Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

To My Daughter

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From papa to Emily:
What should I tell my child on the use of time? Should I caution her simply to be mindful of its passing? To measure each moment with her attentions, and keep busy with the application of sober utility? Should I recommend foresight towards the life she may want to live? If so, how do I caution her not to reside too long in the fiction of what might be; or against setting up house in the past; or living as a ghost within the life of another? I must indeed offer caution against the waste of moments, which is the sport and pastime of so many; the impatient counting down of hours towards an ignoble, and seemingly, untimely death. Yes. I’ll instruct her to beware all this and more; to mind carefully what is ahead, and what is passed; to not lose sight of her own way by ungracious attention to the footsteps of others; and to know her true and even course not by the landmarks of her surroundings, or the warmth of the air, or the pleasant company, or the ease of the road; but instead by the satisfying perception of firm footing over any ground, any fortune, and for as long as her daylight remains.

~

The edge of your universe isn’t far. You were there that day you led me back across the empty black desert. Did you know you were so far then?You’d certainly have realized if you’d gone alone; though the thought of you by yourself in that place scares me. You can get there elsewhere, and without leaving home, or being alone; though that’s a neat trick your dad’s never figured out, and the reason I put on boots and wear a hat.

Why go to the edge of the universe? We humans go there for treasure. It’s a very old human trick. All the heroes do it. That’s why they’re remembered. That’s how our species moves on. They go because the best ore’s already taken where they are. There’s little to find besides rhetoric, dogma and law.

When you go bring an open mind for filling, something to carry your treasure back. Leave necessities behind. You’ll find what’s needed along the way. Again, you need not return to that black desert to find this place. Simply go where no map, compass or god can show the way.

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I mentioned before about your access to the edge of the universe. I know it’s a strange-sounding idea. Who visits the universe’s edge after all? But it’s a real thing if you imagine the edge of the universe as nothing more than the frontier and limit of our experience and understanding. Imagine how near this was for our Hominid ancestors? Small bands of semi-intelligent apes, making their living amidst predators and danger in a world of routinely frightening mystery. They discovered so much then, especially as their brains developed, along with their capacity for language and society. The species we are now have largely tamed that world, and made it our own. We are now masters of a sort. At least that’s what we like to think. Now, if we want a sense of that past I described, we must go out of our way to encounter experiences which were once a part of our ancestor’s daily life, and perhaps frequently their death. This is what I mean by the edge of the universe. That place where we are no longer masters, and where mystery hides secrets for which discovery remains the essence of the human project.

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Make your great life adventure early in life, when you’ve both everything and nothing to lose. The gamble then is more secure in your favor, the likelihood of success augmented by your ignorance and inability to recognize or assess risk. You’ll succeed even if the adventure kills you. Just don’t get pregnant, and in so doing assume your own risk onto the life of an innocent another. Save that wondrous adventure for later, when you’ve had your fill of yourself, and are more mature and ready to truly give. For your adventure’s venue, select what appears alien and strange; a curious and seemingly foreign life street or some exotic backwater of nowhere. Go meet your anxiety, and give it a fair listen; rebuke its fearful claims and hysterical protests. Come away satisfied you know better your mind, and can now answer and assuage its ancient unsound fears. You’ll know when the adventure is done, when you possess fewer dreams of tomorrow, and behold a broad and expansive landscape of today. Oh, and go alone…If you can bear it. If not, then take, or better still make, a friend along the way. You’ll find your tribe is out there.

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Your mind is on a track. There’s actually very little leeway between birth and death. The course is strikingly simple, though we don’t notice due to our one chance at living, and the fact that our perspective biases us to exaggerate what little difference there really is between one life and the next, and one generation to the next. Gender plays a role in the course we must live, as does age, though these aren’t very popular topics to discuss. But keep that in mind, and listen to what your nature has to say, even if you choose not to heed; for informed choice brings both responsibility and accountability into the hands of the chooser. Always apply reason to your biology, always demand diplomacy of your motives, always seek virtue of your wants, or deny them altogether. In this way, never hesitate to resist your nature should it prove base, barbarous, unjust, or inhumane.

So you’ll bump along this course of living, fortune heaving you at once to the left, and next to the right; but always forward, and at a steady rate, even when at rest, even when you decide not to choose. Remember that you’ll always be on those rails, and there’s nothing spiritual or spooky or inexplicable about them; so don’t get suckered into motivation, divination or exorcism to change your way. Instead, ride the rails like the successful survivor you have become, we have become, we’ve all become, by virtue of the simple fact we’re alive. You see, biology’s criteria for success is both simple and absolute. So ride your rails to the end of the line. And if you choose, pass carefully your successful mandate into the future, as your mother and I have done through our loving creation of you.

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You are still young, and perhaps enjoying greatly the thrilling fury and turmoil of a mind just coming to grips with the tantalizing interests and distractions of adult life. However, like any loud and ruckus event, you may eventually tire of the ceaseless demands of your attention, and the exhausting fact of attendance to so many life “necessities.” When that day comes, do not seek simply to escape your cares by lessening your burden or changing your circumstances, as such changes alone rarely provide much lasting relief; instead, understand that the tumult you feel exists less with the outside world, than with your inside impressions, and your ability to mind and manage your thoughts, and their consequent decisions. To this end, I’ll provide you now some links and references where you can find worthwhile guidance on how to live; as well as my own summary of best practice in the direction of The Good Life. I hope you’ll come see me to talk on these things if I’m still alive when you read this and are old enough to find this topic interesting. Though I know how things go, as our folks are sometimes long gone by the time we’re ready to talk. That’s OK. That’s why I made this post. Papa loves you very much!

Links for my daughter:

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As you embark on your adult life you’ll find need of principals and ethics to guide you. From your mother you’ve received the fact of being Japanese, which identity is self-contained with a quite complete system of morals and a very mature world view. You’re very fortunate to have this; though keep in mind that this is a highly specialized system which may not always fit outside the rarefied cultural atmosphere of Japan. From me you get The Good Life, which is my best effort at a system of living designed to promote a life of virtue, which is defined as improved objective well being for yourself and others. As your parents, it’s our duty to suggest and offer you our best model and system to help you get started in life. But it’s your responsibility to evaluate these to assess their worth and merit; to determine if the tenets we offer are true; and to reject any unsound claims without fear of consequence or social sancture. Beware the many readi-made systems which are out there, especially the religious ones, which lure and tempt with welcome society, offer relief from worry, guilt and death, and perhaps even explain away your doubt with dogma, and the mind-numbing agent of faith. Find your own way if you can. Begin with what your mother and I have given you, though never relinquish your adult responsibility to think, act and decide according to your own best discretion regarding what is true and real as opposed to what is simply comfortable and safe.

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