Our ancestors are always with us. They reside in the color of our eyes, in our religious and social practices, in how we treat our fellow humans. They are to some extent our fate, but not necessarily our destiny.
Ancestors needn’t be related to us by blood—although as psychologist Edward Bruce Bynum points out in his contribution to this Summer 2022 issue of Parabola, we all may be descended from a single source, an “Eve” who arose in Africa circa 175,000 years ago. One may choose as one’s ancestor a spiritual teacher, as regular contributor Lillian Firestone does here, in a piece that presents a very rare teaching story from G.I. Gurdjieff. Or we may, like essayist and composer K. Lauren de Boer, take as our ancestors such non-human entities as the first cyanobacteria that produced copious oxygen two billion years ago, or trees, like educator Keith Badger in his compelling essay.
Just as we all have ancestors, we all will have descendants. Those with no children can find descendants in everyone whom they have affected in their lives. Others may enjoy children or grandchildren, as Zen teacher Susan Moon does with gusto in her contribution here.
There are those who do not or cannot know their blood ancestors. As nineteenth-century social reformer Frederick Douglass—a moral ancestor to many—remarks in a searing entry, “Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves.” And some reject their ancestors, as illustrated in Ann Willow’s poignant “Packing Up Grandma Elsa.”
Today it is far easier than before for many to trace their ancestors. This is in large part due to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons, whose efforts are traced in this issue’s Endpoint and who also spawned the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company, Ancestry.com.
Whether you connect to ancestors (and descendants) by way of a family Bible, photographs, stories, DNA tests, or recognition of spiritual forefathers, we hope that this issue serves you well.
table of contents
A Good Start Tracy Cochran
The power of remembering
St. Lachtin’s Arm Teresa H. Janssen
For generations, they kept vigil
Prophets without Robes or Staffs Roger Lipsey
Hammarskjöld, Havel, Mandela, Thunberg
Packing Up Grandma Elsa Ann Willow
Who were those people?
Becoming Responsible James Opie
To repair the past
Meeting Remarkable Trees Keith Badger
What our arboreal companions can teach us
The Gates of Paradise Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted
Arrow) and David R. Kopacz, M.D.
We Will Be Ancestors, Too Susan Moon
“A Purpose to Be Served” Benson Bobrick
Spending time with P.L. Travers
A Magnificent Pedigree K. Lauren de Boer
We arise from stardust
A Song for My Ancestors Mark Pierce
Coming to terms
What of Time? Kahil Gibran
And what of timelessness?
Out of Africa? Edward Bruce Bynum
A compelling theory of humanity’s origins
“Because of you!” Lillian Firestone
A visit with a French sage
Another Way Michael Allswang
The ancient Egyptian mind
Genealogical Trees Do Not Flourish Among Slaves Frederick Douglass
Yearning for family
The Extraordinary Descent of the River Ganges Retold by Nartana Premachandra
Anonymous / Hindu