Dear Lorelai and Coen,
In writing this letter to you I wondered what to say. At the time I write this, the world is in turmoil and changing almost as fast as the earth is turning. I don’t know what it will be like by the time you read this, and I am not sure I have anything of value to help you navigate your world, one that in my day sounds both fantastic and frightening. Only frightening to me, because I am not sure my generation would be able to handle the awesome power that you must have at your fingertips. But just as God held back His most precious and powerful secret of the atom until man was ready — this technology and the rate of speed at which your world must change was held back for your generation.
As I write this, we still try to kill cancer by poisoning the body in hopes we kill the disease before the patient. I know it must sound barbaric but it is the best we can do. Many things we wrestle with today are that way. Just like generations past, we must seem foolish, hypocritical or in some cases evil. We are really not. Foolish, maybe, but we are trying. I don’t know what the history books will record about my time or me, but most likely they are wrong.
We face global problems, economies melting down, evil theocracies that wish to put the world in submission, currencies that are about to collapse and governments all over the world moving to seize control “for the good of humanity.”
Our problems may not have the same names or faces, but man doesn’t change. The biggest problem we face is ourselves and each other. We don’t feel like we belong to anything bigger than ourselves any more, nor do we feel as if we belong to any of the labels we used to love so much: conservative, Democrat, religious and even male or female.
Our voices are not being heard. It feels as if, suddenly, we are speaking but no sound is coming out. No matter how much we speak out, the governments of the world just continue to do what they want and deny what most of us see, feel and know is true. Man has lost his willingness to hear and speak reason, and because of that, we no longer feel like we have any control of our lives. Hope is fading for many — the hope that life will get any better for our children or you.
Does any of this make any sense in your world?
How I wish I could see your world. I have great expectations, because I know your mom and her brother and sisters. I know their friends and they are smart and strong. Many doubt them in their youth, but I didn’t, nor should they doubt you. I remember when people doubted me when I was young. I think it is a right of passage. We think our parents are clueless and parents think we are lazy, reckless or idealistic. Personally, I believe the time to be a healthy amount of all three of those things is when you are young. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Spend a couple of summers just being lazy. You will never be able to later in life, and by the time you have enough free time to goof off, you are too tired and you hurt too much. While you should always remember you are mortal, the greatest explorers to ever live were thought to be reckless. Those who discover new things always take bigger chances. It is why no one else discovered what those reckless explorers found. The risk was too high. Don’t listen to those who are too afraid to really explore. I say risk, seek, question, push. Don’t just take the road less travelled, but occasionally walk were there is no path. Know that you are never really lost, just someplace you have never been. Enjoy it. Don’t panic. It doesn’t help.
One more thing people will accuse you of being when you are coming of age, which you should wear as a badge of honor: “idealistic.” Do all you can to remain that way your entire life. The minute you allow this to fade, you begin to get old and die. (By the way, don’t buy into the BS that you will never die — you are more than the electrical storm in your brain. You are more than a pattern of thought and memories, no matter how unique that pattern may be.)
I am not sure how popular Jesus will be in your day, but he is still fairly important in my day, at least to me. He said that the only way to live forever is to come to Him like a child.
I remember when you were very small. You would look up to me and ask: why? Why is the grass green, the sky blue or Grandpa’s tummy so big. Why? To me, that is what He means. Never lose your childlike wonderment of the universe or your thirst for answers.
As we grow older, we begin to think we know everything, and what we don’t know isn’t important. But most of what we think we know is probably wrong (trust me, look up “disco” and “Kanye West”). The things we don’t know contain the answers to questions even your generation hasn’t asked yet. Therefore, question.
Question with boldness, even the very existence of God, for if there be a God, he must surely rather honest questioning over blindfolded fear.
I feel like I haven’t given you anything you probably don’t already know. But perhaps that is it. Life is about humility and common sense. It is about listening to your gut, doing your homework, studying it in your mind and then listening to your gut. Go with your gut even if others mock or laugh at you. Still, you must be humble enough to realize that the others may be right. Be humble enough not just to question others, but also yourself.
The combination of common sense and humility will help you find the answers, and know this: the truth will set you free, but it will make you miserable first. Finding the truth is only half the equation. Living the truth is the hard part and that takes real courage.
