5 years, 8 months, and 2 days. Embrace the wisdom of our forefathers.

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If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark.  If bathed in light, you will be enlightened. — an ancient Vietnamese saying.

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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:

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(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,

Dad

 

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5 years, 7 months, and 18 days. John McCain’s Rules for Living.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, I want you to hear from a good man, Senator John McCain, who passed away recently.  Heed well his lessons for living, as recounted by his former staff member, John Raidt.

John McCain’s Rules for Living

He was a man of extraordinary conviction and character. This was his code.

The words came passionately and instinctively, drawn not so much from the man’s memory as from his spirit. It was 1984 and the quote was the answer delivered by freshman Rep. John McCain to the handful of constituents who had filtered into an Arizona community center for a townhall meeting.

McCain was replying to a constituent’s criticism about U.S. involvement abroad. I can’t recall whether the objection was to the United States’ support for democracy in a foreign land or the cost of U.S. relief from African famine. Both were topics at the townhalls that winter. In either case, as I was to learn, McCain’s answer would have come from the same core.

What I vividly remember as a young staffer – I would go on to serve with McCain for 16 years — was the respectful hush that fell over the small assembly, not just because of what he said, but the conviction with which he said it. It was clear, even to those who had come to scold him for holding positions they opposed, that McCain’s words were not the glib rejoinder of a politician. They expressed the passions of a leader with an authentic moral compass, someone who thought deeply about and sacrificed much for his ideals; and was to give much, much more. And they explain the man well.

Fulfilling the obligation to contest evil was John McCain’s life force. It was the source of his legendary, almost impossible, store of personal courage and energy, and the purpose of his public missions. He was a force of nature driven by a monumental sense of duty, an absolute faith in the morality of democracy, and an eagerness for the nation to lead in a needy world.

The list of evils against which he fought the good fight is long and well chronicled: from communism to violent extremism to tyranny of every mode. He fought human trafficking and other abominations of human rights. He dueled man’s inhumanity to man, including torture and the nation’s mistreatment of Native Americans. He tilted against a corrupt and corrosive national campaign finance system; congressional ineptitude and irresponsibility; waste and greed in the defense industry; the world’s uncontrolled experiment with the Earth’s atmosphere and climate system; and the public health scourge of tobacco.

Over his political career, the senator was called a conservative, a maverick, a rebel, a fighter, and a firebrand. He is, of course, each of these, and more.

***

I knew John McCain for 36 years, including the 16 I served on his staff. I would like to share some personal reflections and the key lessons from McCain’s life in politics and public service, including how they bear on the United States’ role in the world.

From the beginning, it was clear the McCain political philosophy was shaped by his reverence for the triad of human progress: individual rights, personal responsibility and public accountability. His credo is rooted in a profound respect for the dignity of the person as the basic unit of the commonwealth, and in the core conviction that moral and material prosperity are the product of free people, free markets and free enterprise, facilitated by government; not the other way around. His policies, programs and votes over the years flowed from these basic tenets. If he was a maverick, I think it’s because partisans on both sides of the spectrum are apt to treat the purposes of union and the American form of government spelled out in the Constitution’s preamble as a menu. McCain regarded them as a recipe.

McCain rejoiced in policy scrums that were opinionated, candid, and tough — seeing it as the spirited exercise of democracy; but he aspired for the political process to be fundamentally fair and worthy, understanding that democracy is a process not a war. This is why, to the chagrin of elements in his own party, he strongly supported minority rights and regular order in Congress.

McCain’s most profound legacy, however, will certainly be his character. Maybe over the years, in the heat of battle, he crossed the rhetorical line a time or two, but he never lost the boxer’s disdain for the low blow. His sense of fairness and countless acts of decency stood in stark contrast to the tribal, demoralizing character of Washington today. So, in that spirit, here are some of the key character-forming habits of mind and behavior I observed in McCain in the form of lessons learned — virtues we would hope for in all our nation’s leaders, and in ourselves.

***

Listen actively. McCain was always a listener, listening with as much intensity and presence as he replied. At hearings and in everyday conversations one could see his eyes boring in and his neck craned toward the witness to catch every word. He hungered to know what people thought and why, even when they disagreed with him, perhaps especially when they disagreed. His long love affair with townhall meetings was not so much the opportunity to address voters at scale; rather, it was so he could hear what others had to say. As a freshman congressman, hung on the wall overlooking the conference table in his district office was Norman Rockwell’s painting “Freedom of Speech.” The picture spoke volumes.

Learn avidly. McCain had an insatiable intellectual curiosity and worked hard at acquiring knowledge. He never presumed that wisdom accompanied an election certificate or seniority. I can’t remember a day when he wasn’t the first person in the office with a stack of newspapers piled on his lap, consuming them one by one. Nor do I ever recall when he wasn’t in the thrall of a good book. He regarded everyone he encountered as a learning opportunity, and would grow frustrated when expounding on issues more than learning about them.

