Letters to my sons
A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men, and anyone else that's interested.
Posts tagged with #Epic
As you will have discovered by now, I love the epic, the grand, the vast and expansive. Naturally this means that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, and have spent a number of my notes to you espousing my thoughts on that.
Today’s thought will be quite contrary, but at least as important if not moreso.
It is the little moments in life that that really make us feel human.
It’s the accumulation of the little things, the seemingly insignificant instances whose individual presence may not account to much but whose combined impact is far greater than the sum of its parts. They may be as small as a friendly wave from an acquaintance, a kind word from a stranger, or a shared experience with a friend.
While the big moments are the ones that stand out, it’s the continual flow of little moments that forms the backdrop for those epic events to be seen.
As you know, I love photography, and a very basic understanding in photography is that no matter how beautiful your subject is, your photo is only as good as the background elements - the light, the backdrop, the scene, the underlying notes of color and contrast - all these things bring life to the subject.
It’s these little things that ultimately determine our character and overall composition. And amazingly enough, it’s these little things that we often have the most control over.
So my challenge to you today is to impact the little things in your life as best you can. Be the one that gives a friendly wave. Speak an encouraging word. Give a stranger a smile. Give a friend a hug.
While it’s difficult to orchestrate an epic moment, the little ones are absolutely within our realm of control, so I urge you to take the opportunity to help make positive little moments for those you interact with, and to be a bright spot in someone’s day.
There’s a book on your bookshelf right now that your mom and I read to you that has us imagine people with buckets. Each act of kindness fills someone’s bucket a little bit at a time. Such a simple yet beautiful analogy that even at a young age you were able to understand. So I’ll leave you with the sentiment of that book: go and be the best bucket filler you can be!
Tags: #Character #Epic #Intentional #Purposeful Living #Little Things
As much as I wish I did, the truth of the matter is that I don’t have all the answers. Nor am I always right. My thoughts in these letters to you are just that; my thoughts. These letters are a culmination of my experiences, my influences, my environment, and my best efforts. But they are just mine.
The reality is that you are your own person, with your own interests, your own designs, your own desires, your own aspirations. If you’re anything like you are at the time of my writing this, then you’ll have so many of these things. Even at this young age, you’ve got a beautiful personality, decisive, confident, and full of passion. My prayer is that over the years, all of those have grown and have molded and shaped you into a wonderful man.
So with that in mind, today’s thought is going to be pretty simple.
“Find something to care about; and then care deeply about it.”
And that’s it. No matter what you do with your life, no matter pursuits you choose for yourself, pursue them strongly and deeply. Your mother and I will love you and support you regardless of what you choose. My charge to you today is that whatever and whomever you choose to care about, care deeply.
I love you, my boy. I can’t wait to see what kind of man you choose to be.
Tags: #Confidence #Character #Epic #Intentional #Purposeful Living
The last twenty years has seen a trend of people who are raised to believe in self, in the individual human spirit. While I’m not against the belief that intrinsically each person has value and that God created each one of us uniquely and wonderfully, I do think that we could take a lesson from one of the greats in history.
JFK said once that we ought to “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”.
The sentiment here is that there’s something greater than ourselves that we ought to consider, and that there’s something to be gained, some purpose fulfilled, some satisfaction in pursuing a goal that may not have originated with us.
Much of my generation has struggled with the question of purpose. Many spend years trying to discover themselves, to find meaning in the chaos that is life. Conventional wisdom these days says to look within oneself for the answers, and while there is some element of truth there and we can indeed learn more about ourselves as we become more introspective, I think that’s only half the story.
If we consider the things that resonate most with the human spirit, the things that kindle a fire deep within us, the things that elevate us to greater heights, to greater awareness, and to a greater richness of life - these things are not exclusively internal. The purity of the human spirit is the work of God refined by our relationships, experiences, endeavors, and shared ventures. Mankind was not put on this earth to be alone. Nor was he put on this earth to live for himself alone.
Discovering that which we were created for, that which we are destined for - that is something that takes a lifetime to learn and to refine. As Nietzsche put it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.
The vital question then becomes this: What does life want from me?
