The Bullet and the Foot, Dec 2, 2009

Quote of the Day
You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the
Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the
parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day.
		-- Sherlock Holmes
I must be getting over my coffee addition. I'm starting to get bright ideas on the car ride to the coffee shop instead of in the middle of breakfast. In any case, it was another navel pondering ride to the office this morning.

And along the way I was thinking about family. And in true "Sean the Strange" fashion, about Family as the concept as opposed to the individuals who make up mine. Partly because, through fate and life's choices I've always been a tad distant from my natural kin. It's genetic, I think. I come from a long line of intellectuals and misfits.

That said, there is also a certain argument to be made that I'm just a product of the times. Humans "Family" was developed in an environment where everyone you ever knew lived within walking distance. Heck, in the stone age, Dad didn't "commute" to work. The whole family moved with whatever game was on the move. And when agriculture came about, our concept of family didn't need much adjusting, we just re-balanced the new chores that had to be done. When mankind industrialized, we swapped crops for shops. Sure people moved around for work, but they moved as a unit, just like they would to move to greener pastures or away from failing farmland.

What really took a jackhammer to the primitive concept of family was the automobile. Not the physical device. The concept that we have to transport ourselves hundreds of miles a week. And that families now have to fit in a 5 seat car. (Or if you bump out to a van, maybe 8 seats.)

Combine that with birth control (so we *can* fit in the car), and our selections of who to hang out with from just pure kin is miniscule compared to ages past. Now, let's assume the prior to industrialization, a healthy family had 2 parents and 12 children. Your parents, had 12 brothers and sisters. and assuming 6 lived to adulthood, you probably had 6*12=72 cousins to interact with at family functions. (Of course half of them were dead before adulthood, but that's neither here nor there.) So your total social pool for kin is 12 + (6*12) = 84 people roughly the same age, with which you had a lot in common. Let's call them "kindred peers."

Let's look at today. I'm one of 4 children. And that was considered a "large" family. The norm is 2.4 children. Between 3 and 5 was the norm for my parents generation, so let's say 4, for the average.

Now a child today has 2.4 siblings + (4 * 2.4) = 12 kindred peers. Well the likelihood of finding someone you want to hang out with is a lot smaller in a pool of 12 than it is with a pool of 84. And my calculations don't even consider second cousins!

So, I have to wrap this up and get to the office, but my point is that Family today needs to be re-evaluated as a concept. That and, at least by the numbers, maybe I am just a product of the times.

Bah, way to feel special, Woods.

All content copyright 2018, Sean Woods | email: | phone: 703-342-2662