From One Generation to Another   Leave a comment

self-august-2009Above:  The Author in August 2009

Photograph by Bonny Thomas


My Quest to Understand Better Ancestral Influences Upon Me

God does not hold members of one generation responsible for sins of members of another, I affirm, but I know that positive and negative attributes of people can–and frequently do–influence others of subsequent generations.  The examined life–the only one worth living–compels me to understand myself better by studying my family history.  This research has yielded many results already, prompting me to wonder what I will learn in the future.

One goal is to arrive at (as nearly as possible) an accurate understanding of who people were.  I seek neither to idealize nor to demonize anyone.  Indeed, each of us is a combination of the good and the bad.  I, keenly aware of much of my dark side as well as many of my positive aspects, strive to find then to maintain a balanced approach toward myself and others.  Ockham’s Razor provides invaluable guidance when evidence becomes thin.  Along the way I proceed in the knowledge that, although reality is objective and frequently knowable, sometimes evidence has not survived or come down to me.  Thus I must approach my conclusions with a healthy amount of humility.

Each of us is also a product of his or her time, culture, and subculture, not just genetic influences.  Nature versus nurture is a false dichotomy.  I recognize these facts yet refuse to fall into the trap of a false relativism which says that I ought not to apply constant moral standards across time.  Each of us has moral blind spots.  Often they are related to what those around us tell us.  That explains a great deal yet excuses nothing.  Fortunately, God forgives much.

I, having covered the procedural material, turn my attention to conclusions.

I can trace some influences–positive and negative–upon me back through my family tree all the way back to some great-grandparents.  To them and to those between them and me chronologically I owe a great debt of gratitude for much, such as the rich inheritance of Christian faith.  My faith, although quite different from that of two grandfathers in particular–George Washington Barrett (1873-1956) and John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (1860-1936)–owes much to theirs.  Yes, some sermon notes of George Washington Barrett annoy me, prompting me to take breaks between postings of them, but I also find much with which to agree.

Now I understand well how certain actions and attitudes of a certain great-grandfather have affected me strongly–for good and for ill.  Sometimes I do not know if certain influences from him are positive or negative, only that they exist.  Yet I do know that improved understanding of self is positive.

I, for my own reasons, decided long ago never to become a father.  Chief among them was the fact that I dislike children.  To say that they annoy me is to understate reality.  I have little patience with those agents of chaos.  To bring even one into the world would be unfair to him or her.  Biological reality holds that one Taylor lineage will end with me.  That is fine, for what is a family name anyway?  Immortality comes via the afterlife, not an unbroken line of progeny.  Besides, I influence others daily.  May I, by grace, pass along mostly positive legacies.  Who knows how long they will endure in successive generations?



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