Orthodoxy, Benedict and Stability

Siggy sent this my way, and I thought it was more than worth sharing:

In 1935 (to pick a date), the most common pattern in our country was for a local boy to meet and marry a local girl and to settle down and raise their children in the community in which they themselves were born, with relatives and friends forming a network of relationships that surrounded and nurtured (or harrassed) them. Divorce rates and crime rates were relatively low in most places. Stable communities tend to have stable families. The network of relationships promotes this. Human beings have lived in these relatively stable forms for most of human history.

In 2007 (to pick another date), the more common pattern is for a boy to meet a girl in college or later – he is from Virginia (say) and she is from Ohio (say). They marry, move to Oregon and begin their careers, or they met there and married. Family is the stuff you negotiate as in “whose parents do we visit at Thanksgiving this year, etc.” The network of friends is often his friends from work and her friends from work, and frequently not much more.

This is a subject that is really ripe for plucking – the instability of the family and the community affects everything. I’m often struck by how until the baby boomers, family and community continuance was the norm. But then I’m often struck by how in the space of a generation, thousands of years of ideas, traditions and norms were torn down and “deconstructed.” Because boomers always knew better than anything that ever came before them.

Hmmmm…getting myself all annoyed and tense over here, and I don’t want that. This might help.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Your remark, “the instability of the family and the community affects everything..” is about as succinct a remark that has ever been made.

    The tipping came about as a result of the notion that somehow, responsibility to oneself trumps responsibility to one’s community and family.

    In a way, that is the most insidious kind of denial- that somehow, there is an unassailable right to be ‘fulfilled’ or ‘happy’ or any other adjective that can only be defined in a self serving way.

    We are fast losing the ability to see that real greatness is more often than not comes about as the result of sacrifice and commitment, even and especially when no one is looking.

    Mother Teresa and her good works existed long before the cameras and the fame, and she and the legacy of her good works will be remembered for all times.

    Paris Hilton, et al, need to flash the cameras to be noticed.

    Quelle difference.

  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Your remark, “the instability of the family and the community affects everything..” is about as succinct a remark that has ever been made.

    The tipping came about as a result of the notion that somehow, responsibility to oneself trumps responsibility to one’s community and family.

    In a way, that is the most insidious kind of denial- that somehow, there is an unassailable right to be ‘fulfilled’ or ‘happy’ or any other adjective that can only be defined in a self serving way.

    We are fast losing the ability to see that real greatness is more often than not comes about as the result of sacrifice and commitment, even and especially when no one is looking.

    Mother Teresa and her good works existed long before the cameras and the fame, and she and the legacy of her good works will be remembered for all times.

    Paris Hilton, et al, need to flash the cameras to be noticed.

    Quelle difference.

  • HeatherRadish

    That pattern in 1935 was only two, maybe three generations old in a lot of the country. Before that, it was not unusual for couples–maybe brothers, or brothers and their wives–often left the Eastern towns where they grew up to homestead in the Midwest; to open a new business in California; to emigrate out of the Old Country to the New World. Maybe most people who married someone local stayed there their whole lives, but a significant percentage didn’t, starting with the first generation born in the American colonies. Every state in the Union was originally settled by people who didn’t stay put.

    And the last census showed that most Americans still live within 100 miles of their birthplace (heh, I had to move out of the state where I grew up to be close to my birthplace; my parents moved around for education and then settled permanently back in my mother’s hometown).

    Now, in 1787, there wasn’t really a question of a homesteader in Kentucky going back to Virginia just for a holiday; your new neighbors became your new community. Maybe things just seem less continuous now because it’s very easy to travel back to your old hometown, very easy to get local news from your own hometown, food from your old hometown can be shipped, etc.

    Heck, immigrants can get a satellite and watch only television from the Old Country and never have to assimilate at all into the American culture, unlike my German ancestors who learned the best ways to farm in Iowa, spoke English at home and in church, and started drinking crappy American beer. Disturbing trend. But not because people have recently started moving.

  • HeatherRadish

    That pattern in 1935 was only two, maybe three generations old in a lot of the country. Before that, it was not unusual for couples–maybe brothers, or brothers and their wives–often left the Eastern towns where they grew up to homestead in the Midwest; to open a new business in California; to emigrate out of the Old Country to the New World. Maybe most people who married someone local stayed there their whole lives, but a significant percentage didn’t, starting with the first generation born in the American colonies. Every state in the Union was originally settled by people who didn’t stay put.