Engage generously. McCain made eye contact with everyone, regardless of rank or stature. It wasn’t a tactic, but an innate inclination toward inclusiveness. To McCain, everyone mattered.

Care deeply and serve passionately. I’m not sure there is anyone in American politics who evinced more genuine passion about his or her ideals and missions. McCain’s career was a testament to the truth that nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without a deep, enthusiastic sense of purpose. He cared about people and his principles intensely, and it showed.

Work tirelessly. No one worked harder. During his first run for Congress, McCain wore holes in his shoes walking door to door. His wife, Cindy, had the shoes bronzed. For many years they stood beside his fireplace, not as a trophy but as a reminder that relentless hard work and persistence are the price of high achievement. McCain often quoted Winston Churchill’s counsel to “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!” More importantly, he practiced it.

Think for yourself. McCain liked to assay truth for himself. He valued input and advice and respected general opinion, but he wanted to satisfy himself about the validity of any argument, cause, or position. He wanted to know something, not just hear it, and was open to arguments based on evidence and reason that countered his prevailing viewpoint.

Call it like you see it. “Straight talk” wasn’t a campaign slogan. It was an operating system. I saw it in countless interactions with constituents and colleagues. He said exactly what he thought, not what might be expedient or politic. His arguments, however, weren’t always meant to convince. Sometimes they were meant to elicit the counter-argument to test the merits of both.

Have courage in your conviction. McCain not only showed moral and intellectual courage in his public stances but also physical courage, putting himself in harm’s way. He traveled to countless zones of conflict and human suffering, from war fronts to refugee camps, standing with dissidents and putting something more on the line than a good speech. He didn’t just sympathize and stand up in the Senate for oppressed people; he stood with them, taking part in pro-democracy rallies in Ukraine, walking the streets of Baghdad, visiting with the displaced of Syria, and circuiting the mountains of Afghanistan.

Team energetically. The military culture in which McCain was raised inculcated the precept that nothing worth achieving can be accomplished alone. He regarded everyone’s role, no matter how small, to be essential. In the early years, he kept a practice of regularly visiting the office mailroom to keep up morale and reinforce the team ethic. And to him, a good idea was a good idea regardless of who had it. He encouraged creativity and entrepreneurship in his staff. His team ethic, however, never dulled a keen sense of personal accountability. Typically, whether in his official duties, political campaigns, or private matters, he would own failure while credit for success would be shared. In his company one heard “we” far more than “I.”

But he could be withering in his criticism, and perhaps no elected official was a harsher critic of his own institution – Congress – than McCain. His reproach sprang from a deep respect for the essential role of the legislative branch in a healthy democracy, and from a significant measure of fear about what congressional dysfunction portends for the country’s future.

Duty first. Other than on philosophical grounds, I am not sure one could perceive a discernible difference between the way McCain treated government witnesses representing Republican presidents than those under a Democrat. He was tough on the executive branch because that is part of the job — and when an administration wasn’t doing its duty, he said so, loudly.

Respect the process. Here’s how McCain thought Congress was supposed to work, in six steps: public introduction of a proposal, official public hearings, committee action, referral to full House and Senate for consideration, amendment, and up or down vote. The modern Congress has shelved this process in favor of an ad hoc system administered by the majority in which all too often major legislation is shaped in secret, sprung on the full body, barely read or understood, and, when approved, passed along mainly partisan lines. The practice assures the enactment of laws rife with unintended consequences while intensifying partisan animosity. It means that on major pieces of legislation nearly half of Congress and the public feel alienated and cheated. Moreover, it assures that when majorities flip, the new party in power repays the favor. This lack of “regular order” was a prime reason for McCain’s controversial vote against the Obamacare repeal. To have been the deciding vote in concert with one’s party to erase the centerpiece accomplishment of the individual who defeated you in a presidential election would have been all too tempting for a typical politician. Not McCain. He cared deeply about process, because to him, it was essential to democracy.

Protect the minority. The United States is an experiment in self-government, rule of law, and the protection of basic human freedom and rights. Among them are the rights of minorities, including political minorities. For many years, McCain served in the minority party and when that flipped, he didn’t forget what it was like. He stood up to ensure that the minority party is afforded the right to view, amend, and be consulted on legislation and policy. In the committees he chaired, he tried diligently to protect the due prerogatives of all members regardless of party. It wasn’t always just a gesture of fairness: He recognized that political winds change, and that as the national political pendulum swings, parties will inevitably be required to labor in the minority under the same standards and practices of treatment they imposed while in power.

