4 years, 4 months, and 12 days. Think critically.

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My dearest dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I miss you so much!  Your absence weighs heavily especially when I see kids struggling with problems and worry whether you face similar.  Be strong my sons!

Remember, your mind is your greatest asset and your best tool.  Use it well.

Think critically.  Always explore the truthfulness of what you think you know and what others tell you.  What is the source of the information?  Is it trustworthy?

Even if the source is trustworthy, is there a reasn the person giving you the information may not wish to tell you the truth, or the WHOLE truth?  What is his or her bias?

What’s information is missing — because it was left out on purpose, because the person giving you the data doesn’t have the complete story, etc.?   Does the missing piece matter?  Think of the blind men and the elephant.  Each touched a different part of an elephant, and, depending on which part he touched, the individual blind men thought an elephant was like a fan (ear), a rope (tail), a snake (trunk), a tree (leg), etc.  Here, obviously, the missing information mattered.

I wish I could be there to guide you through life’s challenges.  For now, we have this.  Until we reunite, I send you

all my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

4 years, 3 months, and 11 days. Caveat Emptor.

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caveat emptor

 noun

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

In commerce, as in life, the burden is on YOU, as the consumer, to always be wary of what you’re being sold — be it a thing, a service, or an idea.  The job of whoever is selling you the thing/service/idea is to sell that thing/service/idea.  The sale is his goal.  In making the sale, he can but he doesn’t have to be truthful, ethical, or humane.  For example, he doesn’t have to tell you

The burden is on you, the buyer, to make sure what you’re buying is of high quality and useful for your purpose.  If you don’t watch out, once you’ve bought his ware, the problem becomes yours to own.

Caveat emptor is of greater significance in this day and age when we are constantly bombarded from all sides by information — good and bad.  It is more important than ever for you to be educated consumers.

Unless you can trust the person with your life — and even then — always check to verify the truth of what the person said.  Among other things, always ask yourself the following:

  • What do I know about this subject that confirms or contradict what the person just said? 
  • What can I verify, using reliable and reputable sources such as well-reviewed articles published in reputable journals and peer-reviewed academic studies?
  • What does the speaker have to gain from me buying what he said? 
  • Is his gain also my gain, or do our interests conflict?
  • Even if the seller has nothing to gain personally from my buying his ware, does he have one or more biases that blind him to the objective truth?
  • What’s the harm if I buy his good, service, or idea — is the harm significant and permanent or is it slight and temporary?

The last is important because we live in an imperfect world.  We don’t always have the time or energy to verify everything.  Sometimes, if the cost is slight (meaning the harm is negligible and temporary), then it may not be worth spending a lot of time on the investigation.  Regardless of the consequence, you should always engage in the analysis.

This is true of the “news” you hear daily, the textbooks chosen for you by your schools and your teachers, and certainly the sales pitch anyone throws your way.

I love you always, and forever,

Dad

4 years, 2 months, and 18 days. Willful blindness is a bad thing: be open-minded.

ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There is much noise these days about “fake new” and “alternative facts”.  Elevate yourself beyond the nonsense.  Be discerning.

Gravity exists regardless of whether we believe in its existence.  Likewise, the truth exists regardless of our perception. The fact that the elephant has four massive and rough legs, two big fan-like ears, a thick body, and a rope-like tail does not change the fact that those are all but parts of the creature we call an elephant.

These days, talking heads play fast and loose with the truth and would have you focus on only parts of reality … the parts most amenable to their claims.  Don’t be fooled.  The sins of omission are just as, if not more, egregious as the sins of commission.

The trick is to pull back until you can grasp the whole truth, not just the part offered up by those who want to persuade you to buy their wares.  Snake oil salesmen haven’t gone the way of the dinosaurs: they’ve only gotten better dressed and smoother tongues.  Beware the snake oil salesmen!

How can you discern the truth?  There is but one way: to investigate and gather as much information as necessary.  For example, if you are curious about a subject matter, don’t just read one book or from one source about it.  That one source may be — and most likely is — biased.  Look to many sources.  Read materials by both those in favor of and in opposition to that subject.  Once you see the data starting to repeat, then draw your own conclusion.

Be your own man.  Don’t be mislead by fools.

All my love, always,

Dad

3 years, 9 months, and 22 days. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Be wise beyond your years.

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From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own. - Publilius Syrus

 

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

~ William James

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

These days, with the election mere days away, the media is full of noise.  Everyone is shouting and trying to drown out the others.  Their clever retorts often reveal their lack of wisdom.

Donald J. Trump proudly acknowledges he did not pay a dime in federal income taxes for years on end. He insists he merely exploited tax loopholes legally available to any billionaire — loopholes he says Hillary Clinton failed to close during her years in the United States Senate. “Why didn’t she ever try to change those laws so I couldn’t use them?” Mr. Trump asked during a campaign rally last month.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/us/politics/donald-trump-tax.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 

Turner was convicted in March of three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-stanford-rape-case-documents-release-20160610-snap-htmlstory.html

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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Even toddlers and young children know this.  Yet, these days, we hear too many adults, who should know better, excuse their poor behaviors by blaming others.

