Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Shapeless self indulgence

Being as I am a relic of an institution similar to the British public school system - which is to say, a private all-male boarding school - my acquaintance with the machinations of family is limited and partly jaundiced.  What comes to mind is the disparity between bright busy surfaces and inner emptiness. We had for example one student from South America who to my knowledge never went home.  He just stayed at school during term, then traveled. Our idle speculation was that he was a love child. Considering I was set upon the world at school at the age of 14 years - and that I never thereafter returned home - it is hardly surprising that I haven't much meaningful to say about family apart from Christmas and summer holidays. So entrenched was I in my own ways upon graduating from boarding school that even that summer - when I had an opportunity to stay at home before returning to residence in the autumn for undergraduate studies - I instead jumped ship almost instantly and joined a street theatre troupe on Madison Avenue in Toronto. Apparently my commitment to solitary existence trumped family.

It may therefore seem odd that I have a deep affection for the family unit. Let me state at the outset that in spite of my distance from the source there is nothing envious or - to my thinking - misguided about the allure of family, and certainly nothing Pollyanna about my views. The so-called "psychical distance" from the ménage has not effected a glowing perspective. Indeed whatever I know about family is that it is an institution fraught with perpetual conflict and unpleasantness, the wounds of which often persist to the grave. Nor am I about to render by way of contrast an opposite rendition for purposes of projecting an uplifting argument.  I am quite prepared to restrict and confine myself to the grating grittiness of flesh and blood.

Family - to use a vulgar metaphor - is rather like bodily functions; that is, undeniable, necessary and inescapable. In that respect the bond is decidedly "real", providing a welcome relief from the fake and specious preoccupations of so many other associations in life. No wonder the slightest abrasion between members propels them to instant variance. There is seldom the inclination of accommodation.  Even if there were some commercial reason for doing so, the familial sinews have far more persuasion.

It is the axiomatic legitimacy of family which seduces me. There is simply nothing, no-one, here or anywhere throughout the entire Universe that can provide or imitate what one has in one's family.  Talk about precious!  No Ralph Lauren innuendo - at whatever price - will capture the allure of one's family. Yet it is critical to acknowledge the fabric which weaves the story. That too is singular; and while its ignorance may be at times preferred, it is wishful thinking only. More to the point, it would defeat the flavour which abounds. If you want saccharin synthetic, wish again!

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."

Emily Dickinson

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