4 years, 7 months, and 7 days. Read and learn the lessons of those who came before us.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Shosh, when you were young, you were a voracious reader.  Your mom did one thing right: she read to you constantly.  As a result, you had a huge vocabulary and were a smart little tyke!

Unfortunately, Jaialai, when you were about one, I lost my job as a result of blowing the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare and your mother had to go back to return to work because no one wanted to hire a whistleblower.  I stayed home to watch you, but was also occupied with the lawsuit against crooks who were ripping off the sick and dying; thus, I failed to read to you as often as your mom did for Shosh.  But, you still ended up being brilliant!!!!

That said, we tried to read to you both when we had the opportunity.  I hope you continue to read voraciously in my absence.

Books are wonderful things.  In addition to exposing us to far flung places in distant lands, they also introduce to us ideas that help shape our understanding of the world in which we live.  The wisdom of those who came before us is passed down in stories captured and preserved in those great instruments of knowledge: books.  Appreciate them.  Be kind and gentle to them.  Be grateful for the knowledge they bring and the authors who made such transfer of knowledge possible.

The lessons of yesteryears remain amazingly relevant today.  For example, today, I finished Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and found a quote towards the end of the book that captured well current events of the day.  Speaking to the protagonist (a journalist who had managed to spend years in Indochina to cover the conflict there without investing himself in any side), one of the characters said, “[O]ne has to take sides.  If one is to remain human.”  Page 166.

Life requires us to choose.  Will you side with might or right?  Will you choose to help the oppressed or the oppressors?  To do nothing in the face of evil is to give tactic approval to that evil.  Don’t.  Choose wisely.  Read voraciously and gain the wisdom of those smarter than you or I.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 7 months, and 3 days. People matter, not things.

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Kindness-health-benefits-RAK-Foundation-release.jpg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-massacre-at-least-30-children-die-in-indian-hospital-after-oxygen-cut-off/2017/08/12/5f51cf70-fcc8-4fd3-8a71-94fcba37094f_story.html?utm_term=.74075c1cde17

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/12/543096666/white-supremacist-protest-in-virginia-leaves-one-dead

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_surprising_insights_about_success_and_happiness

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There are difficult days, then there are DIFFICULT days.  Today is the latter.  The sadness is palpable.

But, as the enlightened Buddha has said, “Life is full of suffering, and the cause of suffering is selfishness.”  Open your eyes and see the world for what it is.  On one hand, you have 30 children die in a hospital in India because the hospital failed to pay for the oxygen needed to keep its patients alive.  On the other, you have a man drive his car into a crowd of protesters who hold views different from his own.

What is more important — the life of sick children or the death of those whose beliefs are different from your own?  A mere child can see the value of the former and senselessness of the latter.  Yet, adults often allow foolish thoughts to cloud their better judgement.

Don’t fall into this trap.  Remember always that people come first — not things, not ideas, not money.

(Let me be clear: even the grandest idea finds beauty only in its expression.  If a beautiful idea brings about ugly results, then the idea must not have been beautiful to begin with — its beauty was but an illusion.  Religion may be a beautiful idea, but countless number of people have been killed, maimed, and tortured in the name of religion.  The concept may not be flawed, but the expression of that concept certainly can be.)

As Americans, it is believed we have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.  That is a fool’s errand.  Happiness is not thing that we can catch.  It is more like a butterfly that will alight upon us when we are in the right frame of mind.

How do we achieve this “right” state of mind?  By being real, and by channeling your energies toward helping others.  (I use the term “help” here loosely to mean any act of kindness which would bring positivity to the lives of those around you.)

As one of my favorite sites states,

Kim Cameron, a University of Michigan professor and pioneer in the field of positive organizational psychology, tried a new kind of mapping: He plotted employees by their “relational energy.” Relational energy is how much your interactions with others motivate, invigorate, and energize them (rather than draining or exhausting them, something we’ve all experienced).

The result? The relational energy network predicted performance four times better than networks based on influence or information. In other words, having a positive and energizing impact on others seems much more important to how much you achieve at work than getting people to do what you want or hoarding secrets. And when a leader is more positively energizing, her employees perform better, are more satisfied and engaged with their jobs, and have higher well-being at home….

Are you searching for meaning in your life?

Most of us don’t have to look too far, argued University of Missouri professor Laura King. In a passionate and thought-provoking talk, she cited research showing that little things can increase our sense of meaning: seeing images of trees that represent the passing of the seasons; being reminded of morning-related words (pancakes, bacon, sunrise) in the morning; or having more routine in our lives….

