance, would not fly in a family. One example is addiction. Call me old-fashioned, but if my son is addicted to heroin, meth—I do not care how old he is, I would tie that profligate to a chair until his addiction kicks, or his life. Whichever came first.
People today like to look down upon that, argue against the loss of freedom, the loss of freewill and choice. But that is utterly outrageous, because certain individuals are not even in control of themselves, causing themselves and others pain.
Whereas "friendship" epitomizes the spiritual life, toward which monastic communities provide a means, the concept fails utterly and miserably by itself, in greater society. It is simply far too radical for most people, requiring a higher standard than what most can abide. We need only look at history, to find proof. For example, the French Revolution marked a so-called upheaval in traditional European social structures—a shift in power from paternal authority to fraternal solidarity. The radicals hoped that the king's execution would desacralize power itself and thus make it more accessible to the people. In legal terms, they leveled inheritance; they provided for universal education—
And in no time at all, found themselves faced with competition, conflict then violence, as brothers vied against one another in the market, and in hands for marriage.
Or we might look to Soviet Russia, or the Chinese during its Cultural Revolution, to see just how easily the concept is perverted, exploited and abused by those in power, all while maintaining its grandiose rhetoric!
We see it, in smaller degrees, everyday in common society—
Do we not all know over-doting parents, who fall into the role of "friends" instead of disciplinarians, robbing their children of all sense of boundary and respect? Or the pretty girl who, surrounded by suitors, feeds off all the attention and compliments privy to courtship and calls it 'friendship,' robbing themselves of all self-awareness, and the hapless men, of their self-respect? Or the formidable trends of divorce, and now, not marrying at all, because couples have forgotten that marriage isn't about affection, but cooperation?
These children, men and women, are robbed of healthy, happy relationships. Worse of all, they themselves may not even know the cause to their predicament, do not know why they are miserable, why others do not like them... and that is the greatest tragedy of all.
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others," said Churchill. Maybe one day we can eliminate these distinctions, and change the very fabric of our organization. In proportion to the change, is the degree of resistance. It would take an extraordinary personality, a Jesus or a Buddha, to guide us, to burn the impurities from our eyes, to convince us to leave our families and jobs, so we may all live in a land of Washington.
Until then, let us not forget most of us are merely the average of the four people we spend most of our times with.
Let's make those relationships count.