Engage the opposition. McCain didn’t hide from anyone. On the contrary, he engaged his political adversaries. He would take meetings that many other elected officials wouldn’t consider. Rather than sneaking in and out of back doors, he was known to invite protesters into his office to discuss their grievances. During the Cold War he was happy to meet with Nuclear Freeze groups. While they agreed on very little, the senator respected their intentions and activism. Even if the meeting didn’t forge consensus, it established mutual understanding and respectful give and take.

As a congressman, McCain was the beneficiary of the friendship and inclusion shown him by Morris Udall, a beloved Arizona Democrat who for many years chaired the House Interior Committee. Udall could have easily ignored McCain, a junior member of the other party, but went out of his way to take him under his wing. He had no reason to do it other than common decency. McCain never forgot the kindness shown to him. As he rose in seniority and came to majority power he tried to pay the example forward. He extended his hand of friendship and partnership to young liberals like Russ Feingold and Paul Wellstone, and over the years maintained tight friendships with many Democrats, including Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy and Sheldon Whitehouse.

As electoral politics grow increasingly tribal, driving party bases to donor envelopes and the voting booth, respectful cross-aisle friendships and collaboration are becoming rarer in Washington. This miserable trend overlooks that Americans, including the parties, have far more in common than not. The animus is destroying Congress and the middle ground essential for principled compromise that remains the heart and soul of democratic governance.

Take risks. McCain was a political risk taker. He respected the duty of an elected official to represent but also felt an obligation to lead, unafraid to expend his capital on politically risky but important initiatives. As a newly elected Reagan Republican, he opposed Ronald Reagan’s deployment of Marines to Lebanon. He risked the wrath of his party in championing campaign finance reform. He wasn’t afraid to offend Arizona’s power and water interests in altering dam operations on the Colorado River to protect Grand Canyon National Park or stand up to the state’s cattle and mining industry in helping put 3.5 million acres of Arizona under wilderness protection. He didn’t shrink from upsetting powerful commercial interests at home by championing Native American rights, including water entitlements; or in key primary states, by sticking to his opposition to ethanol subsidies so dear to the corn growers of Iowa and to his advocacy for anti-smoking controls despite the power of tobacco farmers in South Carolina.

In taking controversial stands during his White House runs he stated, “I would rather be right than president.” McCain firmly believed that if you did the right thing for the right reasons the electorate would support you. It did in two House elections and six Senate campaigns. When it didn’t in two presidential races, he could move on undiminished, honor intact. The point is that without political risk takers on both sides of the aisle, very little can be achieved across it.

Clean up the role of money in politics. Nothing offended McCain more than the appearance that Congress is bought and paid for by special interests. He felt this most acutely in the aftermath of the Keating Five corruption scandal in which he was embroiled, but the conviction only increased as he came to appreciate the intensity of the public’s cynicism about the system. Public trust is a fragile but essential component of democracy. Without limits on the time elected officials spend fundraising and the amount that a special interest can spend to influence races, the alienation between the elected and the electorate will only grow wider — all to the delight of foreign powers seeking to destroy our form of government from within.

Honor the office. McCain felt keenly that positions of elected leadership are not about the occupant. It’s the office that counts — or, as he put it, “the opportunity to do something rather than be somebody.” Every elected position is a trust that comes with the heavy weight of history and responsibility to the future. As important as the president of the United States may be, the office of the president of the United States is what really matters.

Curate freedom’s comparative advantage. His friend, the Irish rock star Bono, observed that the United States is not just a place but an idea. McCain agreed. Throughout his career, he devoted himself to protecting the idea, including for 25 years as chairman of the International Republican Institute, a component of the National Endowment for Democracy. And as a national political leader, he sought to ensure that the United States remains a just and worthy custodian of the idea. For many years, freedom lovers across the world looked to McCain for leadership and support. They drew strength from his mission to ensure that the United States remains a bulwark of liberty for those who have it and a beacon of hope for those who don’t.

America’s economic and military power are, first and foremost, the product of the country’s values and ideals. They are the foundation for everything that makes the United States exceptional and influential. Over the years, McCain routinely admonished friends and allies that “what separates us from our adversaries is our respect for human rights.” Should we forget that, the American sunset as a nation of good and great influence and consequence will be nearer than its dawn.

Lead from the front. I’m not sure anything was as offensive or antithetical to John as the notion of the United States leading from behind. Leading from the front doesn’t mean that the United States must own every global problem. McCain was always zealous for friends and allies to pull their weight. But, leadership means leadership. It can’t be sustained passively from the loge section of world events.

Peace through strength. McCain’s career-long commitment to strong armed services was not the product of an affinity for conflict. On the contrary, knowing firsthand the cost of war, he had a unique understanding and loathing of its horrors. His conviction that national defense must be generously but prudently funded, was informed by the bitterly learned lessons of history that tyrants only understand strength, and that remaining vigilant and strong is the price of sustaining peace, security, and freedom.

