To my son,
I think often of the legacy I leave for you. I wonder how memory will color me in your eyes. If you will look back at the lessons I tried to impart and find value in them or if you will throw them all aside and see them as meaningless rubbish held by a man who had no real idea about the world.
Though I can not know what you will do with the lessons that I offer, I want to impart a few gifts of wisdom that I have accumulated in my years. My hope is that you will take them into your life to make it bigger than mine ever was.
Always protect those that are weaker than you.
As you are already such a compassionate and caring child, I imagine you will be even more so when you grow up. I have no doubt that you will be a man who is filled with a quiet strength that can only be born from a deep, confident concern for the world. Never lose that. I never had it and I want that you should never lose it. It makes you already greater than your father and that is all we fathers ever want our sons to be.
The world will try to convince you that your strength should be used to get what you want, and it should sometimes, but never at the expense of anyone else.
Use your strength more often to help others get what they want. You are lucky to have been born and lived in the circumstances and situations to which you were born. I was not so lucky growing up. Appreciate your fortune and always lend yourself to improving the world of those who were not so fortunate.
Give often and deep from the stores of your blessings. Be a light to the world and never a shadow. Do not be afraid to throw a punch to protect the people who need it. It is not ideal but occasionally necessary that we must defend, but we never attack.
Never be afraid to make some mistakes.
You are going to make mistakes, my son. Some big and some little. Some that will fill you up with regret and sadness, and linger like the smell of smoke soaked into your clothes and some that you will shake off like a cold, dry snow that does not stick but leaves you chilled. Never be afraid to move in the direction of failures. It is the direction of life changers and market makers.
If your mistakes be small; laugh them off. You should always be comfortable laughing at yourself and never try to take this living too serious. If your mistakes be large; laugh them off and learn from them. Big or small a mistake is nothing for regretting.
Regrets are born in chances not taken, mistakes avoided because of comfort too-long-held. Be happy with your mistakes and learn the lessons they teach because most of your mistakes will end up being the regrets of people who never had the courage to make them.
Be a renaissance man.
Learn how to dance. How to tie a tie. How to fix a sink and how to mend a broken heart. Never be afraid to cry and never be scared of the tears of another. Read poetry and memorize the poems that strike your soul. Read everything, in fact, and keep a book with you always. Keep your body fit and your mind sharp. Come to love and spend as much time as possible in the outdoors. Camping. Hiking. Running. Living. But come back to the world in a suit and a tie, with the manners of a prince and the wit of a bard. Live dangerous and free and full of passion. Travel often, everywhere, and live among the natives. Learn new languages and new customs and make friends with the world.
Be vulnerable. Love and respect your mother, and all women and people in fact, to the amount which is proper – fully and eternally. Expose your heart and soul to the world but never expect anyone to understand. Be the life of the party but never be out of control. Know how to carry on a conversation and how to make the world laugh, but recognize the need for sincerity and give your shoulder often for others to cry upon.
Learn to appreciate the arts. Support lost causes. Be a philosopher of life and never think that you know enough about anything to be certain. Wear the cool, quiet confidence of a wolf and keep a close pack of loyal friends. Work with your hands and your heart and your mind and your soul and be the little bit of the everything that a man should be in this world.
Chase the butterflies, splash in the puddles and catch the snowflakes on your tongue.
There will come a time when the world will tell you that the childish things you so much enjoy now are no longer befitting a man of your age. When they tell you that I want you to look them straight in the eyes, smile your charming smile and tell them that all the fun in all the world was invented from the pursuit of childish things and they can go fuck themselves.
Never give up the sillies, my boy. Never stop laughing your laugh. When your child is born, carry on our tradition of tickle fights and puddle jumping. Teach them of Tybalt and Mercutio with sword fights in the rain. Teach them the difference between a toot and a fart and the other important nuances of bodily emanations.
Do not ever let life convince you of its seriousness and always find a way to laugh and make others laugh. No one leaves this experiment alive so find a reason to smile more than you scowl and laugh more than you cry. The world will do it’s best to fit you in a mold but I want you to wiggle and jiggle and burst your way out; run naked and free catching snowflakes on your tongue, showing the world how fast you can run.
Don’t let the world steal your wonder. And never let them ransack all the beautiful, brilliant things in your head. Chase those flying things – your dreams and ideas and passions. Those colorful things that come into your life that beg you to be pursued and appreciated. Ignore all the snares of a traditional life and find a life that fits you.