    And the last census showed that most Americans still live within 100 miles of their birthplace (heh, I had to move out of the state where I grew up to be close to my birthplace; my parents moved around for education and then settled permanently back in my mother’s hometown).

    Now, in 1787, there wasn’t really a question of a homesteader in Kentucky going back to Virginia just for a holiday; your new neighbors became your new community. Maybe things just seem less continuous now because it’s very easy to travel back to your old hometown, very easy to get local news from your own hometown, food from your old hometown can be shipped, etc.

    Heck, immigrants can get a satellite and watch only television from the Old Country and never have to assimilate at all into the American culture, unlike my German ancestors who learned the best ways to farm in Iowa, spoke English at home and in church, and started drinking crappy American beer. Disturbing trend. But not because people have recently started moving.

  • FARRWESTMOM

    The Instability of the Family and the community affects everything, so very true. Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities make strong families, they help and strengthen each other. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a stable family, and have a stable extended family. I then married into a stable family with a stable extended family so our children know love and affection, sacrifice and family loyality. We have been even more blessed to live a stable community. It is more like a family than a neighborhood. We all pull together family and neighbors. Our neighborhood family has been together for 27 years and have been through house fires and floods. we’ve seen marriages and divorces, babies born and we’ve buried children of all ages, standing at the graves crying as if they were our own flesh and blood. and in a way, an emotional way they are. we’ve raised our children together and been amazed at what some have accomplished. we have also visited some in jail and grieved at the bad choices they made that put them there. We are now at the grandparent stage and we are loving it, when we see each other we bragg about the kids and grandkids and we really care how they are doing. When each girl got married all the neighborhood women would get together and give her a bridal shower, at the shower we would tie them a quilt and give it to them for their wedding present from all of us. It is a token of our love for them and our continued support of them in their new stage of life. Some of those quilts have been halfway around the world. I recieved a Christmas card from one of our neighbor kids thanking me for the quilt. Her Husband is in the military, stationed in Iraq. she is at a military base far from home and all alone with an 18 mos old child and another one on the way. It was snowing and she was feeling blue and cold when she saw our Quilt. She wraped herself up in it and felt like she was home and felt our love for her. she cried but felt a connection to “HOME” and the community that helped to raise her. That is what strong stable families and communities can do give you peace and comfort and the courage to go on because even though you are far away for awhile you are still loved and cared for. So many of our “kids” are all over the country and the world. there is still a strong tie that binds us together, love for each other, they always know they have a place that will always be HOME

  • FARRWESTMOM

    The Instability of the Family and the community affects everything, so very true. Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities make strong families, they help and strengthen each other. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a stable family, and have a stable extended family. I then married into a stable family with a stable extended family so our children know love and affection, sacrifice and family loyality. We have been even more blessed to live a stable community. It is more like a family than a neighborhood. We all pull together family and neighbors. Our neighborhood family has been together for 27 years and have been through house fires and floods. we’ve seen marriages and divorces, babies born and we’ve buried children of all ages, standing at the graves crying as if they were our own flesh and blood. and in a way, an emotional way they are. we’ve raised our children together and been amazed at what some have accomplished. we have also visited some in jail and grieved at the bad choices they made that put them there. We are now at the grandparent stage and we are loving it, when we see each other we bragg about the kids and grandkids and we really care how they are doing. When each girl got married all the neighborhood women would get together and give her a bridal shower, at the shower we would tie them a quilt and give it to them for their wedding present from all of us. It is a token of our love for them and our continued support of them in their new stage of life. Some of those quilts have been halfway around the world. I recieved a Christmas card from one of our neighbor kids thanking me for the quilt. Her Husband is in the military, stationed in Iraq. she is at a military base far from home and all alone with an 18 mos old child and another one on the way. It was snowing and she was feeling blue and cold when she saw our Quilt. She wraped herself up in it and felt like she was home and felt our love for her. she cried but felt a connection to “HOME” and the community that helped to raise her. That is what strong stable families and communities can do give you peace and comfort and the courage to go on because even though you are far away for awhile you are still loved and cared for. So many of our “kids” are all over the country and the world. there is still a strong tie that binds us together, love for each other, they always know they have a place that will always be HOME