“People don’t need to know how to make their lives meaningful. They need to know that they already are,” King said. And when we believe in the meaningfulness of our lives, we unlock the benefits of more positive feelings and better relationships.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_surprising_insights_about_success_and_happiness

Be kind to yourselves and to others, my sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, 27 days. Nothing worth having comes easy.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Heed the words of the wise.  In life, you either work hard and try your best to achieve your dreams, or suffer the pangs of regret later in life for having never tried.

Look around you.  How many do you see falling into the latter camp?  Look at your cousins, aunts, and uncles on your mom’s side?  They are roofers, fast food workers, warehouse laborers, sanitation department workers, etc.  Those are honest jobs and there is nothing wrong with those types of jobs in and of themselves.  But, the question is what else could they have made of themselves?

Life isn’t that difficult, really.  The rules are fairly simple:

  1. Do your best.
  2. Be true to yourself.
  3. Treat others as they want to be treated.

You will find that many people in life are “minimally exceptional” not because of their abilities (or lack thereof), but because of their lack of efforts.  They’d rather complain and blame others than strive to improve their lots in life.  The good ones who do will rise to the top while the rest will gravitate towards their rightful places in life.  The good ones will leave healthier legacies for their children while the minimally exceptional will leave their children the minimally exceptional.  I introduced you to Mr. Ted, one of the best in our field.  Who has your mom and her siblings introduced you to?

Where will you be in 10 years, boys?  I know what your abilities are, but will you put in the effort to get yourselves there?  I pray you will.  That is how I taught you to be.  Don’t be like your mom, who would rather veg out in front of the TV instead of taking you to the park, the library, the beach, or other places where you can exercise your bodies and your minds.  Strive to be the best you.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, and 26 days. 1668 days. 40,032 hours. 2,401,920 minutes. 144,115,200 seconds. Too long!

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I had a dream about you last night, Shosh.  I was helping you with your homework assignment on sharks.  We caught a baby shark, and I tried to put a nose ring on it to keep it on a leash.  Note to self: sharks hate nose rings.

Remember how we used to draw pictures of dinosaurs, construction equipment and starfish?  You used to have an immense curiosity about those things and we constantly read about or talked about them.  Once, when you were about 3 1/2, we were at the aquarium and looking at the tide pool/touch pool where a number of different starfish was on display.  You pointed to a starfish and said that it was a leather starfish (the second one above).  The aquarium guide “corrected” you and said it was an ocre starfish (the top one above).  You disagreed and tried to explain to her that it was a leather star.  She wouldn’t have it.  I smiled and told her that she should listen to you.  She decided to go off and consult her books.  Shortly thereafter, she returned to apologize and confirmed that it was a leather star.

Three lessons reveal themselves here.  First, don’t believe in “experts” just because they are experts.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes, “experts” are too smart for their own good and can be blinded by their own “expertise” and blinded to the data confronting them.  Second, always pursue what you love.  Be curious. Be intensely curious.  Life is an unlimited buffer if you nurture that curiosity.  Third, trust yourself.  Be willing to entertain other ideas, even opposing ideas, but never jettison your thoughts because it’s expedient, because an “expert” said you’re wrong, or because others disagree with you.  If you are right, you stay right even if everyone disagrees.  If you are wrong, you remain wrong even if everyone agrees.  Don’t worry everyone else.  Trust in yourself.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, 25 days. Think for yourselves.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I wonder what you’re like now at 16, Shosh.  Has your voice deepened?  Have you put on weight?  Are you still biting your nails?  (That’s a very unhealthy habit, and I hope you’ve long outgrown it.)  Do you own the room upon entry?  Do you think for yourself, or allow others to influence you?  How are you doing in school?  Who are your friends?  Have you made plans and preparations for college?  (You should be, if you are not already doing so.)  I have million and one questions.  But, I can’t engage in this exercise often for it reduces me to a useless lump of flesh that must will itself to breathe.  I hope that you are well, and that you are well along the path I laid out for you during our time together.

Boys, remember how I used to always say that your greatest weapon and tool is your brain?  It is.  With a sharp wit, a keen eye, and sound knowledge, you can extract yourself from most unpleasant situations.  Success may not be immediate, but it will come with time and perseverance.  I hope you’ve continued to use and sharpen those great tools of yours.

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Think for yourselves.  Don’t EVER allow others to do your thinking for you.  That never bodes well.

