This Chuseok, my entire conversation with a cousin that I had not seen since New Year’s comprised of only two words: “Hi,” and “Bye.” We spent approximately five hours in the same house that day, but other than at that moment of curt exchange, I don’t think I even looked at his face properly.
Single word conversations are not too unusual between us. All we ever do together is sit in the same room and watch television. It is not that we hoard some deep-rooted dislike for each other or had a big fight in the past—it just has always been this way for us, for as long as I can remember. We do not know each other well, and neither of us cares enough to even attempt to fix that problem. I like to think that this situation was inevitable for us, due to the taciturn nature of my cousin and the many years of separation we had during my studies abroad. However, even without this excuse, our relationship would probably not have been much different from now.
The core reason for our indifference towards each other lies in the minuscule role we each play in the other’s life. How often does one meet his or her relatives? I am quite confident that in my case, less than a quarter of my acquaintances do more than five times a year. And if it were not for holidays like Chuseok, during which most people hold semi-mandatory family meetings, I would reduce the percentage even more. Those occasions that we do meet are so rare, that they start to feel more like a formality and a perfunctory activity. Many would probably not even notice anything if the family meetings gradually became less and less frequent, eventually coming to a complete stop.
The connection we share with our relatives is very paradoxical; it is the strongest out of all, yet at the same time the weakest. To put it bluntly, the only thing that binds us together are bits of similar DNA. Luckily, it is human nature to treasure that similarity and feel kinship for that connection. Thus, “family”. In light of the hectic atmosphere of society today, however, that connection seems to be too intangible. Connections such as school friends, lovers, or colleagues are much more accessible and outreaching. It is hard enough for us to keep up with the hustle of life and the numerous other human connections that come with it; the intangible connections are soon neglected.
If my aforementioned cousin and I had not been cousins, there is a very thin chance that we would have even known of each other’s existence. As cousins, we still lead completely different lives that would not be greatly affected by the absence of the other. I find this truth to be quite tragic, for it demonstrates the weakened bonds between relatives that are becoming more and more common nowadays. Relatives take more effort and care to hold close than other relationships because they are more easily forgotten from our minds. Nevertheless, once one manages to grab on, they can become precious family, someone to lean on. It cannot be right to let this connection become something less than an acquaintance. Instead of scrolling through your Facebook dash tonight, how about sending a simple message asking “How are you doing?” to a cousin?