||CHAPTER 3: ACQUISITION OF VALUES AND PURPOSE VS. ALIENATION||Page 8|
The question of family purpose may recur later in life such as the renewed commitment that occurs at the birth of a child. For example, Dorothy Day began to emerge from her "long loneliness" of alienation when her daughter Tamar was born. Putting her quest for purpose in religious terms, she wrote, "there had been the physical struggle, the mortal combat almost, of giving birth to a child, and now there was coming the struggle for my own soul." Helen Caldicott says that with the birth of her first child, she realized "that I would die to save the lives of my children. At that moment I accepted personal responsibility for stopping the nuclear arms race."
Religion often extends and expresses the family values and purpose. For A. J. Muste, the church "was the center of social life and culture, as well as of worship and religious training" for his family as he was growing up. And later, as an ordained minister, facing the crisis of World War I, Muste found that "it was a problem which I could not evade because I had been brought up to take religion, specifically the Biblical teaching and Gospel ethic, seriously....the demand that is placed upon us because we belong to the family of man - that we be honest and pure and that we love all men." Similarly, Emily Green Balch, aged 10, responded to a "challenge" from her minister to "enlist....in the service of goodness" and years later she recalled, "I think I never abandoned in any degree my desire to live up to it."
The love of the family gives values an emotional warmth and power. All other values, in the church and in commitment to social justice, are based upon the love of the family, and it is against this love that all human relations are measured and by which they are judged. In the words quoted above from Muste, we must fight for peace and justice because we all "belong to the family of man." And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love....When we speak of loving those who oppose us....we speak of a love which is....understanding, redeeming good will for all men....a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers.
The author and friends
The question of purpose arises especially when young people leave home such as when they go away to school. Encouraged by the "broadening" influence of higher education students may inspire each other to reach out and take up a social purpose. W.E.B. DuBois, one of the generation of Black students who gained their education after the emancipation of the slaves, shared in a vision of his fellow graduates in a "program for freedom and progress among Negroes." "I replaced my hitherto egocentric world by a world centering and whirling about my race in America." Jane Addams, as one of the generation of women who went to college for the first time, shared in the enthusiasm of her fellow graduates for their "precious ideals....way of martyrdom and high purpose we had marked out for ourselves."
The sense of purpose gained by Bertrand Russell at the university was more individualist, but no less demanding and idealistic: "I walked by myself in the Tiergarten and made projects of future work....one series of books on the philosophy of the sciences....and another series of books on social questions." It was a life's work that he never abandoned. Reading and studying makes it possible to reach out beyond the confines of family, church, and school and to adopt values from the whole range of human experience. For Dorothy Day it was the way to find her purpose in life. Already, at the age of 15, she was an avid reader of Carl Sandburg, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair:
(continued on next page)