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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Other People's Lives

The conventional wisdom is that we should all mind our own business and leave the details of other people's lives to them.  This is very good advice but it is seldom followed. This is probably because we live in such a small world, one that is getting smaller by the day with the discovery of even more communicating technologies.

It starts when we are born with our arrival being of intense interest to our parents and our brothers and sisters. Our family of aunts and uncles and cousins all take an interest in our development through the early period of our lives, and when we grow up to the point where we choose a friend who may become our husband or wife the buzz picks up speed. The circle is completed when we bring our own offspring into the world, and it begins anew.

Every time our son or daughter reaches a new milestone it is shared with the family at large. When they do good the family celebrates and takes pride. When they do something criminal and go to prison we all hang our heads in shame.

Acclaimed success in business or politics can be a real occasion for uplifting the whole family. For instance when a family member becomes part of the ruling party's cabinet, or especially when that member becomes the chief  executive officer of a major company or bank, or the leader of a political party, or even the country. All of the family and their friends take great interest in everything that is happening as they believe that it is all a part of their business.

As a child grows his or her choice of career is noted and commented upon. Advice, that was not asked for is given and even persuasion may be used to try and steer the child in a different direction. Given that the child's life is his own this is clearly an invasion of his space, but the Relations seem to think its all a part of their business.

The most controversial aspect of all is when our now grown up child brings home the friend who is most special of all. Regardless of who that person is they are unlikely to pass muster from all the family. They are the one who is the outsider, and who expects to be good enough for our family member. We have all been through it, and we never forget. Whichever way it goes we can't win. If the relationship goes all the way, those against just wait for a misstep. Those in favour take joy in the happiness of the couple, but if they do stumble and fall everybody's heart will be broken, except for those who said, I told you so.

The worst case scenario is perhaps when father and mother come to an impasse in their relationship and they have to go their separate ways. The fallout from that is so huge it's like a nuclear blast, starting with the children and it spreads like the waves of a tsunami. Yes, it is the business of the couple in question but the people and institutions and societies that are impacted is just amazing.

They may be other people's lives indeed, but somehow all of our lives are intertwined and that brings us joy or consternation, as the case may be. Mind your own business indeed, but that is much easier to say than to know what is our own business or not.

(c) Copyright 2016
Eugene Carmichael