The Family Tree

It occurs to me that when we ponder our backgrounds ó our ancestry, ethnicity, and so on ó we seldom go back far enough. We are generally satisfied to think of ourselves as being Armenian, Basque, Italian, German, American, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, or whatever else our parents and grandparents might have been. And yet all of us, whether we care to admit it or not, are related somehow. Even the oldest nations and cultures on earth are the result of a gradual mixture of earlier peoples, and are still undergoing change.

As I see it, the family tree has many branches, but it draws its strength from common roots. Yes, my father was Armenian, and I share a beautiful, poetic bond with other Armenians. But the truth is, at some point in the distant past, we were not Armenian. This truth is vigorously denied by most, for it threatens their identity. For them it is not enough, apparently, to be human.

For me, it is almost always too much. Being human, being part of life on earth and in the universe, is a tragically beautiful, astonishing, inspiring thing. To realize at any given moment that I am here, and that the time will come when I am no longer here, is the strangest, most impossibly magical gift one can ever receive. That this gift is routinely squandered through organized fits of nationalism, patriotism, religious zeal, and bloodshed is more than heartbreaking. It is criminal foolishness.

April 19, 2006

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