We are a curious species. Inquisitive by nature. Explorers. Builders. Destroyers.
We are a mélange of cultures, a panoply of colors and styles, a discordant chorus of voices.
We are of a multitude of race & creed, culture and heritage, perception and character.
We are one species. One collective family, yet many.
The ties that bind us, combine us, divide & segregate & unite us, are comprised of complex components - some physical, some spiritual, some intellectual, some political, and so on and so forth.
We are all unique, yet even individually we share elements of our collective human heritage, protected & preserved in body & mind, history and tradition, and carried forth - evolving, sometimes - into future generations.
Jump below the fold (and over the amorphous orange cloud) for more perusal & reflection on my views regarding the interplay of intelligence, society, community and ancestry.
In every human culture, there are tools, arts and crafts. In every community, there are customs and traditions. Every human society has some form of law, some type of trade for goods and services, and various hierarchies or structures by which news, information, goods, services, rules and regulations apply.
Groups of human beings can be defined many ways; communities can be comprised of many cultures, and develop sub-cultures. And social/societal interaction, roles & responsibilities develop, change and evolve in nearly all higher forms of life, not limited to the human race alone.
We see how cultures change and evolve over time by marking history, through writings and archaeology. We've also added various sciences to help further refine, define and discover more about the evolution of life, of human societies & cultures, and the various ecosystems.
Language continues to evolve. Arts and art forms, manufacturing and science.
We, as individuals, as communities, as societies, and as nations grow. The world becomes smaller, metaphorically, as we continually add and expand our capacity to bridge the gaps between physical locations and communicate in a growing number of ways across great distances.
And yet, there are still some core elements that we use to help define ourselves. Our cultures, our history & traditions, our arts and crafts: these, at their core, still traverse our entire species and appear in various forms across the myriad of cultures throughout time.
Cultural icons & symbols such as clothing and textiles provide us not only with physical goods and materials, but also metaphorical structures and models. Spinning fibers into threads. Weaving threads - and other materials - into fabrics. Sewing fabrics together to create things of beauty & utility; quilting fabrics together to provide warmth & comfort. The crafting of a quilt can be metaphorically compared to the makeup of a community. The physical manifestation of a thread takes on multiple metaphorical meanings - loose threads, Open Threads, items or tasks left to do or left undone. Weaving, too, has many metaphorical applications: weaving a narrative, for example.
The imagery of fastening, tying, sewing or braiding together various elements is inherent across multiple cultures. Finding common cultural threads helps us to create a clearer image of our human society as a whole.
And so, too, does the tracking of our ancestry. Through our blood, our genes, our families, our histories - written and oral - we can find our place in history, and place our families.
Ultimately, we can remind ourselves that we are all related. And we, as a species, all share one irrefutable tie with all other forms of life: we are all part of the web of life that tenuously and tenaciously binds us to this planet.
How do you define "family" - is it strictly limited to the biological definition of reproductive actions created through the successful breeding of a male and a female? In all human societies across history that I've seen or read about, a "family" starts there - based in blood & ancestry - but almost never ends there.
Children are usually a factor in many definitions of "family." Families may include children of one or both adults, or a mix - children from one adult's previous partnership, and children from the current pairing.
Families may include adopted children - children who have lost one or both parents, or been surrendered to society for placement in family unit with one or more responsible adults.
Families may simply be groupings of people, informally calling themselves "family" (whether they are adults or children) due to shared experiences and events.
Sometimes, we include pets in our definition of "family."
Human societies and cultures try to define & structure definitions for "family" along certain lines, guided (theoretically) by intelligence, ethics and responsibility. These definitions, for good or ill, can be influenced by perceptions shaped by beliefs, by traditions, by politics...or by human error.
We can - and sometimes do - learn more about ourselves by watching the development of other, non-human societies, particularly mammals. Other apes. Wolves. Dolphins.
Other human cultures can also help us get a better definition & wider perspective on how to try to shape our own culture to allow for more effective definitions of family.
Caregivers, nursemaids and nannies pop to mind. Someone need not be a blood relative to be a caregiver or nanny. The way humans tend to bond, it's quite possible to develop a familial attachment to anyone fulfilling that role.
It's a wonder how often the realities we encounter and observe about human society often clash with the artificial constructs & definitions we attempt to create in order to mold our societies and cultures.
"Marriage" is the joining of adults in socially recognized manner. The definition of "marriage" - in U.S. society, in English, at least - clashes directly between the religious definition and the societal contract. Special interests and extremists combine to try to thwart what is natural - that two (or more) consenting adults can share a mutually beneficial, loving & trusting relationship that enables each to express & receive intimate, essential contact & exchanges of support, caring, passion and self-expression. Gender shouldn't matter: it never has, in many societies - human and non-human.
"Parenthood" is the caring, education and protection of young; from birth until adulthood. Single parents of both genders exist; single parents and married parents exist who have adopted the offspring of others, to raise as they would their own.
Their gender preference doesn't matter. Shouldn't matter. In many societies - human and non-human - adults have taken on the roles of adoptive parents to children & offspring who have lost their biological parents or whose bio-rents are no longer able to provide for their welfare, education and protection.
In a healthy society, the preference of the adult for any specific gender of partner should be up to the adult.
And the definition of "family" should not, and cannot, survive bending & twisting by artificial constructs to exclude specific instances of human nature that are characteristically normal forms of adult behavior.
We are all related, ultimately.
The Daily Kos community is at once an organization, a community, a family and a society. We show this in our behaviour, our quibbles & squabbles, our ranting and our activism.
We show this in our discussion. Our action items. Our diverse topics, skills, perceptions and preferences.
I've always been fascinated by different cultures, different histories, different mythologies. Bloodlines and heritage, viewed through one lens, provides a picture of humanity that can change instantly when another lens is applied. Children adopted or given up for adoption can change a family's genealogical ancestry if or when biological ties are made. Families grow, change and evolve.
I was first interested in these types of things when I learned I was adopted when I was very young. Twenty years or so passed, and I learned of my biological parents, along with a bit of my heritage & history.
The vastly predominant history is European, albeit I'm a bit of a mutt: Germany, Scotland, Ireland, England and France mixed together, along with a bunch of other elements.
Predominantly, I'm a white Caucasian male. I find other histories and cultures fascinating, and am often drawn to Native American culture & history, but as far as I know there is no Native American blood in my veins.
But I did recently learn that there's some Cree in my tree. And possibly some Cherokee.
Not on the branch of the tree where my singular little leaf is hanging, insofar as I know, but at some point there is definitely a common ancestor that ties to another branch where the family lineage married a Cree from the Quebec area.
I thought that was pretty cool to discover.1
It was something that I learned just before I was scheduled to write a diary for the Okiciyap Quilt Auction. I have no delusions or illusions about what this means - sharing a common ancestor with a Native American tribe doesn't make me a Native American. Until I learn more, I have no reason to suspect that I have any genetic tie to that branch of the tree - and if I do, it's overwhelmed by the multitudes of other genetic history to be any kind of infinitesimal percentage. But it means there's an even closer family tie through lineage than I ever suspected. It underscored my whole belief that, no matter what race or heritage we have, we are all ultimately related.
And as a species, our humanity - our sense of family, and community - is one we share on multiple levels.
As we, here, demonstrate virtually every day.
*Yep, I snagged the divider image in the earlier part of the diary above from Navajo's personalized "New Day Divider" image.
1 I'm hoping to gather enough information to determine where that common ancestor was in the long history of the family. Ideally, I'd like to learn more about which of the Cree tribes is part of my family tree. I'll be surprised if I learn that I'm descendant of that branch. Surprised, but also honored - I think it would be neat.