Defense of democratic values is a team sport. McCain understood the need for tightly knit international cooperation and strong alliances to sustain peace and defend liberal democracy, freedom, the rule of law and human rights. He was a faithful participant in the annual Munich Security Conference, a 55-year-old institution that brings together the international security community devoted to addressing the world’s most pressing security concerns, and building peace through dialogue.

At its annual conference last February, McCain received an award for his contribution to transatlantic relations. The acceptance letter was read by his wife Cindy. “We come to Munich,” he wrote, “because we want to live in a world where truth transcends falsehood, sovereignty triumphs over subjugation, justice reigns over oppression, freedom overcomes tyranny, where power is transformed into legitimacy, and the fate of people and nations is determined by the rule of law, not the whim of rulers. We come to Munich because we know—and we can never afford to forget—that the alternative to a world ordered by these values is a dark and cruel place, where laws, and rules, and rights count for nothing, and selfish, brute force trumps all.”

In its coda, he issued this challenge to NATO allies and all friends in the cause of human advancement: “I am counting on all of you, my friends, to honor the precious, beautiful things that are still entrusted to our care. I am counting on you to be brave. I am counting on you to be useful. I am counting on you to keep the faith, and never give up—though the true radiance of our world may at times seem obscured, though we will suffer adversity and setbacks and misfortune—never, ever stop fighting for all that is good, and just, and decent about our world, and each other.”

Candor with allies and adversaries. McCain believed the dynamics of relations between nations are not so different than those between individuals. Regular communication and respectful candor is as much a prerequisite for maintaining strong and enduring relationships among allies as it is among friends and family. As heads of state and ministers across the globe can attest, McCain was nothing if not communicative and candid. And in dealing with foes, personal or geopolitical, he invested in the belief that straight talk reduces room for misunderstanding and miscalculation, while decreasing the opportunity for problems to fester.

Modernize our strategies, alliances and forms of global engagement. Times evolve rapidly, and along with them so do global threats, allies and adversaries. McCain spent a career trying to help the country stay on top of change, modernizing the United States’ capability to stay strong, safe, and able to advance the nation’s interests and values. But he also argued that 21st century security is not defined solely by military capabilities. Peace, stability, and winning the ideological war against autocracy demands we work to improve the quality of lives in vulnerable parts of the world. This requires engagement with a broader toolkit (both civilian and military), not the erection of physical walls and trade barriers behind which the United States retreats from the world, only to have the world come knocking at our door — or looking to kick it down.

Know your history. McCain came of age when mankind was forced to overcome the basest evil through enormous sacrifice, vigilance and determination. He was a child of the World War II generation that faced down global fascism. He served in the Cold War, both in uniform and in Congress, against a communist ideology that posed an existential threat to human liberty.

In the aftermath of war, hot and cold, American leaders established alliances and institutions to defend freedom and keep the peace, including by promoting human development. As a result, mankind has experienced exponential increases in prosperity and well-being. The further these conflicts fade into history, McCain feared, the greater the risk the lessons of history will be lost. If so, one fears that coming generations will be forced to relearn them at an unspeakable cost.

***

There is a virtue unaddressed above that I thought would be best saved for last because I think it may be the most powerful bequest: sincere gratitude. Next to love, it is the most redeeming of human emotions. Even in the final terribly challenging days of his life, McCain didn’t talk about personal hurts, regrets, or disappointments as so many people dwell on. By his own account, he was occupied with simple and genuine gratitude for the people, experiences and causes that have filled his meaningful life.

So, to a great man who tried to do something: Thank you.

5 years, 3 months, and 12 days. Life is fragile. Embrace and cherish it.

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Iceland’s Most Famous Waterfall Is Big Enough To Stand Inside, Which Is Pretty Incredible

This is Seljalandsfoss, arguably Iceland’s most famous waterfall. In a boundless green field, the cascade drops a whopping 200 feet from rocks above into a serene little pool below.

The most insane part of Seljalandsfoss, though, is that you can hike through the back of the falls and view them from the inside out.

This means you can stand alone in a glowing cavern while the sunset shines through the waterfall stream.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/06/seljalandsfoss_n_5078069.html

 

World’s Best Trip: Kauai, Hawaii

Andrew McCarthy

July 29, 2011

The Trip

It may be the most dramatic vista anywhere in Hawaii: from the bluffs above the eastern tip of Hanalei Bay, on the North Shore of Kauai, you look out on a crescent-shaped beach. Tireless waterfalls spill from jagged cliffs in deep green valleys. Clouds hover and vaporize. A rain shower rolls across the far side of the bay while the sun blazes down on you. Anchoring this ridge is the recently renovated St. Regis Princeville Resort, 252 spacious rooms carved into a cliff. On one side of the property is the Makai Golf Club, one of Hawaii’s most famous courses. On the other, after clambering 100 feet down a steep, rocky trail, you’ll find a more private piece of paradise: Pali Ke Kua Beach, where the only other living creature might be a sea turtle laying her eggs. Nature still calls the shots on Kauai, something you’ll notice whether you’re hiking the Kalalau Trail, which clings to the Napali Coast for 11 miles of views and switchbacks; kayaking through rain forests with Outfitters Kauai; or dining at 22° North, a restaurant in Lihue that uses ingredients sourced from its own two-acre farm. Perhaps that’s why you always feel like a better version of yourself when you’re in Kauai, and why you’ll keep returning.

