Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Kahlil Gibran


In both personal and survival of the species terms, family has a deep origin in biology. Rousseau called it “the most ancient of all societies and the only natural one.” Although a pervasive arrangement throughout the world, at least since the time of the earliest historians like Herodotus, it’s clear how diverse and colorful the details of family life display. And far beyond the purpose of procreation alone, family structures form a foundation for economic, social, and political success. In both the East and the West, they model, represent, and develop governmental structures. Marx described how the human family form depends on the economic situation and it’s obvious how much it has changed in the transition from agricultural to industrial society. The status of women in the family mirrors the status of men in the state. When women lack equality in the family, men normally lack equality in the state and this balancing dynamic underlies all of history’s story.

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Quotes (77)

“The family is society in embryo; it is the native soil… so that within a small circle a basis of moral practice is created, and this is later widened to include human relationships in general.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 37
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Family

54. Planting Well

“And may the gods accomplish your desire: a home, a husband, and harmonious converse with him – the best thing in the world being a strong house held in serenity where man and wife agree. Woe to their enemies, joy to their friends!”

Homer 850 BCE - ? via Robert Fitzgerald
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

“there is nothing greater and better than this—when a husband and wife keep a household in oneness of mind”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture

Themes: Marriage Family

“The more dysfunctional the family, the more autocratic and subservient.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #18
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Family

“Rid of conventionalized duty and honor, people find their families dear.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE -
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Family

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

Themes: Family Control

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

54. Planting Well

“What else but tears is now my hapless lot, whose country, children, husband, all are lost”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Trojan Women

Themes: Family Marriage

“Of all things that have life and sense, we women are the most hapless creatures; first must we buy a husband at great price, and then o'er ourselves a tyrant set, which is an evil worse than the first.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Trojan Women

“The difference between men and women is mainly that men beget and women bear children. The pursuits of men are the same as the pursuits of women, the gifts of nature are alike diffused in both so there should be no difference in the kind of education they receive and little difference in the roles of both in the state's administration... a woman's talent is not at all inferior to a man's.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE via Shan Dao, et alia
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

“Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Family

25. The Mother of All Things

“It is characteristic of the human alone to have a sense of good and evil, just and unjust. And the association of living beings who have this sense makes the family and then the state.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE via Shan Dao
from Politics

Themes: Family

“There are three things which are unfilial and the greatest of them is to have no posterity.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Will Durant
from Our Oriental Heritage

Themes: Sex Family

“You must always remember that all men are your brothers, down to the vilest and most debased; they are your family and your friends, your fellow-citizens as well. You must be kind therefore, endlessly kind”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE via Edith Hamilton
(of Citium)

“I have examined the deeds and events of the past and investigated the principles behind their success and failure, their rise and decay. I wished to examine into all that concerns heaven and man, to penetrate the changes of the past and present, completing all as the work of one family.”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE via Burton Watson
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians
from Shiji, Records of the Grand Historian, 太史公書

“In time of test, family is best.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Burmese Proverb​

Themes: Family

“When fighting and quarreling cease in the family, military deployments cease in the states, and punitive expeditions cease throughout the realm"”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Family Conflict

“Sons and nephews without fathers and uncles
May be strong, but it is said that they are like a tigress wandjyering an empty plain.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 11th century CE via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: Family
“When a child is born, families want it to be intelligent. But through intelligence, I have only wrecked my whole life. So I can only hope the baby will prove ignorant and stupid; crown a tranquil life by becoming a Cabinet Minister.”

Su Shi 苏轼 1037 – 1101 CE via On the Birth of His Son (tr: Arthur Waley, Shan Dao)
(Dongpo, Su Tungpo)
"pre-eminent personality of 11th century China"

Themes: Family Government

“Friends, each one the other must obey [for] love will not be constrained by mastery; both men and women by nature love their liberty and not to be constrained and so both become servant and lord.”

