If the family were a container, it would be a nest, an enduring nest, loosely woven, expansive, and open. If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable—each segment distinct. If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles. If the family were a sport, it would be baseball: a long, slow, nonviolent game that is never over until the last out. If the family were a building, it would be an old but solid structure that contains human history, and appeals to those who see the carved moldings under all the plaster, the wide plank floors under the linoleum, the possibilities.
The family endures because it offers the truth of mortality and immortality within the same group. The family endures because, better than the commune, kibbutz, or classroom, it seems to individualize and socialize its children, to make us feel at the same time unique and yet joined to all humanity, accepted as is and yet challenged to grow, loved unconditionally and yet propelled by greater expectations. Only in the family can so many extremes be reconciled and synthesized. Only in the family do we have a lifetime in which to do it.
An open mind should be more than a catch-all receptacle. It should have a screening mechanism to keep out the trivial, a sorting capacity to organize ideas and reconcile contradictions, and a critical tool to help us decide what we believe. That’s the difference between a mind that receives information and a mind that thinks.