Our Lasting Legacies: From Descendancy to Ancestry

ancestors, curiosity, descendants, values

There is a constant but low murmur of dissociation coming from growing numbers of “well-intentioned” people as they explore the idea of inclusion. Framed as, “This doesn’t have anything to do with me. I did not create these problems; they have to work this out for themselves, or my commitment is to my family, my community” These are just a few comments I have noted since the top of the year but they speak volumes to our values and sense of personal responsiblity.

A few weeks ago, I came across a social media post that resurfaced this idea of dissociation. In part, Adam Grant tweeted, “Too many people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of good ancestors.” This statement got me thinking about how our desire to be a good child, uphold family values or demonstrate

our national pride limits our ability to adapt to the world around us. Does this steadfast commitment to being a good descendant hinder our ability to understand what we are actually committing to? Does our emphasis on looking back on the “good ole days” actually serve to stop us from seeing more promising pathways forward?

Many values are instilled from childhood and continue to serve us today, and there are those that, as evolving beings, we can choose to release. We can at once have a deep admiration for our family, culture, and values and yet still desire change within our value system. It is the opportunity to hold multiple truths simultaneously. 

Being the daughter that I am means both wanting to make my family proud and standing firm in uplifting new ways of thinking in the face of openly expressed archaic values. It requires that I not only look back but forward to the world I am creating and ultimately leaving behind for future generations, my descendants. It means questioning whether my present-day practices align with the vision I have for my current and future self. Often the very love of one’s community leads us to say we must do better.

This brings me full circle back to the idea of dissonance and what exactly we are holding so tightly to. Without question, there are values each of us holds that are core to our being. Values we pride ourselves in, have shaped our lives around, and eagerly look forward to passing on to our children. And then there are the values we have never stopped to examine. Why do I hold this particular value? Is there a reason we’ve always done it this way? Wait, do I actually believe this?

Holding a past and forward perspective, I am wrestling with the duality of fear as both emotion and value. Where does our intentionality lie? Are we leveraging fear as a value designed to motivate us to do something differently or using fear in its most primitive form to control and keep things the status quo? I ask this, acknowledging that many are still holding on to false nostalgia, longing for days that were never considered ideal by those marginalized by practices of the day.

So as I consider my role as both descendant and future ancestor, it feels imperative that my descendants have an opportunity to look back with gratitude because I created just a bit more space for them to show up as they are. The world will undoubtedly continue to shift, and yet if the plan is to keep playing the record on a loop, let’s just be honest about why we like that particular song, and please don’t be surprised when your kids want to listen to something different.

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