Don’t.  Remember, what you say or do reflects on you!  Further, a “wise man know what not to say.”  Confucius.

Be wise.  Do what’s right, regardless of the circumstances.  This includes censuring yourself if what you want to say or do is not helpful, kind, and truthful.  As Father Dave used to say, do or say something only if what you will say or do is helpful, kind, and truthful.  He is a wise man.

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All my love, always,

Dad

3 years, 9 months, and 18 days. Be wary of social media: use it wisely, not blindly.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I love you.  I miss you.  Know that no one and nothing could ever take the place of my sons.  Ever.  You will always have a special place in my heart.

That’s why I want you to have a safe, successful, meaningful, and happy life.

 

... Quote: A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for

Live.  Explore.  Use available means to expand your minds and your horizons.

The internet is a great tool for that.  With a click of a mouse, you have access to millions of books to read,

numerous on-line courses,

hundreds of first-hand accounts of travel and life around the world

However, as with all things, the internet has its negative side.  It presents a grave danger for numerous reasons.  First and foremost, because people can post things anonymously and hide behind the anonymity, they are more likely to post mean and nasty things which they would not otherwise say or do in person, where their identity is easily determined.  Numerous studies have shown darkness and anonymity encourages dishonesty and antisocial behaviors.  See, e.g., http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224545.1976.9711936#preview; http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/01/28/0956797609360754; and, https://newrepublic.com/article/117152/how-sunglasses-and-masks-affect-moral-behavior.   Second, kids and people of limited capacity are particularly vulnerable to these dark, mean, and misinformed posts because they lack the tools to objectively assess the truth or veracity of the posts.  See, e.g., https://newrepublic.com/article/117152/how-sunglasses-and-masks-affect-moral-behavior; http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/26/13413292/social-media-disrupting-politics; and, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/28/the-man-who-duped-trumpkins-fox-news.html.  Thus, kids are often exposed to — and fall prey to —  cyber-bullying, sexual predators, pornography, and misinformation via the internet.  See, e.g., http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/4-dangers-internet; http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/01/03/7-dangers-of-the-internet-for-kids/; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10619007/Children-using-social-networks-underage-exposes-them-to-danger.html; and, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/9637676/The-internet-can-be-a-dark-and-dangerous-place.html.

Another danger is that the internet makes it easier for people to close themselves off by limiting their interactions only to like-minded individuals.  The danger here can be great because group think frequently fosters and heightens the negative traits around which the group was formed.  For example, hate group exchange anecdotes and hate-filled stories, stoking further the flames of hatred.  Often, the voice of reason and of dissent are absent (or ejected) from such groups; thus, the tenor of their conversations is very one-sided. Add youth and limited capacity to the mix, and a volatile environment ensues.

According to Julie Lynn Evans, a leading child psychotherapist, one of the dangers of the internet is the plethora of chatrooms to explore the numerous human interests – both the healthy and perverted.

“The misery in those chatrooms is overwhelming and heart-rending – the sheer weight of it,” she says. “Teenagers haven’t got anybody with a good, strong sense of self-worth to protect them when they are in there. The chatrooms become their reality.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/9637676/The-internet-can-be-a-dark-and-dangerous-place.html.

Thus, beware of the internet.  Use it wisely.  Be critical.  Always ask who the speaker is and what his/her biases are.  Information from trusted sources that have been vetted by experts are more trustworthy then blogs and postings by organizations or individuals with a bone to pick.

Stay safe, my sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

3 years, and 9 months. Who’s your hero?

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Who is your hero?

These days, everyone wants to be famous.  But, what is the price of fame?  Kim Kardashian spends much of her time showing off to the world her material assets (rings, jewelry, bums, etc.), and you’ve heard reports of the resulting invasion of her home and her robbery in Paris.  River Phoenix, Dana Plato, and a slew of other young stars lost their lives to fame.  Princess Diana died while trying to get away from the paparazzi who hounded her.

Fame for fame’s sake is empty and fleeting.  I once read a news account about a man in China who set the record for smoking the most cigarettes at one time, and then promptly keeled over dead.  Now, I can’t even find the story on the internet.  So, what did his “fame” achieve?

Real heroes leave their mark on the world for generations.  Today, we still read about Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and others who still inspire us to become our better selves.  Kim Kardashian and others of that ilk will pass from memory the moment someone or something newer and shinier comes along.  They are not real heroes.

We need real heroes to challenge and inspire us to better ourselves, not false ones who encourage us to give in to our baser instincts and lead us astray.

For thousands of years, heroic stories have been used to inspire, motivate, and transfer cultural values to children. The stories have a common pattern.

They begin with a likeable hero who encounters a challenge or roadblock in life. And then, with the help of others, the hero emerges from the difficult situation transformed by his or her experiences.

http://www.rootsofaction.com/role-of-heroes-for-children/

For example, Scott LaBarge wrote

When I was 16 years old, I read Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden for the first time, and it changed my life. I read about living deliberately, about sucking the marrow out of life, about not, when I had come to die, discovering that I had not lived, and I was electrified.

https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/more/resources/heroism-why-heroes-are-important/

That’s what heroes can do.  So, who’s your hero?

All my love, always,

Dad