  • lksseven

    Heather,
    Your post is interesting as an example of how every topic will have different viewpoints and ‘spins’, but to my ear the Anchoress’ take has the more resounding ring of truth to it. You make it sound like it was the norm for people and families to just up and move West, beginning from the late 1700′s. That’s not true. The vast majority of people lived and died within a days ride of where they were born, and while that’s still mostly true today as an overall statistic (as you point out), it’s much less true than it used to be, and in many urban centers the ‘rule’ is that people are from somewhere else ‘for the first time in many generations’, and the ‘exception’ is that someone is a native in the big city they live in (Dallas, Houston, LA, etc).
    Migration happened mainly with those people who were not established in their communities by past generations, and the way West offered them a chance to improve their prospects, but these who moved West were much more the minority of the local populations then. And when they landed somewhere else, their descendents mostly stayed put in that new community. If a generation is 40 years, and the Anchoress’ example was the norm for only 3 generations (as you stated), that’s 120 years of community stability. I think her example date of 1935 is ill picked – I would say more like mid 1970′s as the tipping point, when transportation and communications and food-growing technologies made physical location less important. So say from 1850 to 1970 we had the overwhelming norm of the Anchoress’ example, and things have changed rapidly in the last 30 years. That’s a huge upheaval.
    I think the Anchoress’ main thrust is that there is a much diminished community fabric than was true in past generations (as you point out, technology allows one to live a significant portion of one’s conscious existence removed from one’s physical existence), and it leads to greater instability and near-term uncertainty.

  • lksseven

    Heather,
    Your post is interesting as an example of how every topic will have different viewpoints and ‘spins’, but to my ear the Anchoress’ take has the more resounding ring of truth to it. You make it sound like it was the norm for people and families to just up and move West, beginning from the late 1700′s. That’s not true. The vast majority of people lived and died within a days ride of where they were born, and while that’s still mostly true today as an overall statistic (as you point out), it’s much less true than it used to be, and in many urban centers the ‘rule’ is that people are from somewhere else ‘for the first time in many generations’, and the ‘exception’ is that someone is a native in the big city they live in (Dallas, Houston, LA, etc).
    Migration happened mainly with those people who were not established in their communities by past generations, and the way West offered them a chance to improve their prospects, but these who moved West were much more the minority of the local populations then. And when they landed somewhere else, their descendents mostly stayed put in that new community. If a generation is 40 years, and the Anchoress’ example was the norm for only 3 generations (as you stated), that’s 120 years of community stability. I think her example date of 1935 is ill picked – I would say more like mid 1970′s as the tipping point, when transportation and communications and food-growing technologies made physical location less important. So say from 1850 to 1970 we had the overwhelming norm of the Anchoress’ example, and things have changed rapidly in the last 30 years. That’s a huge upheaval.
    I think the Anchoress’ main thrust is that there is a much diminished community fabric than was true in past generations (as you point out, technology allows one to live a significant portion of one’s conscious existence removed from one’s physical existence), and it leads to greater instability and near-term uncertainty.

  • Jean

    I have to agree with Heather, actually. Economic hardship has driven my family time and time again to move away from the area they first settled (and not counting the Orange Lodge members who drove my Irish ancestors from Ontario, thus making us all American and not Canadian!) I am actually in the position of living within an hour of where my great-grandmother was born and where many of her family are buried. It is over three hours by automobile, but a much longer (and more expensive) trip by train or wagon. The family members who stayed put usually did so because they had property and could build houses for their descendents on that land. In the ’20s, when my grandparents married, they moved in with grandfather’s family and lived there, along with the unmarried children. There was no “going away to school” for most people, so unless they had to head for Detroit to find work, they stayed and farmed.

    I don’t think it was the Boomers who started the Big Move, btw. My parents are Silent Generation and also, incidentally, the first group that went away to college or over 500 miles to find work without going as a group. (Unlike the loggers, miners and factory workers of the ’30s.) The Boomers were just a lot bigger group of people doing that same thing and, really, making it the norm.

  • Jean

    I have to agree with Heather, actually. Economic hardship has driven my family time and time again to move away from the area they first settled (and not counting the Orange Lodge members who drove my Irish ancestors from Ontario, thus making us all American and not Canadian!) I am actually in the position of living within an hour of where my great-grandmother was born and where many of her family are buried. It is over three hours by automobile, but a much longer (and more expensive) trip by train or wagon. The family members who stayed put usually did so because they had property and could build houses for their descendents on that land. In the ’20s, when my grandparents married, they moved in with grandfather’s family and lived there, along with the unmarried children. There was no “going away to school” for most people, so unless they had to head for Detroit to find work, they stayed and farmed.

    I don’t think it was the Boomers who started the Big Move, btw. My parents are Silent Generation and also, incidentally, the first group that went away to college or over 500 miles to find work without going as a group. (Unlike the loggers, miners and factory workers of the ’30s.) The Boomers were just a lot bigger group of people doing that same thing and, really, making it the norm.


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