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“If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family,” says the popular spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Yet this Winter 2017-2018 issue of Parabola shows how family life itself can be a means to awaken.

Capable of achieving the highest state of meditation, Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes here that he found another teacher in his willful toddler son. “His freedom to express his will touched an unconscious wound,” writes Vaughan-Lee, who found himself lashing out in anger at the little boy because the “rules of my childhood had never allowed me to express such freedom.” The anger eased as he became conscious of the buried hurt that obscured his love.

Our families show us who we are. In pieces by the great primatologist Jane Goodall and by elephant expert Eleanor O’Hanlon, we see that this is true in the animal kingdom as well as the human. Not only do chimpanzees feel and express a range of emotions, including violence as well as compassion, writes Goodall, but together they express “what I can only describe as a sense of awe at the wonder of nature.” O’Hanlon describes the extended family dynamics of desert elephants, who demonstrate extraordinary care and responsibility for each other. “In their eyes was knowledge, borne through generations of their ancestors,” she writes, “of how to live and walk in beauty and harmlessness on the Earth.”

Our true family isn’t necessarily to be found among our closest relatives. This issue explores the way a healing connection and a deepened sense of meaning and possibility can sometimes be found among fellow seekers and kindred spirits. In these pages, we discover “families” found in a monastery, in a rag-tag tribe called the Juggalos, and in the circle of warmth and inspiration around a Palestinian rapper in the grim Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem.

May this issue show you how we are all related, all of us sharing this Earth and the elements that make up this creation, including our capacity to connect.

—Tracy Cochran

Cover DescriptionTaos Pueblo-Moonlight. Eanger Irving Couse, 1914. Oil on canvas. New Mexico Museum of Art

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VOL. 42:4 Families
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