Seven things my father taught me, by example
What have you learned from the people who came before you? And what do you want to teach?
Dear ham-dels (if you’re new here, please read this to know why I call you this),
First of all, for those of you who participated in this past Sunday’s Candlelight Chat, THANK YOU SO MUCH. I can’ t tell you what it means to see all of your wise and thoughtful faces, from all over the world, come together like this, with everyone experiencing things in their own way, whether that means happily/quietly listening; adding to the written chat; and/or raising a hand to speak. A special thanks too to Angie Kim, my long-lost law-school friend, now bestselling novelist, who graced us with her presence. Angie told me afterwards how extraordinary you all are, and how she wished we could’ve kept talking even longer. And, for Quiet Life paid/scholarship members who missed the session, not to worry - we’ll e-mail the recording to you all, in about a week.
Also, our next Candlelight Chat is coming up, on Sunday Jan 28, with the great psychologist (and my pal), Scott Barry Kaufman! SBK hosts the #1 psychology podcast in the world, has published 10 books, and is one of the top 1% most cited scientists in the world for his groundbreaking research on intelligence, creativity, and human potential. He also writes a lot about introversion and autism, and describes himself as a “wild introvert.” This is going to be a good one!
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Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. In his honor, I’d like to share again these seven things that he taught me by example.
Do beautiful things, just for the sake of them. If you love orchids, build a greenhouse full of them in the basement. If you love the sound of French, learn to speak it fluently, even though you rarely have time to visit France. If you love organic chemistry, spend your Sundays reading “orgo” textbooks.
Find work you love and work that matters, and do it as excellently as you can.
Make a life where you’re as free as possible from the forces of dogma and bureaucracy.
If you want to live a quiet life, live a quiet life. If you’re a humble person who has no use for the spotlight, be a humble person who has no use for the spotlight. No big deal.
If you happen to be a doctor, take care of your patients – really take care of them. Study medical journals after dinner, train the next generation of physicians (my father kept teaching until age 81), spend the extra hour to visit the bedside of your patients in the hospital. (Here’s a letter from one of those patients, which we found after my father passed away. He never showed us these things while he was alive.)
If you’re a husband, take care of your wife, even when she has Alzheimer’s and can’t walk and asks you the same question again and again and again and again and again and again…
If you’re a parent, teach your children the things you love, like music and poetry, so that one day they’ll love them too. One of my earliest memories is asking my father to play the “chair record” (Beethoven’s “Emperor’s” concerto, whose name I was too young to pronounce) over and over again.
My father and I talked, just before he died of COVID. He was in the hospital, trying to breathe.
“Be well, kid,” he said, as he hung up the phone.
And I have been well. And so, I hope, will you.
What are some of the most important things your parents or other elders taught you, or that you hope to teach other people?
I would love to know,