Rebel as often as is necessary and as far as is required.
My single greatest want for you is that you cultivate a mind of rebellion. Intellectually, politically, socially and personally. Never be complacent with the status quo. Average will suck you into a hole and eat away your soul. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. You are better than average. Everyone is better than average.
I want you to interrogate the universe and never be satisfied that you have found the truth. Never accept a rule simply because it exists. Never accept a reason simply because it was said. Never stop searching just because you finally find a belief you think you can trust. You will come to hold so many beliefs in your life and the truth you hold now will be a lie to you someday. So always be asking if it should be this way now.
But rebel with respect and rebel with reason. Raging against every inconsequential slight is not a way to rebellion. You must choose the battles that matter – the ones that mean the most for your heart and soul – and move unwaveringly in the direction of your conscience. You should never seek to harm in your rebellion, only to remedy injustice by the least aggressive means. In that you will become the type of revolutionary the world can come to appreciate. And if they can’t appreciate that sort of rebellion – fuck ‘em! They are the ones you are rebelling against.
Interrogate the universe.
Grow up to be a thinker, my son. Come to reason well. Never let your sense of wonder be taken from you by the jaded misers of age and experience. Every moment of life is a wondrous explosion of improbability and uncertainty and to be here to experience it is a never ending gift of fortune and fate.
Celebrate your luck in being involved in the beautiful randomness of the world and seek to know the patterns of living by always asking why. Be a great conquistador of intellectual pursuit, not for the sake of knowing but for the sake of living. The currency of living is philosophy. It, above all things, will make your life worth anything. Find it early, explore it often and embrace it fully. The ideas you find there will change your life and the life of those around you.
Never lose your sense of discovery and wonder. Never cease to be awed by the everything in the world and never stop asking what it all means and how you fit in. Be bold in your inquiry but gentle with the answers. Do not lose yourself in your search. As David Hume once said,
“Be a philosopher but above all be first a human”
And as we are mere mortal philosophers we must be satisfied with the nothing that we will ever truly know but we must constantly search for the something that we can know right now.
Fall in love as often as you can.
If there is anything that you should look forward to in life it is love. You will develop an immunity to cooties someday and you will find yourself pulled inexplicably towards someone that makes your heart thump-thump and your mind race. Jump into that deep, deep water as often as you can stand. Despite the risk of drowning, it will always make a beautiful splash.
Yes, sometimes you do risk drowning, but to swim in the waters of love at all you must accept the occasional uncertainty of the depths. You can not stay in the shallow waters of your heart and expect to find happiness. You must always go deeper. Deeper is where the beautiful fish swim.
And when your heart breaks, I want you to pick up the pieces and take the time to repair it. Not the way that it is but with gold at the seams. Kintsugi your heart and let the gold at the broken pieces be a part of your history with love.
Because people you love will come and go, but you must never stop loving. Not ever. Giving our heart to another is the greatest gift that we have, but never believe that when someone trashes our gift that they are saying the quality of your love is lacking. Not everyone will appreciate your special kind of heart and your perfect kind of soul, but if you keep loving you will find the person who can.
Always remember that you are loved beyond words.
I have said a lot in this letter to you but I will never be able to say enough that will express the love I have for you. It is a never-ending, always growing, from-here-to-eternity, expanse of love that my heart holds for you.
If you remember nothing else of the wisdom and advice I have tried to give you remember this above all things; you are so deeply loved in this world. Not just by me and your mother and your family and friends but by the universe itself. It conspires to make you amazing and it desires to see you in joy.
But when I have to leave you I want you to remember – my love for you will always be there because it has no way to escape. It is too much for the universe to remove. I will never be gone from you and you will never be gone from me. Always remember that.
This is not the only advice I want to give you, my son, but it is the general advice that will serve you well. You can take it or not.
My secret wish is that you should throw all my advice away, crumple it up and leave it sitting on your bedroom floor and go live – go live a life that is true for you.
And in many years – as you go out and live your life, as you go out and become your own man, you find a partner, you have children, you become a success – that you come home one day and find that old ball of advice still there.
And you carefully uncrumple it and read through it with a smile, realizing that the wisdom stuck with you still and you became every inch the man I tried to help you be. And even better, you became so much more.
And you erase my name from the letter and sign it with your own.
And you go back to your home and slide it under your son’s door. Because you will want the same that for him that I always wanted for you. To be a light in this world that outshines all others.
Your Father, Your Friend, and Your Biggest Fan.