Kauai Affordable Tip: On the sun-drenched western coast, the Waimea Plantation Cottages are scattered around 27 acres of wide lawns, coconut palms, and empty hammocks—pure old-school Hawaiian aloha. Doubles from $215.

Kauai Family Tip: Stop for a delicately flavored shave ice—the beloved island version of a snow cone—at Wishing Well Shave Ice, a stand in Hanalei. Shave ice from $4.

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-best-islands-kauai-hawaii

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Life is so precious, my sons.  The beauty it offers is boundless!  Seek it out and bask in it.  Enjoy it!  Be grateful for it.

Too many of us live with the illusion of control — the illusion that we’ll continue to have tomorrow what we have today.   Don’t fall for the illusion.  Control is but illusory.  At any moment, all of it can be taken from us.  Look at what happened to us, our family, our home.

But, our circumstances are not unique.  Recently, a great flood was visited upon the people of Kauai, Hawaii.  The destruction is heart-breaking.  Mind you, the tragedy and devastation that befell the people of Puerto Rico or Duoma, Syria, is no less heart-breaking, but I don’t know Puerto Rico or Duoma. I am, however, familiar with Kauai.

2018 Flood - US Coast Guard

2018 Flood 3 - Lace Andersen

2018 Flood -Kauai-Hawaii

2018 Kauai Flood – Rains From Hanalei To Ke’e Cause Damage – Hawaii

Published on April 19, 2018 by Rae-Marie May

By now most of you have heard about the devastating storm that hit Kauai last weekend and will forever be called the 2018 Kauai Flood. The torrential rains caused major flooding; mostly targeting the area north of Princeville from Hanalei to Ke’e. It started on Saturday morning and by Saturday night the rain was coming down in buckets. The reports are that 27 inches fell in 24 hours in Hanalei! With that rain came the brightest lightening and the loudest thunder I have ever witnessed. Needless to say, not a lot of sleep was had by anyone on Kauai’s north shore on Saturday night.

And then the rains continued all day Sunday. The result was massive flooding in all areas within a few feet elevation of sea level. Take a look at downtown Hanalei on Monday. Businesses and homes were filled with muddy water, so much so that a few people had to be rescued from their roofs.

https://vacationsoup.com/2018-kauai-flood-hawaii/

We used to go to Kauai, Hawaii, for vacation.  (Jaialai, this was before your time.  This was during the good years before I blew the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare and before my career was sidetracked.)  Kauai is known as the Garden Island, and we loved the lushness and tranquility the island offers.  We’d stay in Princeville, wander Hanalei, eat shaved ice at Wailua or Wishing Well Shave Ice, snorkel at Hideaway Beach or Nualolo Kai, eat saimin at Hamura’s, and spend hours basking in the beauty of the place.

Pray for those who are suffering.  Take a moment to give thanks for the safety and comfort you are blessed with at the moment.  Be grateful.

I am forever grateful for having two wonderful sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, 2 months, and 26 days. Find joy. Cherish and be grateful for those joyous moments.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/63fdf-sunrise2bin2bmountain2bnature2bwallpaper.jpg?w=1415&h=943

https://i2.wp.com/drivenoutside.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/lawn.jpg

https://i0.wp.com/www.anywherethatswild.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/P10308461.jpg

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Life is tough.  There is no getting around that.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding him- or herself.  Life’s challenges worm their way into everyone’s life.

Thus, find joy where ever you may.  The smell of the first rainfall on parched earth.  Sunrise.  Freshly cut grass.  How your little hand felt in mine when we went for walks back then.  The sound of your laughter.  That mischievous glint in your eye.  The feel of waves.  The beach.  Sand.  A smile.  Hummingbirds.  A cool breeze.  Heat.  Salty butter on crunchy baguette.  The smell of coffee.  Home.

Be present, immerse yourselves in the joyous experience, and be grateful for them.  Don’t let the travails of life detract from its beauty. Hold on to the good and beautiful.  Be present, but revisit these moments of beauty as necessary to keep your spirits up.  Remember, self-care is critical.  Live to fight another day.

