Letter to Dad
On his 59th birthday (hand delivered)
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19700406                                Compassion                                Epistemology

Dear Dad,
I was just turning my pen around in my hand as I was studying, and I notices that the tip of the pen was encased in a movable point. This reminded me of the fact that you had conceived of this idea some time ago, and even contemplated patenting it through some drawing that expressed your thoughts. Somebody is probably getting a couple of hundred dollars a year from this particular construction of pens now. But I know the idea independently originated in your mind; and that is the important thing. Wow, my father the inventor!

But this one idea of yours that never received any material rewards is indicative of the many ideas you play around with in searching for better ways of doing things and even of looking at things. This is the one characteristic from you I hope most I have inherited, not through genes that Pom knows much more about than I, but through your training and teaching as I was growing up and even now as I am still growing. It is a characteristic that compels me to observe the world around me as objectively as possible, and then reach a tentative conclusion based on my present information concerning a particular idea of whether that idea is suited to me in my present state of life or not. This sounds like a pitch for the scientific method, but the way of thinking you have shown me applies to much more than amoral theories about geology, chemistry, business, etc., but even to the very personal moral system upon which I must base all my judgements of the world and people.

I truly hope I have acquired your sense of inquisitiveness and very deep concern about a personal moral system, so that I may always question my own motives, feelings, and emotions in order to gain greater assurance that I am behaving according to what I consider right for me at a particular time. This questioning also impels me to respect the motives, feelings, and emotions of other people and try at all costs not to dictate my system upon them, but rather to exchange information to further facilitate my effort to judge the world objectively, without unnecessary bias and prejudice and to allow others to do the same. In mother’s words this is “independent thinking”. I hope I have acquired this from you and am not merely “imitating” you.

But if I am to have your basic values, I guess a certain amount of imitation is inevitable. But the times when we have disagreed on what would have been “best” for me, indicate that even though I have inherited your values, they include a clause that drive me to experience certain aspect of life you have found to be undesirable in order that I may know for myself whether or not they are undesirable for me. Invariable you are right and I emerge from each experience a richer person in that I have further crystallized my ideas and increased my knowledge of the world around me.

The support and guidance and love you have given me even when I was “experimenting” with ideas that are contrary to yours and the continued support and love I know will always be there, I believe have the major factors in your teaching me that I must find out for myself that this big, beautiful, frightening, exciting world is all about. Since a gift bought in a store couldn’t possible express my gratitude and love, I give you this letter as a poor attempt to express my deepest appreciation to you, my father, on your 59th birthday.

I love you Dad