“When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life” (Antisthenes).
OUR “KIN” ARE OUR RELATIVES, THOSE TO WHOM WE ARE RELATED BY BIRTH, MARRIAGE, OR ADOPTION. But the word “kinship” suggests something different — and much better — than the mere state of being related to someone. It is an affinity, or attraction we feel, to other people with whom we share important things, whether we are kin to them or not. And it happens to be one of the deepest sources of joy available to us in this disconnected world.
First, it needs to be said that we should work on having a greater feeling of kinship for those we are actually kin to. These days, families become scattered geographically, and the tendency is for us to become detached emotionally from our relatives. It takes a special kind of work to maintain our family ties, and it often takes disciplining our thoughts to retain an appreciation for our kinfolks, whoever they may be. We lose many of the best things in life when we don’t do this work.
But second, we may enjoy a feeling of kinship with many others besides our physical family. For every person on our physical family tree, there are many more people to whom we are related by sharing common joys, sorrows, interests, experiences, and places. At whatever points our lives overlap with the lives of other human beings, ties are created and kinship is brought into being. The highest of these kinships is that which we feel for those who share our spiritual lives.
In the very broadest sense, of course, there is a kinship that all human beings ought to feel for one another. Despite our differences, we have many commonalities that ought to make us feel as if we were kin. Mohandas Gandhi was widely known for this kind of thinking, and he said, “I feel kinship with everyone in the world and feel that I cannot be happy without the humblest of us being happy.”
In addition to the strength that comes from kinship (“When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life”), there is really no earthly happiness that equals the feeling of kinship. It is the “heart to heart” likeness with other people that gives us gladness.
“It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn).