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can be heard discussing Positive Psychology here.


Fathers’ Advice Matters!

June 2016

When I reflect on my life at age 66, there are a few important things I wish my father had taught me.  I would have made fewer mistakes, embarrassed myself less often, and been more successful.  Perhaps the fault lies with myself.  I wasn’t wise enough to ask the right questions.  I would like to pass on to fathers a few of the questions I wished I has asked as a child, along with a few ideas about to how to answer them.

“Dad, what exactly is my basic situation in this world?” 

“Each person stands in the world as a finite individual, which means each one of us will spend a more or less limited time here and then we will die.  During that time, we will be active in a variety of ways in a world that will be constantly changing.  The activities we engage in will be limited by our circumstances, as well as by our capacities.”

“What does it mean for a human being to live?” 

“Living is an encounter with this world, which we call concrete reality.  To live involves struggle, impacting others, being impacted, and constant creation of your own outcomes.  At the same time, it means learning, adapting to the world, and getting to know it.  Sometimes it means rejecting apparent possibilities.”  

“What is concrete reality?” 

Concrete reality cannot be defined by anyone with objective certainty.  It depends to a certain degree on beliefs which the community you are in generally holds.  This is why you have to remember that another’s ‘concrete reality’ will most likely be different than yours.  This will help you to keep your understanding and judgment in suspense and to maintain respect for other people. 

“Am I self-sufficient, or dependent?” 

If you want to become self-sufficient and content, you must first learn the drastic lesson that you are dependent.  This is because you have vital needs which can only be satisfied from without.

“Though I might not want to be, in what ways am I dependent upon others? 

“You live in society.  You must play a part there in order to get your share of the goods you will need for your life.  You will also have to live with other people, giving and taking in mutual relationships with them.  This means that at times you will have to yield to others, while at the same time, preserving yourself.”

“What about conflict, Dad?” 

“You cannot avoid conflict.  You will come to know who you are through the process of your struggles, resignations, and compromises. You will encounter them with society, with other individuals, and with yourself.  They can be sources of defeat but they can also lead to a greater depth of living and flourishing.  Throughout your life you will encounter situations like death, guilt, fear, loss, and inevitable struggles which will determine which way things go for you.  These situations contain the sources of what you are made of and who you can become.” 

“How can I become a better person and live a more fulfilling life?”

“Self-reflection will be invaluable to you in the process of living.  It will help you to know what happens to you, to not be overwhelmed by it, and to become yourself.  Your life will become more clear to you when you take time to observe and understand yourself.”

To conclude, your legacy as a father includes the many ways you ensure the well-being of your child.  You do this, in part, when you teach them important life skills, including the skill of living life itself.  By taking time to pose and answer questions about what life is and what it means for a human being to live one, you will be responding to some of the deepest questions and needs your child has.  He or she will be forever grateful. 

These wise answers come from the works of Karl Jaspers, a 20th c. German philosopher. 


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