Life is what you make of it.  If you focus on the negative, then life will be the shits.  Why would you want to do that to yourself.  Feed the positive and work towards the possible.  Whatever challenges currently plaguing you will pass.  Don’t let it consume you.  Where’s the joy in that?

Make your life a testament to its beauty.  Let it be a symbol of hope for those without.  But, more importantly, immerse yourselves in that which is beautiful and joyous so that YOUR LIFE WILL BE BEAUTIFUL AND JOYOUS.  That is my wish for you, my sons.  Enjoy life regardless of the bitter cup presently set upon your lips.  This too will pass.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/24/e3/07/24e3073f9d7b9ed160ffaa8a3ea0d2c3.jpg

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

5 years, 2 months, and 10 days. Beware: pride comes before a fall.

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https://noapologiesallowed.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/naa_127.jpg?w=656

My most dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I apologize for not writing the past several days.  They have been among the darkest.

As I come away from the morass, I am reminded of the above proverb.  As I’ve said earlier, pride is one of the 7 Deadly Sins, yet so many are afflicted by it…myself included.  This is the challenge of life, isn’t it — to struggle daily to live right?

"Any idiot can face a crisis; it's this day-to-day living that wears you out." -Anton Chekhov [800x600]

(https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/14/face-crisis/)

There is a fine line between confidence, pride, and arrogance.  You can be proud of your achievements, your heritage, etc., but don’t hold it over others as if they are your inferior because they are found wanting, they didn’t measure up.  Remember,

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/71/42/b9/7142b93582cb21abbf3c2682f572c333.jpg

Nothing in life is a given.  The gifts of today may be taken away tomorrow … or even sooner.

Work hard to be your best.  Strive daily to improve.  But, always be grateful for what you have.  You stand on the shoulder of giants.  Without the knowledge and contributions of those who came before you or I, we’d still be standing there trying to figure out how to rub sticks together to create fire.

We’re not where we are today due solely to our own efforts.  We were fortunate enough to be born into good families and to live in a safe and secure country, where — thanks to the grace of God — we have the economic means to nourish our bodies and our minds.  Millions of American children are not so fortunate. See, e.g., http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger_at_home/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230; and, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/majority-of-us-public-school-students-are-in-poverty/2015/01/15/df7171d0-9ce9-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html?utm_term=.cbbe42e79afd.  The problem is even more acute worldwide.  http://www.thp.org/knowledge-center/know-your-world-facts-about-hunger-poverty/.  We are where we are today because fate was kind to us.  We were not born deformed and in impoverish countries, where hope is in short supply.  Count your blessings.

https://www.livelifehappy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/if-you-have-food-in-your-fridge.png

Recently, I came across two elderly PhD’s who stayed in youth hostels during their travels, but who could not stop bragging about how great they are, how much they knew, how no one was better than they, etc.  Their pride and arrogance blinded them to the irony that they were making such claims even as they, as old people, were staying at cheap youth hostels that catered to young and poor travelers.

If they were so brilliant and great, how is it that financial and professional success eluded them?  Are the rest of us simply too stupid to appreciate their greatness?  Is that why society, as a whole, has failed to shower them with adulation and success?

It does happen that a genius is misunderstood and underappreciated by society.  It happens, but it’s rare.  For example, Galileo was a man before his time and was punished by the Church for asserting that the Sun is the center of our galaxy and not the Earth, as the Church taught at the time.  It took the Church more than 300 years to forgive his “error”.  See, e.g., https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/galileo-is-convicted-of-heresy; and, https://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/31/world/after-350-years-vatican-says-galileo-was-right-it-moves.html.  But, in the history of mankind as written over the tens of thousands of years of our existence and the billions who have lived, how many Galileos have we?  Few and far in between.

Given the remoteness of the probability that these elderly doctorates were cut from the same cloth as Galileo, we turn to the more likely answer:  they are simply not as great as they claim to be.  They stay in youth hostels because they do not have the financial means to stay in a more comfortable, upscale, and expensive hotels.  Financial and professional success has eluded them because their egos far exceeds their actual skills.  They would be wise to boast less and do more.

For the most part, society pays people their worth.  Elite athletes, doctors, lawyers, etc., are paid handsomely to compensate them for their superior skills … which are in short supply in society.  We pay the less skilled significantly less money because they are easily replaced, i.e., there are many workers available in the marketplace with similar skills as theirs.  Thus, with rare exceptions, it is folly for someone to claim greatness when professional success eludes them.  (Again, with few exceptions, most of their peers in their profession should be able to assess their true value, don’t you think?  Exceptions exist, but are few and far in between.  See, e.g., http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-people-who-became-famous-after-death.php.)

Be not like those braggarts.  Focus on being and doing your best; fame and fortune will follow.  Concern yourself not with self-praise.  Let your praise be the domain of others … if they see fit.