In other words, what is the larger, grander venture that I ought to be a part of?
My challenge to you is to discover what that is. And whether it is being a comfort for the weary, being a safe place for the oppressed, feeding the hungry, loving the downtrodden - no matter what it is, I urge you to run at it with all that you have. We keep talking about a deep sense of richness and fulfillment in life - this is one of the keys that will help get us there.
Tags: #Epic #Perspective #Character #Purposeful Living #Intentional
Life’s too short to live with regrets. While it is certainly good to go back and consider where you’ve come, do so to learn from the experience and not to regret what’s happened. Everything is 20/20 in hindsight - use that to your advantage. Go back and consider the things that have happened, but do so in order to learn from the experience, not to regret what’s happened.
I love the concept and the thought of the epic moment. I love how it transcends time and becomes engrained in your memory as a time when everything in the world lined up perfectly to bring this one pure and perfect memory, this glorious experience that can’t be tarnished over time. I love that these moments are timeless and can be shared and experienced across the ages.
In order to live in these moments and to be in a place where we can experience them, we’ve got to live free of the confines of regret, free from the shackles of guilt and self-doubt.
Remember that time is the only resource in life that you will never get back. You can always earn more money and can always buy new material things, but you’ll never get your time back. It is the most valuable resource simply because it’s non-renewable, and is consumed at a constant rate regardless of your wishes or whatever you do to prevent that.
And so we ought to live maximizing that resource.
That’s my prayer for you - that you would live with no regrets, that you would give your all to your experiences, that you would dream without abandon, and that you would have a rich and full life. That the time that you spend on this world will be full of those epic moments, full of timeless, transcendent moments. And that above all things, you would love with everything that you’ve got.
Tags: #Epic #Intentional #Character #Perspective #Purposeful Living
I love being inspired.
One of the most inspiring things is witnessing the things man can accomplish. Watching a painter pour their soul onto their canvas, experiencing for the first time a new piece reflecting a musician's inner turmoil, reading a short story written to celebrate life's great virtues, or walking into the great architecture of the ages built as places of worship or safekeeping - all of these things inspire me to be better, to reach higher, and to aim for the stars.
It's a beautiful thing about life, this ability to create. We are all created beings, created in the image of God, in His likeness. That means we have God's spark in us, and with that spark comes the ability for us as created beings to in turn create. Now, obviously we don't have God's omnipotence, so we can't make something from nothing, but we have a glimpse of his creativity and imagination, and can in our own way create beauty where there was none before.
Whether it’s taking a year to write your own symphony or taking an hour to paint a sunset, I believe that something within us pulses stronger when we create. It is in that moment, that space where we forget about the world, abandon its distractions, and focus solely on the object of our creation that we are elevated from the temporary into the timeless. We see the world from another angle; we gain a new perspective, and with new perspective comes new understanding.
Have you ever noticed how things of great beauty are often epic and awesome in nature? Sunsets, canyons, monuments, masterpieces, mountaintops - all of these things are vast in their being, and bring us to a place of awe and wonder.
I believe that the wonder we feel is the creator in us resonating with the creation we're experiencing.
And so with that, I'll leave you with a challenge. Create! Build, paint, compose, craft; express the experiences, thoughts, and dreams that are uniquely you. Because you are beautifully and wonderfully made.
Tags: #Creating #Focus #Character #Changing the world #Epic #Purposeful Living #Reverence #Productivity
One of the constant pressures that you'll experience in life is the pressure to conform, to be successful as our society defines success, and to follow a number of predefined "acceptable" paths. While there's nothing wrong with those paths, I want to challenge you to own your choice. Be deliberate about picking a path, whether it is a popular, acceptable one or not. Don't be afraid to veer onto the road less taken; often that's where you'll find many of life's hidden gems and adventures!
