Getting In Touch With Your Roots


With all respect to Alex Haley, I have decided that for me, this idea is a crock. And not even a good crock – a dangerous one. All my life I have been surrounded by people who work hard at the getting back to their roots. I am now at at pains to avoid being caught in the scrum.

One lot follow traditions established in the Bronze Age, overlain with those added during the dark ages and middle ages, and then revised poetically  by 19th century writers. They have an invisible friend to tell them what to do and they do it…and they tell me that their invisible friend wants me to do it too.

Other people I have lived among find their name is similar to tribal names half the world away and take it upon themselves to declare themselves to be part of a family with special clothes to wear, music to play, and dances to do. It would be charming if they did not bear over others because of it…but they do.

And one branch of my ancestors may very well have murdered another branch of my ancestors 76 years ago. I don’t know that for sure, but I am loathe to enquire closely in case I find out the truth. I have no idea what to do with that sort of information.

I think that the best way for me to explain the situation is to use the term ” the old country”. It was a popular phrase for the migrants in Canada, the USA, and Australia to refer to where they had just sailed from, and it was really a term of endearment. Their sons and daughters had less affection for either the phrase or the countries, and the grandchildren felt very little pull whatsoever. In the case of some old countries, the great-grand children watching the news now feel a decided push rather than pull, and I can’t blame them.

I should have said, I can’t blame us.

I trace family migration from Ireland and Central Europe through to the United States of America, and then to Canada, and then to Australia. That’s three levels of old country, and I am quite content to let enquiry as to whether I am decended from celtic pig chasers or Tirollean goat chasers well alone. I have no desire to return to the lives of my ancestors as these were their lives and when they were done with them the world moved on apace.

As far as aping the culture of others or claiming inclusion in their traditions – well, I have made that mistake before and see it as wrong and silly now.  If others wish to have invisible friends or clan chiefs or sacred groves they are welcome to them, but I intend to find my identity at my own fireside, studio, and writing desk.


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