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400 CE via Shan Dao, et alia
“Father of English literature”
from Canterbury Tales

Themes: Equality Family

“There is little less trouble in governing a private family than a whole kingdom.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE via "Of Solitude" (tr: Cotton, Hazlitt)
Grandfather of the Enlightenment
from Essays, French Essais

Themes: Family

“Those who have wife and children have given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE
from Essays (1625)

Themes: Family

“Avoid the faults of your nation… There is not a nation among even the most civilized that has not some fault peculiar to itself…It is a triumph to correct in oneself such failings… There are also family failings as well as faults of position, of office, or of age.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

5. Christmas Trees

“Every family became a little society, the more united because liberty and reciprocal attachment were the only bonds of its union... The habit of living together soon gave rise to the finest feelings known to humanity: conjugal love and paternal affection.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE via GDH Cole
from On the Origin of Inequality

Themes: Family

“When I could have used a wife, I could not support one; and when I could support one, I no longer needed any.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE

“The absurd duty—too often inculcated—of obeying a parent only on account of his being a parent, shackles the mind and prepares it for a slavish submission to any power but reason.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist
from Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Themes: Reason Family

“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE

Themes: Family Books

“Natural affection is a prejudice: for though we have cause to love our nearest connections better than others, we have no reason to think them as better than others.”

William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830 CE via "On Prejudice"
One of the English languages best art and literature critics of all time

from Sketches and Essays, 1839

Themes: Family

“Wife and children I have not considered among a man's possessions: he is rather in their possession.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

Themes: Family

“The best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.”

Disraeli, Benjamin 1804 – 1881 CE
(Earl of Beaconsfield )
Political balance between mob rule and tyranny

from Commons (1874)

Themes: Family

“All human beings have the same interest in good government. Gender is as entirely irrelevant to political rights as differences in height or hair color.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE via Shan Dao
from Representative Government

“selection may be applied to the family as well as to the individual... a well-flavored vegetable is cooked, and the individual is destroyed; but the horticulturist sows seeds of the same stock and confidently expects to get nearly the same variety.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from The Origin of Species

Themes: Family

“I don't know who my grandfather was; I'm much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Family

“Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending... Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Old Age Family

“The soul is healed by being with children.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE

Themes: Family

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE
from Anna Karenina

Themes: Family

“There is neither Greek nor barbarian, neither rich nor poor, and the slave is as good as his master, for by birth all men are free; they are citizens of the universal commonwealth which embraces all the world, brethren of one family”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877

“More unhappiness comes from this source [the family] than from any other—I mean from the attempt to prolong family connections unduly and to make people hang together artificially who would never naturally do so.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

Themes: Family

“Our most valuable and instructive materials in the history of man are all treasured up in India… In Hinduism we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Hinduism Family

“Familiarity breeds contempt and children.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Family

17. True Leaders

“If parents were merely to remember how they felt when they were young, and actually to behave towards their children as they would have had their own parents behave toward themselves... But this, which would appear to be so simple and obvious, seems also to be a thing which not one in a hundred thousand is able to put into practice.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

Themes: Family

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

Themes: Family

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare

Themes: Family

“[The child's] great task is freeing himself from the parents... only after this detachment is accomplished can he cease to be a child and so become a member of the social community.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

Themes: Family Progress

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet

Themes: Family

“The family is one of nature's masterpieces.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet

Themes: Family

“I have known more men destroyed by the desire to have wife and child and to keep them in comfort than I have seen destroyed by drink and harlots.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

“If men and women do not cling to their families nowadays as much as they did, it is because the state and the community supply now safety and help and facilities that were once only possible in the family group.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

Themes: Family

“The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Family

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues… are created, strengthened and maintained.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Family Virtue

“The greatest influence on the life of the child is the unlived life of the parents.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Family

“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself... their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Family

“The basic reality in life is not politics, nor industry, but human relationships—the associations of a man with a woman... the family is greater than the State, devotion and despair sink deeper into the heart than economic strife, in the end our happiness lies not in possessions, place, or power, but in the gift and return of love.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Pleasures of Philosophy

“the essential government of mankind remains in that most deep-rooted of all historic institutions, the family.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

Themes: Government Family

“Since morality is rooted biologically in the family—those principles of mutual aid which the family plants in the soil— I should base moral instruction upon a deliberate exaltation of family life... The gift of children should be our payment to the race for the heritage of civilization.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Family

“If a woman is to recapture the lost companionship with man and child, she must once more forget herself, as she did in the old pioneer days, and follow them into the world.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from To My Daughters With Love (1967)

Themes: Family

“Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They are not like aches or wounds; they are more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there is not enough material.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from The Jazz Age

Themes: Family

“One thing's sure and nothing's surer
The rich get richer and the poor get—children”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Great Gatsby

Themes: Family

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”

Margaret Mead 1901 – 1978 CE

“No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.”