The verse your mother and I picked out as your life's verse is Romans 12:2, which urges us to "not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you can test and approve what God's will is; his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Our prayer for you from the time that God was still knitting you together has been that you will be a man that does not conform to what this world dictates is acceptable, and that you will be intentional in deciding for yourself what your life will be. I love this quote from the late Robin Williams in the movie, Dead Poets Society:
“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life! … of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer: that you are here, that life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
The world tells us that our identity is found in the job that we have, the clothes we wear, the people we are acquainted with, the school we graduated from, and how much money we have. While all of these things matter and are worth thinking about and pursuing, they can only define us if we allow them to. I urge you not to allow yourself to be defined - and hence tie your intrinsic sense of worth to - the external things of this world, but rather on the man that you are, the thoughts, values, and morals that you have, and by the character that you have developed.
On an archway in Delphi is written a phrase: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, which means "know thyself". The Greeks understood that life's true pursuit is to know thyself, to understand who one is, and to have the integrity to stand strong in that knowledge, regardless of opposition; and from that position, make your mark on the world, forge your path, and write your verse.
I want to leave you with a quote that I've found very inspiring in my own life.
“This is the test of your manhood: How much is there left in you after you have lost everything outside of yourself?” – Orison Swett Marden
Tags: #Character #Changing the world #Epic #Purposeful Living
My hope is that as you’ve grown up, you’ve begun to discover things that inspire you, things that provoke your thoughts and challenge your world view. These things can come in many forms – experiences, images, poetry, books, movies, music. The one thing that all of these inspiring mediums has in common is that they all tell a story. They may tell that story through a vibrant splash of color on an otherwise dark canvas, or through an uplifting major chord emanating amidst a dark and minor passage. They may speak to us through a surge of feeling as we stand atop a vast mountain range, surrounded by the breathtaking view of creation all around.
Whatever it is that inspires you, it has a story to tell.
Most of the highly influential people in my lifetime have been great storytellers. Whether they’re recounting an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity in their youth, or reminiscing about their first love; whether they’re channeling their innermost fire and rallying their audience to action, or expressing condolences to those that have lost, every great storyteller has the ability to bring you along with them on their journey, captivating your senses as you live in the moment that they create.
And what is it that so intrigues us when we listen to the stories of these inspirational giants? What is it that draws us into their universe and allows us to hear every sound, feel every touch, and sense every feeling in the world that they’re painting?
Every great storyteller tells stories that are wrapped in the consciousness of their existence. Whether they are ideas that resonate with them, challenges that they strive to overcome, experiences from their past, or dreams that they long to have fulfilled, every great story is laced with the soul and life of the storyteller.
Great stories are told simply. This isn't to say that all great stories are simple or that their contents are necessarily rudimentary; rather they are told in a way that is accessible to all who would listen. They are remarkable in their simplicity, yet can be equally expansive in their depth. The greatest stories can be understood by young children and studied by sophisticated adults all at the same time.
Finally, the greatest stories are timeless. They speak of virtues, values, and topics that span generations. They inspire us to look beyond the temporal and focus our thoughts on things that last, things that stand the test of time.
And so my hope is that you tell stories. Tell stories that inspire others to be better, to think of better things, to imagine the world as it ought to be. Tell stories that challenge your listeners to love recklessly and to dream big. Your mom and I deeply believe that you were meant for great things; no matter what you decide to do, who you decide to be, we will love you and support you every step of the way. My challenge to you is that no matter what all that is, that you tell your story to everyone who will listen.
Tags: #Changing the world #Epic #Purposeful Living #Reverence #Storytelling #Love
By now, I hope you know how much I love the epic. I love experiencing things that make you think of things as they ought to be, that make you want to be different, that make you strive for more.
The danger though, is that in trying to emulate the characteristics that we experience and read about, we may overstep that boundary and try to be like the characters themselves instead of emulating their characteristics. It's a subtle difference, but it's there nonetheless, and if unchecked, can lead you places you may not have initially intended to go.
My challenge to you as you grow up and experience all these rich and wondrous experiences, characters, and stories, is to always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else. Know who you are, who you want to be, who you were purposed to be, and use that as your measure. Don't compare yourself with others; rather, be inspired by their example to strive for more yourself.
The world will try to pit you against others, will try to compare you on a variety of axes and scales, will even try to tell you that your worth is relative to others. Don't listen to them.
