family,

unit of society in both Humans and Minds, recognizable for all the variability of its forms across cultures. Just as evolutionarily the human family was “about the kids,” now it tends to center on deep sleep and waking: families that dont cross at least one life joint are rare or arent called that; another family backbone, “oddly material for this post-material age,” is a shared arf plant — a rootless home that is tied to, and ties together, its human symbionts. Bodiless Minds are less couple-centric than Humans but certainly no less familial; a distinction between a Mind family and a collective is blurrier but, however classified, stable family-like groups are where most new Minds are born and raised. ■    For Minds and Humans alike, family is what underlies their self-evolving — the great motivator and moderator, mutator and selector in aging, and eventually growth, of body and mind. From conception or deep sleep dive to maturity, its your immediate family who are in charge of your ontogenesis — who build or plain-old recombine your genome (familial baseline, pre-tested inves, library picks, “fairy gifts” from “childless aunts,” random “salt”), set up the epigenetic framework to unfold and steer it, seed the (re)incarnated mind. Those going into sleep rarely pre-announce the coming lifeshed; some arrange for their families to disclose their past identity, to the waker and/or to the world, at a certain age or in certain conditions, others will their ancestry to remain unlearned forever.  ■    Couple is the natural family formula with humans; a couple may join shorter-lived extended families but over time tends to moleculize, fuse, self-morph via “positive feedback of mutual gratification.” Partners deep-sleep in turns to raise and nurture each other (“life is not enough”), so marrying after a long lone streak may immediately wind you down; alternating seniority makes for a bendy family path: each partner gets a turn to fully pursue a vocation as the other is learning, growing into an apprentice, associate, collaborator — for the next waking to reverse the roles. Known centuries-old couples “keep swimming,” seek unsaturation, “explode the plateau” (beyond B); some “challenge the fate” — even repeatedly — in a dramatized gamble (“soaping”): part, take new names, age to unrecognizability, deep-sleep in faraway lands — and keep seeking, for years and years, trusting that one day chance and love will make them instantly recognize each other. Those who stop, fall: couples are known to shut themselves out, grow encysted and self-engrossed (“the dead end of self-perpetuation”), sink into what looks like mental obscuration — “loss of meaning” outside themselves; such black holes attract wizards, engagers but full rehabilitation is rare.  ■    “Large family, if only to stage plays”: extended families naturally blend with collectives, even specializing into project- and fandom-like. In a family of more than two, members may deep-sleep in couples (“pregnant with themselves”: of a couple on the brink) to be raised by the rest, or go on as a “children family” where everyone deep-sleeps several years apart to rear each other as parentless siblings; such “incubator families,” fragile with size and age, tend to granularize and break up into couples. A split between “a procreating minority and a majority that at best recreates” has long been feared, predicted, pre-experienced; so far, however, theres little evidence of a true “anthill model” with its stratification, depressed diversity, “unnatural natural selection.” Collaborative genomics, open childhood, the road stir things up well enough, extenuate the kin selection pressures that might undermine a society no longer compartmentalized into tribal shells; procreativity need not be inheritable: in many “kindergartens” (“borns, wakers, adoptees, stay-overs” — “a school more than a home”) the childrearing proclivity was unpredicted, its founders coming from lonely lineages.

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