“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” ~ George Santayana
When I look at this little picture, I’m reminded of what it takes to make the one simple, glorious creature of you. It takes your immediate family of course, but it takes every generation back into a time we can’t imagine.
You see, every generation we go back, the number of direct ancestors we have doubles. We have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents and, well, you get the picture.
So, if we go back to our 20th great-grandparents, we have about 4 million of them. No, that’s not a typo. We have about 4 MILLION 20th great-grandparents. Go back one more generation and it will double again. It will continue doing that until the beginning of time.
The percentage of DNA each of these distant ancestors contributed to your DNA is infinitesimal, BUT, if just one of those ancestors had been missing, there wouldn’t have been YOU.
This may seem like a cold and calculating approach to genealogy, but it’s really not. I think it helps us understand the old adage “you can’t pick your family”. My mind always adds the ending, “But, your family makes you”.
Families are like masterpieces. When we first think of a masterpiece we think of the pinnacle of perfection. But, that’s not always true.
Think of the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, and Dali. Their art is full of sometimes-hectic discord, topsy-turvy designs, and surreal images of people. The work isn’t perfect in the eyes of a lot of people, yet, these artworks have value and worth and meaning to millions.
Some families may seem like the recent Banksy that was shredded before people’s eyes at a Sotheby’s auction house after the artwork had been purchased for $1.4 million. Yes, some families seem dysfunctional and appear to shred the fabric of what is called a family. A few will fall, yet others rise to become wonderful masterpieces in their own way. It took each piece of that shredded family to create the surviving masterpeice. It reminds me of a few years ago when people were taking old worn quilts and cutting them up and making teddy bears, pillows and other crafts. From the whole came other beauties. It’s the same with families.
There were the Impressionist painters like Monet and Renoir. Many times their works gave everyday objects a dreamlike quality, and sense of light and movement. They did this by violating most known standard art techniques. If you look closely at some of the paintings you would see the images were composes of tiny little dots that came together to make the overall image. Unthinkable at the time. But, they became masterpieces. I have known Impressionist families, doing things their own way. They may float through life, dream-like, loosy-goosy by some standards, but in the end, it all comes together.
And, of course, there were the Grand Masters and the Renaissance artists. These artists usually stayed true to their training and techniques in art. They may have been criticized for being rigid, but guess what? They created masterpieces. Who hasn’t known a Grand Master family? Always on schedule like a Swiss watch.
All families have good times and bad times. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Tragedy and sublime joy. It’s called life and no family, no human can escape it.
Today’s picture is of my Daddy’s family. I was a wee lass sitting in Momma’s lap in this picture. My handsome Daddy was standing behind us. The beauty I call my little Momma is peeking around my punkin’ head.
That wee lass, that Bev who was me, had no idea what her future held. It might have scared her and made her faint of heart. I had no idea one day I would look at this picture and the only living souls would be my cousins, Aunt Bobbi, and my momma and daddy. It is a masterpiece and blessing my parents are still here at their age.
Nor, did that wee lass know she would face non-smoking lung cancer twice by the age of 41, autoimmune disorders and disabling and daunting health problems. That wee lass was a curious, active little dynamo. I would face abandonment, hardship and great loss I would never have imagined. There would be many trials and tribulations of Biblical proportions.
Yet, I also had parents who encouraged me to be smart, to be myself, to get an education, to be an individual. They raised me with love and faith. They taught me “…those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not get weary…” (Isaiah 40:3I) I also had two other wonderful aunts who were life rafts and friends.
And, after what I thought was love lost, I found a love as true as the North Star.
I have had a masterpiece called family.
You know, over the years, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night has become one of my favorite paintings. What you might not know is Van Gogh was in an asylum when he painted that beautifully chaotic swirling, twirling lovely night sky of blues and gold. It was the view from his asylum window. But, it was also a masterpiece.
Oh, Vincent, what you were trying to say to us…
Quite possibly that families are nature’s true masterpieces.
© 2018 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.