One of the unique gifts we as human beings possess is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others, without needing to make those same mistakes ourselves. Our sense of history allows for us to build on the experiences of those who have gone before us without needing to repeat those experiences. We gain knowledge from the experiences of people who died centuries before we were born or who live thousands of miles away through books, movies, music, and television. We gain it from the stories told to us by our parents and grandparents. As humans we have the ability to transfer knowledge and experience across great distances of time and space. Yet, still we have idiots who continue to make the same mistakes of past generations. Like voting Republican and thinking they are actually going to help the economy or lower the crime rate.
I am now two weeks away from the birth of my third child and so I am thinking about what things I would like to tell my children about this world we live in and how to negotiate the many obstacles and traps dotting the landscape of life. Here are a few that I've come up with.
1.) If you feel you are right about something, if you've weighed all the evidence, tried and tested it, and in your heart and mind you know it to be true, then stick by that belief no matter how many others believe you are wrong. Truth is not decided by majority vote. Make them prove you wrong. Make them show you the reasons, arguments, and evidence, that contradict your belief. It doesn't matter how popular or well respected a belief is or on what great authority it rests. If it can't be proven there's no reason to believe it.It is possible for everyone in the world to be wrong except you.
2.) Never be cruel and never tolerate cruelty. We are all connected in this world. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us is not just some trite religious dogma. It is the very cornerstone of a successful society. Mutual co-operation towards mutual goals is the key to a happy and successful society and therefore a happy and successful life for each individual.
3.) Love with a whole heart. Heart break is inevitable. It will happen to each of us again and again. But being too cautious with your emotions and letting the opportunity for true love slip by out of fear of being hurt again is a far worse fate. We have all been hurt and we have all survived it and we will all survive it again. Know all the possibilities when you enter a relationship and be prepared for the worst, yet still give it your all. Just know when you have reached that point of diminishing returns when what you are putting into a relationship is greater than what you are getting out of it and get out when that happens no matter how much love you still have for that person. Trust me, it aint worth it. Just don't carry that bad relationship around with you when you enter the next one.
4.) Don't stay in a bad relationship. The person who loves you should never intentionally hurt you physically or mentally. If you are in a relationship with someone who is physically or mentally abusive than you need to get out. The heart has reasons that reason never knew and can often lead you astray. Always lead with your mind. Love is blind, stupid, and reckless. It needs to be controlled and guided. Your heart will lead you to do stupid things,like staying with some abusive idiot. Be smarter than that and value yourself more than anyone.
5.) Always seek the truth. Always ask Why? Too many people float through life without ever questioning anything and year after year they remain as ignorant as they were the previous year. Knowledge just doesn't come to you. Experiences come to you. Knowledge is what you filter from those experiences. You can have a lifetime of experiences without ever gaining an ounce of wisdom. The key is seeking lessons in those experiences, asking "Why did this happen?" "How did it happen?" "What did it mean?" and not excepting anyone's answers unless you can prove them. Unless they stand the test of reason. Never believe until you know. The unexamined life is not worth living.
6.) Always stay happy. Okay, this sounds trite. It isn't. Everyone has the ability to choose their own attitude. We cannot always change the world only how we respond to it. Their is very little in the world worth ruining your day over. Problems and vexations are the norm. If you expect anything to go perfectly you will inevitably be disappointed. All you can expect is that whatever happens you will handle it and you will survive it. And that no matter how much pain and ugliness there is in the world there are equal amounts of joy and beauty. Find it and hold onto it.
7.) Take risks to increase your happiness. Never go to your deathbed thinking "I wish I had tried this." or "I wish I had taken a chance on that." The only sin I truly believe in is wasted potential. Everyone of us has the potential to be wealthy, famous, influential, or powerful. The means to that end are different for each of us. You need to gamble a little to find out how far your individual potential could take you. If you always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, why aren't you hitting the amateur nights at the local comedy clubs? If you always wanted to be a famous inventor how many patents have you filed? If you always wanted to be a singer then how many demo tapes have you sent out? If you always wanted to be a famous writer than why aren't you writing or why aren't you submiting what you have written? If you always wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer then why aren't you in school. I just heard a story about a homeless orphan who became a crack whore and gang member who then signed up for classes at a local community college, from there went on to a major university, and from there to law school and is now an attorney at a major law firm. If she can do it then you can. Take the chance, Have the strength and determination to make your dreams come true.
