Thursday, 18 April 2013

Happy families are all the same?

"There is no normal family. Every family is dysfunctional in some way." (Dr Yap)

Mmm…I wonder whether dysfunctional families are happy or unhappy families? And if unhappy, are they unhappy in their own way? And if happy, are they happy in the same way. Undifferentiated? Indistinguishable? I recall Tolstoy’s quote about this: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  

Of course, unless it is the Adam’s family, no family is happy all the time. But that’s stating the obvious. Even for dysfunctional families, each has its own share of happiness and unhappiness. What is interesting however is this: “Happy is as happy does. But unhappy does it in many different ways.” Back to Tolstoy's insight?  

So, a happy family is happy by the same definition? They are all similar? Their love for each other? Their generosity and magnanimity? Their hope and altruism? Even their philosophy of life and their ways of dealing with the trials of life? All the same?

In other words, if they come together and trade stories, though their stories will naturally differ, their emotions, expressions and conduct are uniform, even universal?  

Well, a canadian journalist begs to defer with Tolstoy and penned his own view here: “It may be the silliest damn sentence ever set down...He got things backwards. Experience and literature both demonstrate that happy families come in all shapes and sizes, but the burdens of unhappy families (emotional indifference, poverty, alcoholism, irresponsibility) are painfully predictable.” Pause for thought?  

Mmm...maybe we can see it in terms of means and ends. As true as there are many roads that lead to Rome, there are, in like metaphorical manner, many ways (attitudes) that lead to both unhappiness and happiness. But once arrived, once it reached its destination, unhappiness enters a mansion with many rooms.

Each room expresses a different emotion. There is the envy room. There is the hatred room. There is the grumpy room. There is also the depression room. And every such room has an adjoining room, a bigger room, which differentiates itself on behavior. There is a room of suicide attempts. There is a room of murderous intent. There is one of sheer passivity. And another of perpetual complaining.  

But for the mansion of happiness, there is only one room and one common roof. The room is big enough to house a host of positive and congruous emotions like hope, charity, faith and perseverance. And all of them live in harmony under one roof with this life-affirming motif: "Life embraced."  

I think a good analogy of this is our religion. We know that God is love. But love, as poetically described in Corinthian, has many manifestations.Yet love, as the mother of them all, sums it up supremely well. It is the cornerstone of the grand edifice of happiness, so to speak.  

Does this then apply to evil or sin? Well, I think Aristotle answers it best here, though a little pedantic:  

" is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult -- to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many."   

Likewise, there are many ways to fall but only one way to stand up straight: right angle.  

So, here's how I end. My perspective is that the trials of life are essentially the same. Whether you are born poor or rich (even the rich have their fair share of pain), whether with disability or not, whether in the throes of adversity or otherwise, there are no surprises here.

But, as a family, as a whole, happiness attained is love, hope and contentment secured. To me, they are all life affirming and life embracing. All the same. In any event, isn't a good conscience above all else the best pillow?    

But unhappiness in its varying situations differ because it can be life-rejecting, life-abusing or life-disrupting. They are different and manifest themselves differently, if not most disagreeably.  

All said, I would like to add that the end result remains quite predictable though, that is, unhappiness under one roof will tear the house down eventually; while happiness under the same roof will build it up most outstandingly. Cheerz.  

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