(A corollary is to always watch what people do, but not accept as truth what people say.  Listen to what they say, thank them, but hold it at bay until you could confirm the veracity of their statements.  Then, and only then, act on the information as you see fit.  If it is true and wise counsel, take it to heart and internalize it.  If it is false, discard it.  If it has contains both truth and falsehood, then select the best part and discard the remainder.)

Be yourself, but be your best self.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, 1 month, and 23 days. Home is where the heart is.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/b09bf-home-is-where-the-heart-is.jpg?w=656

https://drapesandsquares.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/tumblr_m51yncbhwk1rszg72o2_500.jpg?w=656

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  They’re wrong.  While that may be true for some, most of us are aware of the good things going on in our lives but are often too busy to be fully present to enjoy them.  Further, we often assume those things will always be there.  We are wrong.

Life if fickle.  Control is illusory.  We think we are the masters of our fate and we are in control of our lives, but we are foolish.  Life happens.  It happens how and when it wants.  In a heartbeat, a fire could burn down everything you have worked your entire life to build,

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a hurricane could reduce to rubles everything you cherished,

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an inhumane creature could take your life or the lives of your loved ones.

https://i2.wp.com/prepare-and-protect.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/gty_colorado_school_shooting_a_131213_16x9_992.jpg

You have but to look at our own circumstances to see the point.  I have spent chunks of my life helping others — tutoring kids; helping the elderly with groceries; prepare food for the poor; researching and writing a policy to prevent the homeless from freezing to death during inclement weather, and volunteering at that emergency shelter; providing free legal services to refugees and asylum seekers; providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence; etc.  Never in a million years could I imagine that racist thugs would collaborate with a known pedophile to harm us.

Because you never know when something near and dear to you will be taken from you, be present as much as you can each and every day to soak in all that goodness.  Don’t buy into the illusion that you’ll always have what you currently have.

Embrace your brother.  Watch over each other.  Take care of each other.  Each of you is worth more than your weight in diamonds and gold.  I would give all the wealth in the world to be with you now….

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., I leave you with these thoughts:https://i0.wp.com/www.sunshineandhurricanes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Collect-Memories-Not-Things-Meme.jpg

Buying New Experiences, Not Things, Tied to Happiness

Buying New Experiences, Not Things, Tied to HappinessA new study suggests that those who spend money to do things are happier than those who spend their money on possessions.

In the study, investigators determined extraverts and people who are open to new experiences are more apt to spend more of their disposable income on experiences, such as concert tickets or a weekend away, rather than hitting the mall for material items.

Investigators, led by San Francisco State University Professor, Ryan Howell, discovered the habitual “experiential shoppers” reported greater life satisfaction.

To further investigate how purchasing decisions impact well-being, Howell and colleagues have launched a website where members of the public can take free surveys to find out what kind of shopper they are and how their spending choices affect them.

Data collected through the “Beyond the Purchase” website will be used by Howell and other social psychologists.

The site is designed to study the link between spending motivations and well-being, and how money management influences our financial and purchasing choices.

In the current study, Howell and colleagues surveyed nearly 10,000 participants, who completed online questionnaires about their shopping habits, personality traits, values and life satisfaction.

“We know that being an ‘experience shopper’ is linked to greater well-being,” said Howell, whose previous research on purchasing experiences challenged the adage that money can’t buy happiness.

“But we wanted to find out why some people gravitate toward buying experiences.”

Investigators determined an individual’s personality via a model that classifies how extraverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable a person is.

People who spent most of their disposable income on experiences scored highly on the “extravert” and “openness to new experience” scales.

“This personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently more social, and they also contain an element of risk,” Howell said. “If you try a new experience that you don’t like, you can’t return it to the store for a refund.”

Researchers believe it may be helpful if people would realize that life satisfaction and happiness can be influenced by their spending habits.

“Even for people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases, our results suggest that getting more of a balance between traditional purchases and those that provide you with an experience could lead to greater life satisfaction and well-being,” he said.

The research findings are published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

 

 

5 years, 1 month, and 12 days. Live with purpose.

Intergenerational care: Where kids help the elderly live longer

‘Good things are happening’

“When we bring children and residents together, the elderly together, you can see right away that good things are happening,” Somers said.
These “good things” are evident to any observer.
More than 10 children make their way along the garden paths into the lounge where the residents are stretching their arms and shaking their legs. Most faces in the room are smiling, and a few residents reach out to encourage the kids to come toward them specifically.
As small children roam about, trying the exercises themselves, cuddling up to residents and in some cases performing headstands, the rest of the room comes alive.
“They’re responding to an external stimulus, which is a toddler with an adorable grin fumbling towards them, carrying a toy, trying to interact,” Somers said.
The benefits in terms of health are also clear to see.
Residents “very often forget their own physical limitations, and they find that they are encouraged; they stretch themselves; they will lean up out of their chair, extend a hand, engage in conversation,” she added.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/16/health/longevity-intergenerational-care-elderly-children-intl/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_health+%28RSS%3A+CNN+-+Health%29

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

First, I give you Schubert’s Ave Maria.  It is more beautiful than I can describe and my go-to when I am overwhelmed by the ugliness in the world today.  I hope it will give you as much comfort and delight as it has given me over the years.

