Our Family Culture
OUR FAMILY CULTURE
(a chapter from my book “Loving China, Loving Bulgaria”)
Family is the beginning of the state. Our family also perfectly reveals our spiritual state. That is why I believe, family culture is one of the most important founding stones not only of society, but also of states and, universally, humankind. A family is a temple where one sacrifices one’s selfishness in the name of the other. No talk of humaneness, respect for “otherness” is possible, if one’s bosom is cold for one’s family — if you do not love your family, you cannot love mankind. Family is the first school of self-control, self-awareness, kindness, forgiveness, generosity and so on. If one is able to betray one’s family, one will also betray his country. One wonderful quality about our family culture is, that we do not have “private space,” in the sense of “this space is mine and dare you trespass!” Only one area is untrespassable in a family: that of intimacy and chastity. The entire rest is a sacredly common ground. We teach our children that in the family: “mine” and “my” are the worst kind of words.
Once in a while I indulge in the wish to purchase for myself something out of sheer whim: something which could not eventually bring benefit to our family. And every time this happens, I feel like I have violated the holiness of our family oneness. Indulging in one’s wishes in a family is very wrong. It immediately puts you out of the family: on your own. This, above all, is a punishment in itself. It takes away the light and freedom you have, when you are not “on your own.” It also ruins the basic idea of a family as an inviolable wholeness. And, otherwise, one of the things that make me extremely happy is when I earn something, put it in the family treasury and feel free of even the slightest wish to possess it. Family possession frees me of a base instinct, that of self-centred greed. All I do and earn and wish for, is ultimately dedicated our family. My wife is also this kind of person: abnegating her own comforts, pleasures and wishes in the name of the family. On this, we have a tacit understanding and our bond is, I believe, strong precisely through the neglect of self and full-will aspiration toward what is good for the others in the family.
The reason why I write this chapter is my unshakeable conviction that the crisis in modern society is deeply rooted in the “crisis of the family”, which is, in its turn, deeply rooting in what we often describe as “modern culture” and “modern world” and which, in simpler terms, is merely the kingdom of egotism and self-proclaimed gods. However, self-proclaimed gods see no further than their noses and the “wisdom” of “I don’t care if the world perishes after I die” is what practically defines consumerism on all levels. The loss of family warmth comes after egotism has settled deeply in the human heart and society. The symptoms of this coldness are not just a warning, they are a proof of the threat — that this civilisation is doomed and dying. Or, if I may paraphrase an ancient Roman exclamation: the family — to the lions! There is a hostility against normal families (a.k.a. “the traditional family”) which is founded on a thoroughly false conception of freedom: selfishness, self-indulgence, self-worship (often passing at one time as “self cultivation” and at another, as “sexual rights”) and many more deified ideas which, paradoxically, reduce and destroy the happiness which a real family gives — the happiness of forgetting oneself in serving the others. Staring into one’s own ego blinds us to see the simple truths, the simple joys, the simple rules of healthy living.
In Chinese culture, as well as in older Bulgarian culture, the family occupies a devoutly high position. There is an entire series of Chinese books I wish to translate into Bulgarian: the wisdom of family life and education. They could make a wonderful series to bring us back the simple, but brilliant wisdom of tenderly caring for what is dearest in our transient lives — the discovery of how great and important this little cell of society is for all society and for the very existence of the world.
Beijing, 25 August 2018