The Bible tells us that we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and that God knew us before He formed us (Jeremiah 1:5). That applies to you! You are our perfect little boy, and your mom and I love you and will always love you, no matter what you choose to do and who you choose to be.
My prayer is that no matter what kind of person you grow up to be, no matter what experiences you have, what pursuits you take, and what company you choose to keep, that you intentionally choose all of those things, and that you be the best you that you can be!
Tags: #Balance #Epic #Purposeful Living
Jesus says that "you will have suffering in this world" (John 16:33 NIV). It is a certainty, and as much as I would lay down my life to keep it all from you, I can't. You too will know suffering just as Jesus did, just as we all do. The true test of a man's character, then, is how he deals with that suffering, how he responds to it, how he chooses to live his life in spite of it.
As you already know, I love the epic. I love the pursuit of greatness, the passion for the human spirit, the desire to "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). In light of this suffering, my charge to you is to love recklessly as a response.
By the time you are old enough to read and understand this, I hope that U2 is still around and you'll know have heard the song Pride, which puts it in such a beautiful way:
"In the name of love! What more in the name of love?"
Pride pays a tribute to the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King (the last verse sings of April 4th in the Memphis sky, which was the date and location that Dr. King was assassinated), and is a response to the legacy and example that he lived. Despite the assassination, the song writer poses the question, "what more in the name of love?" What more can we do, in the name of love? How can we follow this example, in the name of love?
When we love recklessly and focus on seeing, believing, and fighting for the good in people, it doesn't only change our world; it changes us too. When our response to conflict and tribulation is to ask what more we can do in the name of love, we change our perspective. To be reckless means to choose to take an action, despite rational thought telling us otherwise. The more we choose to be reckless, the more our rational thought adjusts to compensate. This in turn removes the inhibitions of what we believe is possible, allowing us to think of the world not as it is, but as it ought to be - and that is certainly a good thing.
And so my prayer for you is that you respond to the obstacles in your life not with frustration, anger, or disappointment, but with a response that throws reason out the window, and just loves.
Tags: #Changing the world #Epic #Purposeful Living #Love
One of the things that I hope you learn about me is how much I love the epic. The epic story, movie, music, view, experience, ride - I love it all. C. S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity says that "Music is the closest thing to heaven we will ever experience on earth." What a beautiful statement of a deeply emotional, primal, overwhelming experience of music, and what a magnificent description of the epic; it is the closest thing to heaven we will ever experience on earth.
And that's what we all want, isn't it? To experience heaven in all its glory, to experience perfection, to experience existence - friendship, relationship, joy - the way it ought to be.
Ayn Rand considers this the definition of Romanticism with a capital 'R'. In the preface to her book, The Fountainhead, she writes:
Longevity - predominantly, though not exclusively - is the prerogative of a literary school which is virtually non-existent today: Romanticism. This is not the place for a dissertation on the nature of Romantic fiction, so let me state - for the record and for the benefit of those students who have never been allowed to discover it - only that Romanticism is the conceptual school of art.
It deals, not with the random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned - in the words of Aristotle - not with things as they are, but with things as they might and ought to be. And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one's own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately needed a projection of things as they ought to be.
I've spent much of my youth thinking about things as they ought to be, and trying my best to turn those thoughts to reality. Now that you’ve just turned 4 months old, I realize that my thoughts have shifted slightly; the grandiose statement I would spend hours thinking about - how the world ought to be - now has a minor shift in it.
I now think of how I believe the world ought to be for you.
If there's anything I've learned over my short existence, it's that life is what you make of it. The pursuit of something greater, of something epic, of making the world a little more like how you believe it ought to be; these noble pursuits take a series of events and elevate them into something much more than the sum of their parts. They take our lives and give them meaning, direction, and purpose. They allow us to exercise passion, ingenuity, excellence; beautiful qualities of the human spirit.
And that is certainly the way the world ought to be.
And so my hope for you is that you too would live life looking for the epic, basking in the moments when you find it. Take time to think about the world as it ought to be, surround yourself with people that share that vision, and remember that passion is contagious; if you dream big and continue dreaming big, those around you will start doing the same.
Tags: #Changing the world #Epic #Purposeful Living