Over time we have ended up with a lot of confusion in ourselves about our roles in relationship to our families.

So why would you invest in the family?

You would invest in the family because you understand that part of your incarnation and part of being in the way of things is to find your function within family. Now it doesn’t mean lockstep, it doesn’t mean that every mother is the same mother or every father is the same father. You have to hear your unique way through, but unique doesn’t necessarily just mean personality desire. What is appropriate in view of my skills, opportunities, needs of the family, economics, political situation, and so on?

When you’re poor, and a family of six is living in one room, it’s a very different set of roles and demands than if you’re living in a situation where everybody has their own room they can go in and lock the door. It’s hard to face, because we think we won that affluence which has given us the privacy to have our own rooms, but it’s really a mixed bag. It’s given us the privacy to become very isolated and cut off from each other and very private and very secretive and very ashamed and very embarrassed and very uncomfortable, with a whole lot of stuff to carry around with us.

As long as you’re in a body, you gotta act, and as long as you act, you act within certain roles.

For example, for years I was so busy with my spiritual development that I didn’t have time to vote. I didn’t have time to be involved in politics and all I could do was grouse about politicians. I saw that for some reason I took incarnation in the United States at this time. Now do I say, “This is all an abominable error, and God, you screwed up… I should have been born on the Brahmaloka, and this is an error”? Maybe there is a plan. Maybe there is consciousness in it all. Let me assume that there is, and I have something to learn through the curriculum I’ve been handed, which includes the fact that I was born in the United States.

I grew through a period where I learned that the idea that freedom isn’t necessarily leaving home. There was a time when it looked like I should help out at home, because there was need for me there, and because I was the unmarried member of the family, and I was mobile and able to do that. So I confronted that fact of the mythic implication, “Boy, what a myth that turned out to be. He went off into the sunset, you know, and ends up 50 years old, unmarried, and coming home.” I mean, that sounds like a failure, “Boy, you poor slob!” and yet when I went into it, it kept feeling right to me.

There was something about all the drugs I took and all the meditation I did that allowed me to tune into that feeling of rightness, independent of the fact that culturally it wasn’t hip to live at home at 50. It wasn’t the sort of thing we were doing these days. I came home, and I started to live there, and it wasn’t easy, they were used to living a certain way, and here I came in like an elephant, and at first I felt very cramped because I was trying to be somebody.

See, I am really a masochist in some ways, because I want to get free so bad that if there is something in my life that catches me, it catches me in anger or catches me in irritation or frustration, it’s because of some sort of place that’s clinging inside me in my mind, and I tend to go towards those things, rather than away from them. So I knew there was work to do there.

I walked into the house and nobody knows who Ram Dass is, I come in and its Richard, nobody even asks, they don’t care. I found that an incredibly beautiful discipline for myself, to not bring in Ram Dass. I was trying to get free of my own attachment to my own models of who I thought I was, and I was using the family situation to do that.

-Ram Dass