Marilynne Robinson on ‘the family’

“We have reasoned our way to uniformly conditional relationships. This is at the center of the crisis of the family, since the word means, if it means anything, that certain people exist on special terms with each other, which terms are more or less unconditional. We have instead decided to respect our parents, maybe, if they meet our stringent standards of deserving. Just so do our children respect us, maybe.
Siblings founder, spouses age. We founder. We age. That is when loyalty should matter. But invoking it now is about as potent a gesture as flashing a fat roll of rubles. I think this may contribute enormously to the sadness many of us feel at the heart of contemporary society. “Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds’, in the words of the sonnet, which I can only interpret to mean, love is loyalty.”

From ‘Family” in The Death of Adam: Essays in Modern Thought

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