Today’s modern culture often shies away from admitting the importance of family. For most of human history, the family unit has been the dominant support system and the foundation of modern cultural organization. However, as this sample reflective essay explains, the relatively recent emphasis on individualism has led to a situation in which the importance of the family has been diminished.
The power of family, love & believing In oneself
There is power in believing in oneself and it comes from self motivation and understanding that there is possibility in achieving one’s goals and dreams through hard work, dedication and perseverance. Family and friends also play a significant role in helping us to believe in ourselves. These individuals help us understand that we are born with unlimited potential that simply needs to be tapped into. In the book, Hope on a Tightrope, Cornel West conveys the significance of family, finding the true meaning of life within yourself, and always showing respect towards your neighbors in order to have peaceful surroundings and experiences.
Family, as a support system
Family shapes who we are and influences us. They are always there to advise us and critique us to ensure that we are on the right track to be the best that we can be. Our families are the roots that hold us together. They are the foundational outline to what we come to understand both about ourselves, the world around us and the purpose of us being here.
“Real family signifies a high level of compassion and intimacy between people” (West, pg.90).
There must be compassion within a family, otherwise it will not function properly and become dysfunctional.
A compassionate family reinforces who we are even when we encounter issues and problems that life throws our way. A compassionate family is one of second chances, and understands most situations that we find ourselves in. Intimacy is defined as close familiarity. Families come to understand what makes us tic and how we express who we are to the world. Our mothers and fathers see the best in us and also the worst.
If individuals in society fail or do not achieve their goals, much of this failure can be traced back to the family. It may not be acknowledged, but there is a grain of truth in why families fail and why individuals fail.
“Part of [society’s] problem these days is not just indifference that displaces compassion, but the cold manipulation that’s displacing intimacy” (West, pg. 90).
Many individuals today have found ways to manipulate to get where they want to be and the very act of manipulation destroys the heart and soul of America and renders that individual complacent about their own success and achievements in life.
Has family lost importance?
It is as if family has been left by the wayside. The definition, that is. In my life, there was love and support for whatever choices and decisions made. There was an understanding that my family would be there for me, no matter what given the treacherous society that surrounds us. Many of the youth today have been failed and discarded. They have no root in family. The family has become more about who can birth the most babies rather than who can educate and instill pearls of wisdom in the individuals so when they emerge into society they can put food on their table and enrich the world with the talents they possess. West writes,
“young brothers and sisters today have no sense of the signs, signals, clues, and cues needed to negotiate and navigate the treacherous terrain of American society. It’s not just how you dress; it’s in language, nuance, tone, judgment, and timing, all those things you learn in your family” (West, pg.90).
But how can they learn if there is no family?
Many families today are single parent. There is nothing necessarily wrong with single parent families, but the child or children who grow up in that family do not gain the necessary grains of intimacy and compassion that come from a two parent family.
“All of us are our momma’s child and our daddy’s kid, whether we like it or not” (West, pg.89).
The single parent plays both mother and father and this can be a chore, a task. While there have been successful individuals who have come from single parent homes, given the family being the root of who we are and how we see ourselves, many of the youth today often do not know who they are because they had an absent mother or an absent father. While the single parent tries to compensate for the absent parent, there is not a full intervention and commitment.
“Without direct intervention and commitment, they’re still the future of our nation” (West, pg. 95).
As previously stated, there is nothing horrible about being raised in a single family home, but West states that children often raise themselves in these situations.
A family’s influence over children
“parenting itself is pushed to the margins, mostly by means of mass media. Today, parents are breaking their necks trying to have some influence on their kids” (West, pg. 94).
This is even more so the case in single parent homes where the parent has to play both roles.
“Young people [then] often conform to what they see on TV, and to what the media feeds them” (West, pg.94).
With the emergence of the Internet, music videos and just the difference in how our mothers and fathers were raised versus how we are being raised, many of us are unfortunately being raised not by our families but by the television, by entertainers, and by our friends. It is an unfortunate situation that must be remedied and soon because the future of our society depends on it.
