We adopted Charles in January, and are watching Charley grow up faster and faster (what’s the rush?!?!) I miss Ezra and Price, and wonder what they’d be doing now. Being a father has made me want to clarify the lessons I’ve learned. If I could give my sons some things to think on, it’d be along these lines. In no particular order.
- 1) Create. Consumption is easier and easier as technology evolves and the world becomes smaller. It is easy to fill your day with others’ creations, and I do think that’s important. Even more important is to learn to create something ourselves. Whether this is some sort of art (painting, writing, music, architecture, culinary), building an intentional family or living environment, a business… learn a craft. Set aside a time each week, or even daily, where you work on creating something.
- 2) You will never answer all of your questions, and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep asking. “The pursuit of happiness” was mentioned in the US Declaration of Independence rather than the word “happiness” by itself, even though the other two “inalienable rights” were present tense – life, and liberty. It is simple to live accepting anything; it is rewarding and difficult to wonder. Question what you are told – I mean this in a curious, mindful way, not confrontational. Question for your own understanding. No one owes you explanations. Let your curiosity lead you to furthering yourself. What your mind worries on matters.
- 3) You will always have lonely times, but you are loved. We are mysterious; we are obvious. No matter how loved you are, in the truest sense, you will have days and moments no one can know with you. You will feel there are thoughts heavy and explosive inside you which burn to be expressed but you cannot find words for, or someone to express them to. This is normal. Address these things, through your creating, and let solace be ok sometimes. Remember your loved ones, though, and let them be a part of those parts of you. Working out how to express feelings which are difficult or confusing for me has led to my most intimate friendships.
- 4) Someone always has it better than you, and someone always has it worse. After losing Ezra and Price, we heard often “I hugged my kids a little tighter tonight.” Unsaid, but ringing in our ears every time, was “since I still have them.” Realize someone always has it worse than you – but please don’t let your lesson from this be to have more gratefulness for what you have. Don’t base your gratefulness off of others’ situations. Let the knowledge life is hard spur you to tear down your pride, and help those around you. Your troubles become much more bearable when you’re helping someone else through theirs.
On the other side of the same coin, someone will always have it better than you. Be proud for them, and strive always to better your self, never to become someone else.
- 5) Much of the beauty comes from the pain. It is cliché to say I wish I could take away all the pain you’ve felt, and will feel. Rather, I wish you could fully comprehend beauty without pain, although I don’t think we can. You will know loss, and you will know struggle – although I hope not too often. When you experience pain, don’t push it away – embrace it. Surround yourself with the people who care, whether that’s one person or one thousand. There is a song I love, called Why It Matters, which at one point says:
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it’s protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters
The beauty I mean, in life, is the recognition of those things which matter. The things which tug at our soul, connect us to others, and form who we are and who we are to one another. Look for those things.
- 6) People have great value. In the Bible, we are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. Across most spiritual teachings is the idea of recognizing the value of life. We are not islands, but instead we are the sea. Know your friends and family, those people who have dedicated themselves to your betterment, and do the same for them. Hold your relationships with other in high regard, and never take them for granted. You will have some people only for moments, and others for a lifetime. Look for the value in each.
You yourself have great value as well. God calls us sons and daughters, and goes as far as saying your body is a temple. Pay attention to the things you let in your mind, your body, and your relationships. Be intentional about taking care of yourself and others.
- 7) There is so much to learn and see. Really, I could sum this up in one word: explore. So much more than traipsing through a jungle (although hey, that’s incredible too!), this is an approach to life. Learning how an atom moves, or how clouds can carry heavy loads while floating nimbly through the air, is as much exploration as lacing up your boots and climbing a mountain. I advise you do both. In the same way, explore your mind. Know yourself, and pay attention. Explore the mysteries of spirituality. I personally believe the Bible, but have spent much time exploring what other teachings say. Know why you believe anything – explore answers like a diver probes a shipwreck.
There is so much diversity in the world. In who we are, in how we live, in what we create and in the land itself. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. No matter how much you know, there is more to see. Relish this. Pay attention to where you are – be fully present. You can be inspired by the smallest moments.
- 8) There is always hope. No matter what you have seen, felt, been through… there is always hope. There are good people all over the world. You have, in yourself, the ability to love and be loved. The ability to change someone’s present, or future. To change your own. The past does not write your future.
- 9) Your mom and I love you. If you haven’t heard it enough, we love you. We always will. We may not always LIKE you, but our love is a constant for you. When it’s all too much, when you’re alone, when you’re confused, amazed, broken or victorious, we love you.
There is so much more to say, but if you can carry these things you do well. And of course, if you want to know more, talk to your Mom or I anytime.