ancestor, self, descendant

"Autumn Trees - Chestnut Tree" by Georgia O'Keeffe
“Autumn Trees – Chestnut Tree” by Georgia O’Keeffe

The ancestral viewpoint is formative to the way society subtly changes over the generations. It helps codify the protocols, procedures, and customs that the present establishment upholds; it also forms a norm against which reactionary and reforming spirits can rebel. These two notions of conformity and rebellion, like two intertwining shoots about a sapling, define the growth of the trunk. The influence of our descendants is a more subtle one. We need inheritors to guard what we have established, but we cannot entirely dictate and mold them to our desires. Our descendants will modify and change what we leave them. The continuity of society is woven from many generational needs and influences. Only when we stand at the hub of time, as ancestor, self, and descendant concurrently, do we become fully aware of the contract that our partnership involves.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

12 thoughts on “ancestor, self, descendant”

  1. I also was surprised to see that the above painting is a Georgia O’Keefe. Beautiful!

    The Caitlin Matthews quote is so thought provoking…

    Our descendants will modify and change what we leave them…. Only when we stand at the hub of time, as ancestor, self, and descendant concurrently, do we become fully aware of the contract that our partnership involves.

    1. I’m glad the Caitlín Matthews quote provoked your thoughts, Rosie – I read her writing over and over again as it resonates with me so much. This quote reminds me of another I remember the gist of but cannot seem to find, about how our identity is linked with the seven generations before and seven generations after us… I think it’s a Native American concept…

    1. I wasn’t a big fan of Georgia O’Keeffe but her work is starting to grow on me, especially the ones with bold and dramatic color.

  2. Like dearrosie, that sentence jumped out at me also Barbara. It is indeed very thought provoking and points out how very important each individual branch is to the magnificent tree to which we belong. Yes, it is a contract, one which will be there for all of time.

    1. Joanne, I like the idea that conformity and rebellion balance each other, and that each generation does a little of both, accepting what wisdom we can use from times past, yet modifying it to correct stagnation, all without throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think liberals and conservatives in our times would do well to consider this concept and change their all-or-nothing approach to politics.

  3. The post has very deep thoughts, for us to imbibe. Life changes generations by generations. How much can the ancestral control over the descendants way of life? There are many things. Definitely the roots do remain and make an impact on the future generations. It would be important to understand what the ancestor’s did better and diligently that we miss out on, and learn from that while at the same time understand what would mean better in our life and choose to do that. It should be balanced. As generations progress, things get improvised – but we must hold on to our roots as well. A very good lesson for me to learn. Thank you Barbara. You always show me a new direction.

    1. It’s that balance you mention, Sonali, that we must try to find in our lives and in our societies. “The good old days” weren’t necessarily good for everyone – for example in this country when women couldn’t vote and the “races” were segregated. Even today gays are bullied, ostracized and denied the right to marry. But past generations weren’t so materialistic and seemed to find more enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life with their friends and families. I don’t think any generation or culture has all the answers about the best way to live in this world. Sometimes we smile or wince at the things our ancestors said or did, but I wonder what things we say and do now will seem odd or backwards to our descendants? We do best when we keep our hearts open and keep learning from each other – thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

    1. “Primitive power” – I love that idea. Trees have such amazing energy and the idea that some of them have been around far longer than many of our ancestors have lived makes them a perfect metaphor for the continuity of family trees.

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