Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Serial Blogging Part 2

My way-too-serious letter to Jack, continued from last week:

Surround yourself with good friends. Some friends are easy to make, and yet never should have been made at all. Some folks are hard to get to know, but you’ll be the richer for it. Keep these people close to you. They’ll unwittingly hurt and disappoint you, and you’ll do the same or worse to them. But friendship is still worth it. It takes time to cultivate these relationships. Make it. They’ll be more valuable to you than most things in life. You’ll inevitably move between and away from different circles of friends. Again, don’t make the mistake I did, leaving close friends behind and not keeping in touch for sometimes many years at a stretch. Wandering the earth like a gypsy, out of contact with those that once knew you well is no way to live, Jack.

It’s corny, and I can’t believe I’m sharing this story. You’ll learn that being a father will make your brains mushy at times. When I was a boy, I asked the Lord (quite often) to give me wisdom. I had read James 1:5, “But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally… and it shall be given him” (ERV) and I Kings 3 where Solomon asked God for a discerning heart. I know in my bones that I am the wiser for having asked this thing. And I would encourage you to ask this too, and to “believe and not doubt,” because he “gives generously to all.” If there's one thing you'll need in this incredibly complex world, it's wisdom, Jack.

Maybe you’ll have your old dad’s taste for black humor. I hope you’ll use it often, if so. Sometimes, cracking wise in the face of extreme pain and grim circumstances not only makes you feel better, but it might make others relax, too. And if it gets you into trouble (as it often has me), at the very least you had a good laugh. When bones break, fortunes evaporate, or dreams don’t come true, pop off a good one for your old dad. Preferably within earshot.

WOMEN. Oh boy. That one’s a doozy. They’re about the best thing that ever happened to us, but you already knew that. Son, the only sound advice possible to give is that they’re all different, and all fallible people, just like us. And there are ultimately two women in every one you’ll meet: The woman on the outside, and the woman on the inside. Find one that looks nice in both places, but especially the latter. It’s terribly unfashionable, but ultimately, being a man and acting like one is the best method to attracting said beauty. And I’m not talking about strutting around with a cigar in your mouth calling everyone “honey,” either. Men open doors, hold elevators and pick up the check. Men exude strength to those around them, even when they don’t feel all that strong personally. We handle the little details for others. We serve others. Men take the lead spiritually. We know all about the world we live in. And darn it, we dress well to boot.

Speaking of attire, I have two words for you: Half Windsor. If it’s good enough for Presidents and Kings, it’s good enough for you, kid.

I learned a while back that everyone has a rock to throw. If you possess something great and take pride in it, people will envy and hate you for it. If you create something beautiful, or do something admirable, or stand up for something worth defending, they’ll be there, rocks in hand. I tell you this not to discourage, but to warn. Being good, doing good, and having good in your life is your goal, no matter what. Steel yourself against those who would destroy all that is right and good in the world. Defeat them with any and all the weapons at your disposal, the most powerful of these being goodness itself.

Jack, always give the benefit of the doubt. I can’t tell you how many times someone has wronged me, and I’ve thought hastily of vengeance, only to discover there was a reason or some other circumstance behind it. Don’t condone wrong, but at least try to understand first.

Don’t be afraid to fight. Literally, if necessary. To some people’s horror, men still fight with their bare hands. Yes
, hopefully only in very rare instances. It’s a frightening and exhilarating thing. But if you know you’re in the right, have done all you can to avoid violence, and have used your wits to effect a better resolution, fight with everything you have. Contrary to popular thought, there is no such thing as a fair fight. In the moment, there is only the strong, and the stronger. “Defeat in battle begins with the eyes,” Tacitus said. Take him at his word: At least look like a tough sonofagun, even if you’re still working on it. Never compromise yourself or your character, but if the time ever comes, hit harder than the other fellow. And the best battle is one that ends quickly.

I wondered a lot after you were born about where you would go in the world, and what you would see in your life. I suppose it’s only natural for a father to want to know those things. So I’d encourage you to go see the world as soon as you can. Make time for it when you’re fairly young. People tried to discourage me from traveling after college. They said, “Ah, you’ll have time for that later.” But you probably won’t. Since I’m piling quotes of wiser men on you, here’s one from St. Augustine of Hippo (yeah, Hippo): “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.” Go see all that you can see. You’ll never regret broadening your perspective, knowing how others live all over the world.

Don’t be afraid to do something that looks stupid to others. A calculated risk sometimes can be very smart, indeed. Now everyone is afraid to fail, and even more afraid to call others failures or keep score. But failure isn't your enemy. Failure may lead to your great victories. Learn from these low times in your life. It’s not possible to know beforehand where you’ll be led by God. Or why.

Now whether all this advice is good or not, I don’t know (although I think it’s not bad, to be honest). But, good or not, as your father, it’s my prerogative and duty to give it. Jack, I wish you the best in your life, and wish you a long one, at that. I also pray to God that I’ll get to savor seeing a whole lot of it. I love you more than you will ever be capable of knowing. May God richly bless you.

Your Loving Father,
Morgan Lee

Have a great week, everybody. Postscript: It dawned on me yesterday that when he's older, Jack will either read this letter with a smile on his face, or see in it a detailed list of my failures as a dad. Now that's motivation.

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