Margaret Mead 1901 – 1978 CE

Themes: Family

“A life allied with mine, for the rest of our lives... that is the miracle of marriage.”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist
from Love in the Western World

Themes: Family

“the closer the relationship, the more easily the dagger goes in, the more we feel it, and the harder it is to heal. Often, the greatest wounds come from our families... The anger and the pain from that relationship is often our greatest wound.”

Charlotte Joko Beck 1917 – 2011 CE
Authentic, pioneering Western Zen master

from Ordinary Wonder

Themes: Family

“Man has a false heart in his mouth for the world to see, another in his breast to show to his special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except to himself alone, hidden only God knows where.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian

Themes: Lies Family

“The household has become the place where the consumption of wages takes place”

Ivan Illich 1926 – 2002 CE
"an archaeologist of ideas"
from Shadow Work

Themes: Family

“The family’s function is to repress… to deny death by avoiding life… to promote respect, conformity, obedience; to con children out of play; to induce a fear of failure; to promote a respect for work; to promote a respect for ‘respectability.’”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE
from Politics of Experience

Themes: Family Fear

“When family relations are no longer harmonious, we have filial children and devoted parents.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE

Themes: Family

“If a book is truly worth reading, it’s not a promiscuous, one-night stand. It becomes a life-long companion, the lifeblood of our insight, understanding, and wisdom. We re-read it from the different perspectives of youth, career-seeking, marriage and family, old age and the process of dying. We continually translate it into the ever-changing scope of our cultures, politics and psychology.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Books Family

“The family is changing, not disappearing. We have to broaden our understanding of it, look for the new metaphors.”

Mary Catherine Bateson 1939 CE –

Themes: Family

“If you do not start at home, you have no hope of helping the world… the first step is learning to rule your household, your immediate world…. If you do so, then the next step will come naturally. If you don't, then your contribution to this world will only be further chaos.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Family

54. Planting Well

“If you want to solve the world’s problems, you have to put your own household, your own individual life, in order first… the first step in learning how to rule is learning to rule your household, your immediate world.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Problems Family

17. True Leaders

“I have no home.
The family created by my parents and friends was just a family according to their way of thinking... Still, strangely, this home of being homeless is my home wherever I go. Everything is my home, the great home of being homeless.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

Themes: Family

“We all live in stories, so called grand narratives. Nation is a story. Family is a story. Religion is a story. Community is a story. We all live within and with these narratives… and need to constantly examine them… that’s the definition of any living vibrant society—constantly questioning those stories. The argument itself is freedom… that's how societies grow.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

“It's [a kitchen/dining table] where we teach our children the manners they need to get along in society. We teach them how to share. To take turns. To argue without fighting and insulting other people. They learn the art of adult conversation. The family meal is the nursery of democracy.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture

Themes: Family

“A tourist makes a show of giving a ten-dollar tip to the doorman for pushing a revolving door, and the next minute he’s bargaining for a five-dollar T-shirt from a vendor who is trying to support her baby and family.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

Themes: Family Confusion

“Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated… Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard; Life used to be so hard; Now everything is easy 'cause of you.”

Crosby Stills & Nash 1968 CE –

Themes: Family Marriage

47. Effortless Success

“Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the daily life of most humans ran its course within three ancient frames: the nuclear family, the extended family and the local intimate community. Most people worked in the family business – the family farm or the family workshop, for example – or they worked in their neighbors’ family businesses. The family was also the welfare system, the health system, the education system, the construction industry, the trade union, the pension fund, the insurance company, the radio, the television, the newspapers, the bank and even the police.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Family

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