If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark. If bathed in light, you will be enlightened. — an ancient Vietnamese saying.
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Dark days lie ahead. I don’t know how this journey ends. None of us do.
I want you to know that, in my life, I am guided by the wisdom of the ages. Fads come and go. But real knowledge has a way of sticking around. For example, we still today immerse ourselves in the learnings of the ancient Greeks and Chinese philosophers, who lived thousands of years ago. Why? It’s because those lessons have been tested in the crucible of time.
Today’s teachings are often lacks depth. They are devoid of long-term wisdom.
For example, when I did research for my Honors Thesis on “Child Rearing Practices an Prosocial Development” for the Honors Program in Psychology in undergraduate, studies at the time and from earlier times state corporal punishment is one tool in the arsenal of tools parents must use to help raise altruistic and healthy children who will become contributing members of society. In other words, measured spanking is but ONE tool among many. It is a necessary tool because consequences and accountability are important parts of life. Both the carrot and the stick are needed to encourage good behaviours and discourage bad ones. (See, e.g., https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1655269.html, a court case which states it is not abuse, in the process of preventing their once-good child from joining a gang, for parents to use a wooden spoon to spank a child after trying all other forms of punishment. Note also how the court took pains to enshrine in writing in footnotes and to make part of the record the lies told by CPS in its efforts to assert its power without any regards for the true interests of the child … that she stay on the good path and not go down the destructive path of gangs and violence.)
These days, the “wisdom” is for parents to not even yell at their kids, much less spank them. See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/well/family/why-you-should-stop-yelling-at-your-kids.html.
Is that wise? Does that solve the problem and help raise better and more well-adjusted kids? No! With horrible consequences, it only shifted the burden from parents and teachers disciplining kids to school police to do so. Troubled behaviors that once would have resulted in admonishment in class, detention, conversations with parents, suspension, etc., now results in tazing, physical assaults, arrests, handcuffs, jail time, juvenile criminal records, etc. See, e.g., https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-safety-students-police-abuse_us_5b746a4ce4b0df9b093b8d6a; https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/why-do-most-school-cops-have-no-student-training-requirements/414286/; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/police-officers-in-schools.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/police-in-schools-keeping-kids-safe-or-arresting-them-for-no-good-reason/2015/11/08/937ddfd0-816c-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.006da1640595; http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-aclu-report-20161017-snap-story.html.
No, my sons, think for yourselves, but use as guides the wisdom of the ancients. For example, we are rediscovering the positives benefits of copper in medical treatment, something the ancients used to use before that practice fell out of favor for more modern pharmaceuticals. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-bacteria-fighting-super-element-making-a-return-to-hospitals-copper/2015/09/20/19251704-5beb-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_story.html?utm_term=.16210f211e7a.
With the above said, let me share that I am guided by three adages, which capture relevant wisdom of the ancients.
(1) All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. This is your world and your community. You have but one world. Protect it. Fight for good and fight against evil. Be prone to action. Words are cheap. Everyday, you see people give lip service to what is good and right, but wouldn’t lift a finger to protect what is good and right. Don’t be like them. Be prone to action. Remember Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech. It is noteworthy. Remember, too, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
(2) If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark. If bathed in light, you will be enlightened. Surround yourselves with good people, who will inspire you and help you aspire to be better. Work towards continuous incremental improvements, so that you will be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than today. We need more good people in the world: builders, problem solvers, helpers … those with good hearts and good intentions. Surround yourselves with good peeps.
On the other hand, stay away from evil because it will drag you down to its level. Your cousin on your mother’s side ignored the warnings and was caught in a car carrying drugs. The police charged all the occupants of the vehicle with possession with the intent to sell. He claimed he was just hanging out with friends and knew nothing of the drugs. Regardless of the truth, the consequences were dire. He now has a felony conviction and will forever by marked by that.
Wrongful convictions are a major problems in the American justice system. See, e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/09/10/report-wrongful-convictions-have-stolen-at-least-20000-years-from-innocent-defendants/?utm_term=.a643e396962d; https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html; http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-texas-judge-20131109-story.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/magazine/she-was-convicted-of-killing-her-mother-prosecutors-withheld-the-evidence-that-would-have-freed-her.html; http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/aboutus/; https://www.innocenceproject.org/. It’s a reality. Avoid putting yourselves from that situation if you can. .
(3) A frog at the bottom of the well thinks the sky is only as big as the mouth of the well. Learn and expand your horizons. Read voraciously. Engage with others, those who are good-hearted and who have good intentions. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You can learn something from everyone.”
Ignorance begets fear. Don’t live in ignorance and fear. Arm yourselves with knowledge. Reserve judgement and try to see things from the other’s perspective. Keep an open mind. Give people a chance, but don’t waste your time on every sob story. The world has 7.6 billion people. You don’t have time to meet and measure everyone. Use heuristics and rules of thumbs to help you more efficiently find the good. For example, you are more likely to find the good among kids who volunteer to help the homeless, clean up the environment, or feed the hungry than among kids who hangs out at corners, smoking cigarettes or pot, who sneak out in the cover of darkness to tag walls and paint graffiti. Not all of the kids in the latter group is bad, but your time is better spent interacting with kids in the good group and helping others.
One of my regrets is that I didn’t involve you when I volunteered to feed the hungry; build homes for the poor; help the disabled, the elderly, and the victims of domestic abuse; etc. I wish I had. Your mother doesn’t do those things so you have never seen such behavior modeled. That is my failing. I am sorry.
Be well, my sons. Learn from life and the wisdom of those who came before us. Be good. Be happy.
All my love, always,