8.) Learn from other people's mistakes. Taking drugs. Selling your body on street corners. Robbing people. Shooting people. Selling drugs. Drunk driving. Being a drunk. You don't have to ever make these mistakes. There are a world of idiots who have made them for you along with countless others. No need for you to experiment. Those experiments have been done and the great majority of them didn't turn out great. Many of them were even fatal. Anything that has a high probability of leaving you dead, hospitalized, incarcerated, hopelessly addicted, finacially ruined and socially disgraced is probably a bad choice. No need for you to be a Guinea pig in something that might fuck your life up forever. Be smarter than those who have gone before you.
9.) Don't take shit from anyone. Don't be a victim. Self-pity is disgusting. Be strong. It is that simple. You don't have to be a kickboxer or boxer to be a fighter. You just have to refuse to be taken advantage of in any way by anyone. Someone hurts you, make them pay for it. Sue them. Have them arrested. Complain to their employers. Cuss their asses out. Kick their asses if you have to. Just don't sit there crying and complaining and feeling sorry for yourself if you aren't going to do anything about it. I'll kick your ass myself if I ever catch you acting like some weak helpless little mark. Whatever you have to do. Just don't ever let anyone get over on you. Get even and then get over it. Don't carry that shit around with you.
One difference I've noticed in my eight years building homes for the over-privileged between the rich and the poor is that the rich don't take anything lying down. They feel entitled to be treated fairly and most often to be pampered. If they feel they are being treated unfairly they will scream to anyone who will listen until someone rights their perceived wrong. They will call the president of a major corporation to complain about something a stock boy said or did to them. They will sue at the drop of a hat. And you know what? They most often get exactly what they want. Us po' folk have gotten used to being trampled on so we just lie there and take it even when there are things we could be doing about it or else we try to get even in the wrong ways, by picking up a gun or something stupid like that when a carefully worded letter or phone call to the right person would have done wonders. Example:
My wife and I just bought a new house. As in all new houses there are little repairs needed here and there, things that go wrong and need to be fixed. The other day the Air-conditioning guy came over to balance the A/C and he walked into the house without shoe-covers on and tracked dirt all over the floors and the carpet. When he went up into the attic he dropped all kinds of insulation onto the floor and smeared dirty handprints all over the attic-access door and then left without cleaning up behind himself. My wife called me up complaining and I asked her why she let him into the house without shoe-covers on? She replied that she didn't want him to leave and not do the work. I told her to get the superintendent's phone number so that I could make him send a cleaning crew over to the house and she kept arguing with me that she would clean everything herself. She vacuumed the carpet and wiped the floors all while nine months pregnant. I was furious. I called the superintendent and told him that he'd better send a cleaning crew to steam clean all the carpets. He apologized profusely. The cleaners arrive today. If you accept that kind of treatment from people that's exactly what you will get everytime.
10.)Never piss off Daddy.
11.)Be proud of who you are. Never let anyone make you ashamed of your race, your gender, your culture, where you were born, or what you believe. Everyone is different and the only thing that makes one person greater than another is what they do, the decisions they make from moment to moment. People with the worst backgrounds still have the potential to become the most successful people and people with the best backgrounds can be the biggest failures and disappointments. Fashions change too. One race, religion, or body type could be in fashion one day and out of fashion the next. When I was in Junior high I was considered ugly by the time I was in college I was considered beautiful. I looked exactly the same. If I let other people's opinions of me influence what I felt and thought about myself I would have been suicidal. Well, I did at one time and I was. What people think about you should never influence what you think about yourself. Always know that you are beautiful and special all that matters is that you believe it and I believe it.
12.) Value your loved ones above all else. There is nothing more important than friends and family. Your family will be with you forever. No matter what happens in your life you will always have your family to pick you up when you fall. Not all of them though. Some of your family members are bound to be worthless assholes. Just steer clear of them. But the rest of them. The ones who are there to share every success with you and to comfort you through every failure are your greatest wealth. And when you have kids someday. Your children will be your wealth as well. Treasure them always as I will always treasure you.