Dr M. D. Thomas
The 15th day of May is observed, world over, as ‘International Day of Families’. This is also called ‘International Family Day’ or ‘World Family Day’. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with a resolution. The celebration kicked off in 1994, as well.
The ‘International day of Families’ highlights the importance of family for the humans across the globe. Families include people, societies and cultures around the world, and therefore, communities, nations and the global society, too. The day is scheduled for promoting awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic, demographic and cultural processes affecting families.
The word ‘family’ derives from the Latin root ‘familia’, meaning ‘a group of people related to each other’, by birth, marriage or relationship. The word ‘familiar’ emerges from this very same root, implying ‘often seen or heard, easy to recognize, having a good closeness and therefore is well known to each other’. ‘Staying mutually related or connected’ is the core of the dynamics of the family, too.
As we know too well, maintaining the ‘wellbeing’ of its members and of the society is the logic of the family. The traditions of the family give its members a sense of being ‘rootd, stable and purposeful’ in life. Every time the members of the family gather as a group, each one of them contribute to the spirit of ‘belonging to each other’ and ‘belonging together’. The traditions, values and ideals, along with the flow of energy and vitality, are sure to sustain the bonding of the family.
There is a variety of family types in the world. Traditional and non-traditional families, patriarchal and matriarchal families, matrilineal and patrilineal families, matrifocal and patrifocal families, nuclear and single parent families, avuncular and extended families are the major among them. Obviously, all these types of families emerged in the course of the human civilization and have their singular merits and demerits, beyond compare.
Family, in some form or other, is as old as the first humans. Today, it comes across to us much different from what it used to be thousands of years ago and is in diverse forms, as an ever-evolving phenomenon. But, the relevance and importance of the family stand firm as a never-ending reality. The Canadian-American Emeritus actor, author, film producer and activist, Michael J. Fox by name, has a pithy statement on what a family is and has to be for all times. He says, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything”.
It doesn’t require a mention that family is the foundation of the society. Family is the smallest unit of the society, too. In other words, family is the human society in miniature. The most formative years of our lives are spent in the family. And so, parents, sisters and brothers shape the basics of our character. It could be said thus, ‘tell me what your family is; I will tell you what sort of person you are’. A ‘good family makes a good society’, positively so, and vice versa, as well.
The major functions of the family include procreation of children, nurturing them with an unadulterated ‘love’, as the sole diet for culturing the siblings into good human beings. The biological aspects have to be accompanied by rational, emotional, social and spiritual aspects. Maintaining the comfortable size of the family is a reasonable approach to the family, from all angles. Family is the divinely designed place, where the creative role of the Creator is being continued by the humans. Therefore, family has to maintain the ‘dignity and sanctity of the temple of God’, in the right sense of the word.
‘The child is father to the man’, thus goes the proverb. That would mean that the character built up in the childhood stays all throughout with the adult life. The child is born a human being. But, he or she has to keep becoming a human being, in the course of life. Family is the nursery where such an upbringing is intended to happen, in a primary way. The process of becoming a social being is initiated in the family and in the fullness of time constructs a sociable society. No doubt, the course of culturing as human beings is substantially pioneered in the family.
It is true that India has a significant sense of being a family. The tremendous mutual bonding, as members of one family, no doubt, contributes, in the long run, to ensuring harmony and wellbeing in the society. But, it has to be humbly admitted that the oversized, emotionally over-dependent and financially and politically one-sided families of the country have still a very long way to go in giving memorable memories to the families of the national society.
Family, in the right sense of the word, is and has to be ‘home’, well, ‘a place where one lives’, not only physically as a household, but also psychologically. It is a ‘celebration of being together’. It is indeed a place where one ‘feels at home’, comfortable and pleased to be. Joseph Campbell, an American Professor of Literature, says, ‘Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again’. Obviously, ‘home is a place where one would naturally find oneself again and again’, because it is the most ‘sacred place’ in the world, where God really dwells. ‘Every family has to be a home’, par excellence. And that is the beginning of making the society a home for the humans to dwell.
As husband and wife evolve to be father and mother and further the children become brother and sister to each other, the nucleus cycle of the family becomes complete. When parents become grandparents and siblings beget grand siblings, the family gets a new dimension. The best ‘start up’ in life is emotional, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, financial, social and cultural, and that occurs in the family, definitely so. A cultured and humane style of human life that is permeated with ‘human values of dignity, respect, love, sharing, and equal footing’ will make the family really worth the while.
The great occasion of the ‘International Day of Families’, proclaimed by the United Nations, is a golden opportunity to compliment and salute all the families of the world. It is the duty of all the members of the families across the globe, to commit themselves anew to all the human and divine values that make a ‘good family’, in view of a making a good society. The divine sense requires being imbibed for upholding the ‘dignity and sacredness’ of our biological, regional, national, continental and world human families.
*The author is Director, Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, New Delhi.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of TheAsiaLive.