Note above how specific and detailed the 10 Commandments are.  God gave them to the people at a time when the latter were enslaved and uneducated.  However, when Jesus came much later, the people had been freed and educated.  Thus, he reduced the 10 commandments to only two: love God, and love your neighbors as yourself.

Jesus’s two commandments are the thinking man’s version.  A smart man can think for himself and figure out how best to live and to express himself.  He knows being a good person is about more than simply not killing, stealing, cheating, or bad-mouthing others.  A good man is also kind to those in pain, generous to those in need, firm with those who are unruly or unethical, etc.  Thus, the list for the uneducated and the unthinking is not sufficient.

Think for yourselves.  Never let anybody — not some hired marketer, not your teachers, and certainly never any government official —  tell you what or how to think.  Beware when they try.  Bad things follow.

Think for yourselves and arm yourselves with knowledge.  Don’t allow others to disarm you with empty promises, falsehoods, and lies.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

Until we reunite, I send you all my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 6 months, and 20 days. Avoid fake stuff (including processed foods and false friends).

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Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements.

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics#

 

[I]t is the microbial content that has got health types excited – because bacteria are big news these days. More specifically, the 39tn microbes, weighing about as much as your brain, that live happily in your gut, the makeup of which, some evidence suggests, may have a significant effect on everything from your long-term weight to your current mood.

Unfortunately, the typical modern western menu does little to nourish this “huge alien ecosystem”, as Dr Michael Moseley puts it, under siege as it is from antibiotics and a deluge of cleaning products designed to sterilise every part of our existence. However much we may like junk food and chemical additives, our gut bacteria does not – and our increasingly narrow diet has led to a similar lack of diversity in our gut. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and the author of The Diet Myth, explains that if we “wipe out our gut microbes, then our immune system goes into autodrive and starts attacking us with autoimmune diseases and allergies”.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/26/does-kimchi-and-other-fermented-foods-give-you-more-fizz

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember the meals we used to have as a family?  I loved that you guys helped out in the kitchen — even when young — and made meal time a family affair.  That is what life is all about … time spent with loved ones, even tie spent doing the most mundane of activities.

These are the stuff good memories are made of.  No one remembers with fondness the hours in front of the TV eating microwaved food.  But, that was not your childhood with me.  We cooked together, ate together, and shared many good laughs.  I miss that. I miss it everyday.

Your mother was a lazy cook and was more prone to instant noodles than real meals made of fresh vegetables and proteins.  (For most of my marriage to your mother, either I or your grandmother cooked our meals — yes, I cooked more family meals than your mother despite my long work hours as a lawyer and consultant.)  Thus, because I’m no longer there, I want you to take charge of your eating habits and eat healthy.

Eat natural cheese, miso, pickled olives, yogurt, kimchi, and other food items that are rich in probiotics.  Avoid chips, instant noodles, canned food, frozen food, and other processed food items.  Too often, instant food are full of preservatives and chemicals — added to make the food last longer in the freezer, in the can, in the plastic bag, etc.  Eat fruits, vegetables, and other natural food.

Remember our many trips to the farmers’ markets?  Do that.  Drag your mom along if necessary.  Go outside.

Spend time outdoors.  I know your mom used to plant you guys in front of the TV and bought hand-held video games to babysit you.  But, now that you’re older, take charge of your lives.  Go outside.  Go with each other and watch out for one another.  Remember how we used to spend time at the neighborhood park almost every day with our friends and neighbors?  Do that.  It’s not only good for your health, but is also the stuff good memories are made of.

Finally, remember, all things will come to pass.  Even the successful and the great have no assurances that their futures will hold the same.  Let F. Lee Bailey’s story serve as a reminder of that. http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/a10284185/f-lee-bailey-oj-lawyer-interview/.  Let the fates of the former president of South Korea, Mrs. Park, the former prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Sharif — both forced from high office for corruption — serve to remind you that money and power are not the end all.  See, e.g., http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/17/asia/south-korea-park-indictment/index.html; https://www.ksl.com/?nid=235&sid=45193281&title=disqualified-by-court-pakistans-prime-minister-steps-down.

Wealth, power, fame, etc., are for naught if you are not true to who you are.  Be true to yourselves.  Be you, but be the best you. Avoid false friends, and those who don’t tell you the truth, but only tell you what they think you want to hear.  Beware of such “friends” for they are anything but that.

Until we reunite, I send you all of my love, always

Dad