Here’s My Simple New Year’s Resolution: Focus.

This is a book blog for Into the Briar Patch: A Family Memoir. By focusing on my own Southern ancestors, the book explores some blockbuster questions. The purpose of this blog is to continue digging into these questions. Here are two of them:

  • What are the psychological origins of racism for whites in this country?
  • How can racism and the trauma of slavery be further healed, with compassion and respect for blacks and whites alike?

These two questions have an “action” component for me:

Last year, with research and great help from Twitter friends, I found several living Kirven (maternal-paternal) relatives who are biracial. Some of my (white) cousins and I are waiting for their further responses to my letters and phone inquiries. Would our biracial second cousins like to meet us? I hope so. But I’m not going to pester them or rush them.

This coming year, maybe I will find living Fraser (maternal-maternal) relatives who are biracial. If so, I’ll write more letters. I’ll hope again for a meeting.

Here are two more questions raised by Into the Briar Patch:

  • To what degree are people’s moral compasses shaped by historical contexts? Does everyone have a certain “core sense” of good and bad, or not?
  • Why do good people end up committing harmful acts, while still believing in the “goodness” or justifiability of these acts?

These two questions verge upon a classic problem, the origin of evil in human beings. At the end of Voltaire’s Candide, the bedraggled surviving characters lament to a wise philosopher: “But surely . . . there is a dreadful amount of evil in the world.” Why? They ask him. The philosopher tells them to shut up and slams the door in their faces.

Right. The best response is laughter. But the mystery of evil is still out there.

The briar patch of human nature has some mighty dark places. Yet we all start as babies, by our very nature good. Go figure.

Fraser, Kirven, racism, Voltaire, human nature, genealogy, blogs

Light and Shadow

These four questions make up focus of my blog, then. I’ll be attentive to healing action, the unexpected, humor, mystery, and the good/evil paradox of human nature. I’ll look for these themes as I keep searching for my living biracial second cousins, and as I contemplate the moral views expressed or acted-on by my Kirven and Fraser ancestors in the South.

So much to research and write about, I realize. I’ll be grateful if I can tame only my small section of the briar patch of human history.

We can pick only one berry at a time. And only when it ripens.

I’ll try to post weekly, whenever I come across a new living relative, an unexpected moral insight, a curious find, a mystery, or a story that brings a smile or a tear.


Happy New Year to my readers! I’m always glad to see your comments, thoughts, and questions!