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On Great-grandfathers and Great-grandchildren over a 7 Generation Span (1840-2007): A Collective Memorial On Great-grandfathers and Great-grandchildren over a 7 Generation Span (1840-2007): A Collective Memorial
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-08 09:15:54
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My grandparents and my father at 2 (New York 1914)

 

“There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce”
                                                    
--Mark Twain

In my family album there is a fading picture of my great-grandfather Francesco going back to mid-nineteen century. That is the first generation available to my memory. My great-grandfather was not born in Italy proper, not yet politically unified, but in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with Naples as its capital. That may sound ancient but in historical terms it’s the blink of an eye.

There is also a picture of my grandfather, the second generation, as an immigrant in America in 1914 posing with my grandmother Maria and my father Francesco (who was two years old at the time) taken in Little Italy, New York where my father was born. See the above picture. They resided in America for approximately 20 years before returning to Italy. My father of the third generation spent a good part of his adult life in Italy (from 1922 till 1955, some 33 years) and then returned to where he was born in 1955 and died there some 13 years later in 1968 at the age of 55.

Enter the fourth  generation, myself and my four sisters, three born in Italy with me between 1942 and 1948 (Maria, Rosaria and Anna), and one (Sandra) born in Brooklyn, New York in 1961. That generation has now children and grandchildren of their own. They are the fifth generation. I count a total of 14 first cousins born of the fourth generation, but I have never been able to keep tab of the chronological order of their births, spanning  some 34 years (1966 to 2000), so I’ll merely mention them in alphabetical order, Alessandra, Alex, Arcangelo, Cristina, Doriana, Giovanna, Francesca, Gabriella, Gemma, Mario, Pino, Renzo, Stephanie, Umberto Jr.

What is intriguing is that while those 14 cousins (comprising the fifth generation) meet each other from time to time on special occasions, none have become best friends with each other, that I know of. Precious few ever bother to visit or even call up or email their uncle. In any case, several of this fifth generation cousins are now married and have children of their own. Those children would comprise the sixth generation.

I myself, from the fourth generation, have now four grandchildren who belong to such a generation: Sophia, Nicolas, Adriana, Collin, all born between 2007 and 2015. It will not take very long, give it about 15 years or so, before the seventh generation will come on the stage and I’ll then I’ll find myself a great-grandfather, or perhaps I’ll be six feet under in the field of perpetual rest and peace.

That remains to be seen but one thing is sure: the cycle will repeat itself and more generations will come and go, one will follow the other within time and space and will make history on both the family level and on the social collective level, that of human-kind. As the saying goes: everything changes but in reality nothing really changes.

But wait a minute. Is that true? Let me advance some pertinent observations, questions and reflections. In the first place, with the exception of the two who live in Italy, the question arises: why don’t those cousins who live within a 20 mile radius from each other here in Florida, USA, don’t frequent each other more assiduously? I suspect that my own grandchildren will not become best of friends even though presently they see each other almost every other day when they come and swim at grandma and grandpa’s home pool.

When I was a teenager, even though I lived some 30 miles away from them I would often see my cousins, at least on holidays and special occasions. Why not now, not even with my sisters? I suppose a plausible answer might be that in the bustling modern times we live in, each nuclear family is too busy forging ahead and being successful, as the saying goes, to bother much with social or family courtesies and niceties. Another could be that each individual family has its own social priorities and values and more often than not, they are not compatible. But I suspect that we need to dig deeper to get to a proper realistic answer.

I suspect that the reason why cousins don’t see each other any longer, not to speak of the visiting of uncles, aunts and even grandparents, is that the ethical system within Western Civilization has substantially changed in the last fifty years or so, and not for the better either. We “enlightened” people of the 21st century would like to delude ourselves that we live in progressive times, in constant and inevitable progress; but alas, within history, not everything that arrives at the end is necessarily the best of all possible outcomes. Were that the case we would in effect be robots devoid of free will.

To continue this philosophical consideration, consider what happened in Germany only 80 years ago. Few of us would be prepared to declare that those events were the best of all possible, and inevitable outcomes for the German people. Yet, those events were chosen and precipitated by the German people who actually elected Hitler democratically as Chancellor of Germany in 1933. We know the rest of the story. The ineluctable fact is that  sometimes, what is deemed progress is really regress, and regress of the worst kind.

Of course we are talking about ethical or moral progress which unfortunately has not matched scientific-technological progress, and the gap is getting progressively wider. I am horrified to think that my grandchildren will grow up with the example in the White House of a man who is a bully and a narcissist of the sickest kind, an ignoramus, a liar and a self-declared crotch-grabber who, together with those ignoramuses who elected him (approximately 30% of the nation, believe it or not) thinks of himself as the best president we have ever had in America whose image deserves to be placed on Mt. Rushmore. I ask: is that ethical progress? Whatever the answer might be, perhaps it partly explains why cousins don’t see each other so often any longer. There are too many materialistic preoccupations, to be over-concerned with values and ethical systems and the welfare of liberal democracy any longer.

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My granddaughter Sophia in the center
graduating from Kindergarten in May 2014

A few years ago I wrote an article dedicated to the kindergarten’s graduation of my grandchild Sophia who is now in fourth grade (see http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/11202 whose title was “An Imaginary Commencement Speech at my Grand-daughter’s graduation from Kindergarten.

As I remember in that imaginary speech I imparted some relevant advise to my grand-daughter Sophia. While I congratulated her for winning a graduation medal, for having read more than 100 children’s books, I also wished that in her future scholarly life, she would always get her learning priorities straight. That is to say, that she should never forget that much knowledge devoid of wisdom is not in any way preferable to a little learning acquired through wisdom and common sense; and this despite the misguided slogan that “knowledge is power.” Not really, real power resides in wisdom; wisdom makes all the difference, or better, a passion for wisdom, which in ancient Greek used to spell the term philosophy (filo-sophia = love of wisdom).

 papi03_03

It may well be that the thoughts expressed above go against the grain nowadays, days of frantic vulgar materialism when people are worth only what they have in their banks, nevertheless I continue wishing the same for my grandchild and all my grandchildren three years later as they begin a new grade. Sophia surely has the appropriate name for that wish to come true. But I also wish the same for all my assorted relatives, even those I rarely see.  To the proximate return of the love of wisdom.

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Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!
 
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