OK, so after a break, we are back on track. For those of you coming in 'late,' the series begins here:
Family (extended version)
After the Church, we next draw closer to the person at a level which I label Family. This is the extended family relationships, such as grandparents and cousins, but also those 'voluntary families' we form, like friends and neighbors.
In earlier times, most of a man's neighbors were also his relatives due to the difficulties of migration. He had a more integrated view of his world and his role in it, so that his relationships often bore multiple levels of meaning: the people he worked with, or shared interests with, were often those who were either close relatives or close neighbors.
Family extends from our churches to our social clubs (a dwindling category in America). Modern migration has destroyed the modern understanding of family: neighbors are strangers, relatives are far away, and we have no time for clubs and societies. Some of us still hold onto a church-family concept, though the 'mega-church' with its production line approach to Sacraments (if the church you are talking about has them) or 'services' means that church members become atomized once they leave the parking lot.
Beneath this level is Marriage. Most people in this 'postmodern' era think of marriage as 'two people who love each other.' This is not what it really means, because the layers above also involve love between people, or should.
Marriage is not a living arrangement, because some marriages have endured long separation. It isn't really about sex, either. After all, humans are perfectly capable of having sex without marriage as we all know.
Marriage is a spiritual union. It is not like other relationships, in that it represents a union of humanity between a male and a female... it is a completion. It brings meaning to gender, where male and female are made both equal yet defined. Gender is no longer an 'accident,' but a requirement... because a marriage with two people trying to fulfill the same roles invariably leads to confusion and power struggles.
Marriage is mystical because, when it is properly executed, the couple become willing to lay down their lives for one another. How can one talk about divorce, particularly the easy modern divorce, a minute after making such a commitment? Can we make such a commitment?
The answer is simple: no, humans can't reliably override their self-interest and self-preservation instincts without help from a Higher Power. Marriage is not possible without God, otherwise it is just another voluntary living arrangement that can be broken with little consequence other than dividing the property.
This is why 'traditional' societies have always treated marriage as something serious, and this has led marriages to be much stronger that the modern definition. Arranged marriages are just as happy, if not happier, than the modern 'shack-up-till-you-you-get-tired' mode of modern courtship. Modern marriage is about tiring of dating and casual sex rather than finding something greater.
Marriage is also about providing the groundwork for the next level: Parenting. This mystical union of Marriage sets the stage for procreation and the relationship between a parent and a child.
In this relationship, a human learns how to be a person, through observation and teaching. Watching our parents teaches us how to treat others and ourselves. We learn thousands of important 'micro-lessons' which come back to us at critical times. Parents, in turn, also derive spiritual lessons about selflessness and caring.
Children are utterly dependent on their parents, up until they either reach maturity or hand their raising over to someone else. This is the modern model, where schools are expected to raise children for their parents. School lasts longer that the daily bond between parents and children in most cases, and so the emotional attachments also shift.
The parent's most important job is about paving the groundwork for the most intimate relationship, which is God Within. You can see God is manifested as the Creator, and also the Life of the World (Church), but at this level God is experienced in a personal way. Here, we come to know God and through this intimate relationship see Him at the other levels of life as well.
The less we know Him within, the less the other manifestations make any sense. The most important job a parent has is to bring the child to the Church in the role of Parenting so that the child can receive this completed gift of God within (all of us are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and God surrounds and imbues us, yet it is not completed until we voluntarily invite Him in).
Our awareness of the God Within will dictate how many fears we will be tempted by, which in tern effect all of the outer levels of relationship.