Second, I updated the homepage for this blog to provide a roadmap.  What started out simply as letters to you about lessons I have learned over the years — hoping these lessons would help you avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I and others have made — has given rise to certain themes that if articulated might  help you better put these lessons into perspectives.  I copied the revised version below for your convenience.

Finally, I wanted to remind you to live life with purpose.  For some (many, actually), money or wealth is their raison d’etre.  But, that is an unwise choice.  On their deathbeds, no one asks for more time at the office making money.  Often, retirees lose their zest for life upon retirement because they lost their raison d’etre, their purpose in life.  As alluded to in the CNN article above, purpose is the zest of life … without it, we are lost and simply exist, not thrive.  I want you to thrive.

Years ago, when I sold books door to door, I met an elderly woman one early morning.  I knocked on her door, and, as we started to chat, she unloaded upon me a litany of ills that have befallen her.  After listening for a while, I asked, “Why do you get up in the morning, then?”  (Yes, I was young, and I was an idiot.  I would never be as blunt or rude today. Well, hopefully, I wouldn’t.)  At that point, she became upset and reversed herself, listing all the important things she had going on in her life and why it was important for her to get them done.  In other words, she changed her tune because she refocused on her purpose for living.

What do you live for?  I submit that you should live life to the fullest and make the world a better place along the way.  Below, in the revised homepage, are my thoughts on that.

I now leave you with my favorite quote from Hunter Thompson:

https://i0.wp.com/blog.zerodean.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/life-should-not-be-a-journey-to-the-grave-hunter-thompson.gif

Enjoy your ride!  But, remember that you can do well by doing good along the way.

All my love, always,

Dad

—————————————————————————————

My Dearest Shosh and Jaialai,

Life has its challenges and obstacles, but nothing changes that most basic, fundamental, and unadulterated truth: you two are the best things that have ever happened to me.  I am lucky to have you for my sons.

I love you with all my heart … always and forever.  Not a day passes that you are not in my thoughts, and your absence do not weigh heavily on my heart.

Current circumstances conspire to keep us apart.  But, that is only a temporary condition.  Know that everyday, I am doing my best to fight my way back to you so that I may be there to help you grow into the amazing men you will become.

These posts are but temporary solutions to fill the gap until my return. Through them, I hope to give you guidance and continue the lessons that were started from the moment you took your first breath — and took my breath away.

You will find that the overarching theme for this blog (and my life — and, hopefully, yours as well) is that WE SHOULD STRIVE TO LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR HAVING LIVED.  That’s my Golden Rule.  Consequently, the Corollary is to HELP IF YOU CAN, BUT DO NO HARM IF YOU CANNOT HELP.

Specifically, how do you make the world a better place?  First, be the best YOU can be. No one can ask for more of you.

To achieve that goal, I share with you lessons I’ve learned about how to live well and what it takes to be successful in America.  Note two things: (1) I am talking specifically about what it takes to achieve what is considered to be professional success in the U.S. and not elsewhere in the world; and, (2) the focus is on success as defined by society at large and not on your personal definition of success.  Your definition may be different.  That’s OK.  But, know that if you chose that path, it would be a rougher road to hew.  The choice remains yours.

Second, fight evil wherever you find it.  This is your duty as a human being.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  If not us, than who?  I am always mindful of the words of Martin Niemoller, the Protestant pastor who spoke out against the Nazi and suffered in the concentration camp as a result.  He said,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

Regarding my prescriptions for a life well-lived, all I can say is be brave, my sons.  Be courageous enough to be the real you and the best you possible, despite the niggling comments of others.  Be strong enough to stand up for yourselves and your visions.  Be willing to fight for them.  Also, fight injustice.  Speak out against evil.

I know these are not small things I ask of you, but the world will tend towards disorder unless energy is expended to counteract the disorder.  If not us, then who?  We are the stewards of our world.  Do try to leave it a better place by actively working to make your little corner of the world a bit better than when you first found it and by stopping those who try to destroy whatever beauty lies there. A world without beauty is not a world in which we are meant to live and thrive.

Regarding our situation, be patient, my sons.  Be strong.  Be good.  The truth will prevail.  I promise.

It took me five years to fight the Enron of Healthcare and expose their corrupt practices.  How much longer will it take to fight and expose corrupt government officials?

Until we reunite, know that I love you always and forever.

All my love, always,

Dad