A happy, productive and successful life is about the balance of fear and reason. Dogs have a gift of fear, just as we do. If you have serial killers still, you will have heard of someone who lived next door to the killer say: “My dog knew. Every time he would walk into the house, Fluffy would bark. I should have listened.” What Fluffy has is the gift of fear. We have it too. We just dismiss it because we have something that dogs do not, the gift of reason. Fluffy only feels fear, but cannot weigh the evidence and think it through to dismiss or take action. When those two gifts are in balance, they lead to safety. When they are out of alignment, bad things happen.
When fear rules, you make horrible mistakes. The higher the fear, the bigger the mistake. It is why we rounded up the Japanese in WW2, and why we now are talking about banning all Muslims. I hope history shows we didn’t do that.
When reason plays too much of a role, we dismiss Fluffy and end up with our body being boiled for stew and our head in the creepy neighbor’s refrigerator. (Boy, if you don’t have serial killers in your day, you will never figure that out.) Fear and reason must be in balance, or you will become a slave to one or the other.
A good life, a life worthy and well-lived is about principles over policies, fear and reason, common sense, kindness and seeing a bit of you in everyone you meet. When you really master this, you will find yourself weeping for the pain of someone you thought you hated for years. That person who has caused you so much pain — you will begin to see how lost, desperate or alone they feel. Your heart will break for them.
You are no better, or different than anyone else. That doesn’t mean all choices are equal, that we all live the same life, have the same stuff, experience an equal amount of joy or pain, wealth or poverty or of any outcome. It just means you do not have a right to make any man do what you wish nor does he over you.
We are in this together and we need one another. The second violin is nothing without the first or the cello section. The percussion is nothing without the brass and the piano. While the pianist may be the main soloist, she needs the person nobody sees to turn the pages. Finally, when it comes to the conductor, remember, he came from an orchestra at some point and he may very well end up there again. Without the symphony, he is a crazy man with a stick waving his hands on some street corner to music only he can hear.
Each of us bring something to the orchestra that is unique, and only together can we make beautiful music. Knowing this will make it easier to be kind, understanding and open to new thoughts or ideas.
Question yourself — in a healthy way — before questioning others. Look for your role in the mess you are wondering at. Question everything — even the advice I am giving you now. Things are only valuable when you know they are true and you make them a part of you. Listen more than you speak, and when you do open your mouth, speak with the courage of your convictions. It is never the wrong thing to stand up for what is right. It is never right to stand for those things you know are wrong. Life is about more than winning, it is about finding and standing for truth no matter how the crowd jeers.
You may pay a high price. You may lose your friends, family, prestige, awards, public praise, jobs or, in extreme cases, your freedom or your life. But if it is in defense of another man’s life or freedom, if it is because you are standing for what you know is right, then there is no price too high to pay. You will never forget your cowardice, and while you may think no one will see or remember your courage, real courage leaves a dent in the universe and small acts result in profound changes. It is the willingness to do the right thing no matter the cost is that makes a life worth remembering.
Know that you were born at this time for a reason, that we all were, we all have a role to play. Find yours. Each of our lives are important and mean something. That’s why you must always remember that the individual is sovereign. The many never outweigh the one, unless you personally choose to sacrifice yourself for others.
You must defend the defenseless and the only ideas or words that need defending are those the majority don’t want to hear or see. Stand and defend the rights of others even if you disagree with their opinions — unless they wish to harm you or take basic civil rights from others. It will bring you great comfort later in life to remember how you stood.
The most important thing I want to leave you with is this: hope. Have hope. Foster it in yourself and in others, no matter what you are going through in your day. You will make it. As long as you always live your life with integrity and honesty, a life where your “yes” means yes and your “no” means no — when you always say what you mean and mean what you say — you will find truth within yourself and will be filled with the hope only the truth brings. And when that hope springs forth in you, others will see it in your countenance, words and in your eyes. Because you will be known to speak only the words you mean, your hope will leap in to others.
With hope, man’s spirit is unquenchable. He has, he can and he will do anything. It is the spark that when we stand together in its glow, it becomes a flame that will light the entire world and man shall be free from the darkness again. Or perhaps, because of your generation, mankind will be truly free for the very first time.