It was a fun evening with J.P. and D.P. filled with philosophy, political arguments and relationship/friendship banter.
The key debate this evening was about the importance of family to happiness. My point of view was that relationships trumped family. Obviously we start with family (a mom and dad), and if we are fortunate, this provides a foundation of love (i.e. "loving family"). Too often though the family unit is disrupted or non existent, so does this mean there is no hope for happiness?
The conservative view of "it takes a family" (Bob Dole's 1996 speech) rebutting Hilary Clinton's 1996 book "It takes a Village" was a decent political conservative counter. However, I believe both views are short sighted. The context of that debate was around raising children - but I think it applies to the debate about family and happiness also.
I believe "it takes a relationship" - a loving relationship to foster happiness.
J.P. cited Brook's book on Happiness in his defense of correlating family to happiness. He cited Brooks' five key "determinants" of happiness - Faith, Family, Friendship and Work. I had studied Brooks back in 2011 and quipped that maybe our procreation instinct was to create family for the pursuit of happiness ( see "Billions of Happiness - 10/31/2011"). Yes that could be the start of a successful relationship - but not guaranteed if not fraught with probable pitfalls.
Barry Schwartz (author of one of my favorite books "The Paradox of Choice") took exception to Brooks five determinant postulate in his editorial to the NY Times - strike one, two, three. "So yes, by all means, let us foster the aspects of life that really contribute to happiness. But let us at the same time acknowledge that market fundamentalism is probably the biggest threat to human happiness that we face."
Aristotle placed friendship above justice and the highest form of love (see "Earn a Friend 8/10/2015"). I prefer to use Aristotle in my argument that relationship trumps family. Family love can become conflicted with abuse, competition, control, and .... well the list of potential flaws is endless. You don't choose your family - it can be a one way ticket in the relationship journey.
Friendships and relationships are mutual and "earned". You can choose a relationship, you have no choice in family. Consequently, I view the freedom of choice as the path to happiness - and you get to choose relationships.
There are plenty of happy individuals without family. But there are no happy individuals without relationships (friends).
It's great to have friends to argue with ---- Now that is a relationship paradox of choice :)