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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trace Your "Roots"

Back in 1976, Alex Haley published a fictionalized account of his family's history, entitle Roots. One thing that made this of special interest is that Mr. Haley was black, the descendant of slaves, and claimed (though some disputed it) to have traced his ancestry all the way back to the African continent.

Fact or fiction, the book and subsequent mini-series touched a nerve. According to Haley's 1992 obituary in the New York Times,

The writer and television historian Les Brown wrote that the mini-series "emptied theaters, filled bars, caused social events to be canceled and was the talk of the nation during the eight consecutive nights it played on ABC."

That's quite an accomplishment for a "mere" novel.

What was the attraction? I think it might be that, in the increasingly-frenzied swirl of activity in this modern life, we seek in our past an anchor; a source of stability; in short, "roots."

Some of us are fortunate to know the great-great-greats in our families; others know little beyond our parents (and a few, not even that).

But even knowing your heritage (I met a man today who proudly identified himself as an "Irish Catholic") can be a source of nurture in our lives.

Sure, we can't live in the past. But the Buddhists speak of "causes and conditions," the influences, situations and events that brought us to where we are today. Certainly our ancestors and our cultural background are of deep consequence to who we are.

So get in touch with your "roots." Before you decide where you're going, find out where you came from.

You'll be happier.

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