West also tackles individuals finding the true meaning of life within themselves in Hope on a Tightrope. This particular subject is directly related to the subject of family. Individuals do not come here to Earth knowing who they are, they are shaped by the society that they live in and the house they reside in. Learning oneself is a form of self-discovery through the viewpoint of how others see you. Whether you are African American, Hispanic, Asian or Caucasian, your journey of self-discovery is directly affected by how society views you.
In America, more than any other country, race matters.
“Race is the one issue that can bring down the curtain of American civilization” (West, pg. 49).
In other words, individuals on their journey of self-discovery may encounter the atrocity of racism and because of this they begin thinking a certain way about themselves, which may not necessarily be the truth. It is another’s truth, rather than theirs. This is where the family comes into play because the family has to be able to rework the thinking that, that individual has about themselves. If that individual is told that they cannot make it in society because of who they are race wise, then the family must intervene and change that thinking. West points out that this is not happening in that statement. Yet, why isn’t it happening?
Overhaul in relationships between races
For society to change its thinking and racial attitudes, there would have to be a massive overhaul in the relationships between races. Each and every race would have to examine their attitudes about other races and from West’s perspective, this is far from happening.
“It takes courage to look in the mirror and see past your reflection to who you really are when you take off the mask, when you’re not performing the same old routines and social roles” (West, pg. 9).
In other words, races would have to look past the roles they are playing and in how they are influencing others and examine where these perceptions and notions came from. From my own experience, the attitude that currently sits within myself has been worked and reworked by my family, friends and through my own philosophy because of many racial attitude encounters. Racism seems to be still alive in this country. Everything is racially motivated or has a racial undertone to it. While society is seeking to move away from the pollution of racism, to West’s point, it still has a long way to go.
In Hope on a Tightrope, West addresses the purpose of neighbors and having respect for them in order to have the best experience possible in your surroundings. West believes that we should have deep love for our fellow citizens and neighbors regardless of what race that individual is.
“I actually believe that loving your neighbor as yourself is a desirable way of being in the world, even though it may seem absurd given the kind of world we live in,” West states (West pg. 152).
This is similar to the saying of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. Somehow, though, we cannot do it as a society or rather opt not to. The term neighbors does not solely mean the ones that live next to us on our street, but people we see on the sidewalk begging for money or a senior citizen that needs help crossing the street or loading groceries into his/her car. West is advocating that we need to give back in order to enrich our lives.
Importance of a loving family man
A popular quote by Khalil Gibran states that
“love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself” (Gibran).
We have to have love for our fellow man if we want peace. Each and every race has to demonstrate that love is what society should be built on by how we treat each other. The United States of America claims that it is the leader of the free world, but
“you can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people [and] you can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people” (West, pg. 151).
How can we say that we love our neighbors if we fail ourselves and each other as a society? What can be done to rectify this issue?
Towards a Better Future
The central process that we can all undertake is to look ourselves in the mirror truthfully and assess how we treat others. With all the violence in society, can we honestly say that we are treating each other and loving our fellow man as we love ourselves? West profoundly points that out and continually asks that question throughout his words on love and service. I, myself have asked such a question because of the experiences that I have had growing up and living in society currently.
That question has forced me to examine and reexamine how I deal with others. There needs to be compassion and intimacy among our fellow brethren. This gets back to West’s initial point on family and finding the true meaning of life within yourself. All of these points are interrelated. Society, in truth, needs an attitude adjustment, and a love adjustment. Much of the dilemmas, issues and problems that society faces are the result of these issues that West points out in Hope on a Tightrope. Therefore, it is on us as a society to examine why these dilemmas, issues and problems continue so that we can rectify them properly and become a more peaceful civilization.
Gibran, Khalil. “Love gives naught….” Quotations Book, 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. .
West, Cornel. Hope on a Tightrope: Words & Wisdom. 3rd. Smiley Books, 2011. Print.