Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: experience

447. True Peace

True peace is tangible, but is beyond understanding.

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419. Knowledge Fails

The old joke goes like this. A communist says he can put a new suit on that man. Christianity says it can put a new man in that suit.

We have access to more knowledge, experience, history, culture, research, philosophy, political stances, art, and plain old information than ever before in time. Yet we are no better for it. It is past time to admit that information and access have failed to produce better people, as was hoped by the likes of Marcus Aurelius and others. Neither external forces nor accessibility can ever change a person within. Permanent and positive change begins only inside the human being, and that is precisely what Christianity — and no other religion or philosophy or political stance — promises.

363. Perspective

From a distance, even jagged lines may appear smooth. This is true of design as well as life.

326. Experience Music

Louder music doesn’t mean better music, but you should feel it inside. Close your eyes and experience what the artist felt during the album’s creation.

301. Experiment

Turn your children’s bad choices into science experiments explaining cause and effect and the responsibility of their choices.

Two nights ago, eldest daughter, you decided to take a plastic bag of melted ice into your room that previously was used to soothe your bumped head. You played with it on your sister’s bed and then squeezed it until it broke.

After drying her bed we spent almost an hour filling plastic sandwich bags with water, dreaming up ways to burst them, theorizing what would happen, and carrying it out.

Beyond having fun splashing each other in the sink, we learned that the walls of the plastic sandwich bag are weaker than the seal, and usually in the same region — about a half inch below the seal. And a bad choice was turned into a learning opportunity.

This night was brought to you by the words force, pressure, and the number of bags we broke: five.

296. Essay: My Theory on Recollection

Fill in these sentences with whatever phrases you want:

  • My time in high school was:
  • My relationship with my mother when I was in elementary school was:
  • My relationship with my father when I was in elementary school was:
  • The first sporting event I remember attending was:
  • What I remember about the first time I performed in front of others is:
  • I do or do not want to spend time with my parents because:

I haven’t seen this psychological theory out there anywhere, so I’m going to spell out my theory here. I believe our individual history is inscribed and recalled primarily in emotion rather than in fact.

When we think back over our life, it seems we can recall many facts, but not with absolute clarity or without bias. We collect various series of events, package them under a heading, and assign an emotional descriptor for them.

It strikes me that this is the opposite of a computer system. A computer requires a name for a folder, a photo, video, or file. You can tag it with facts: geolocation, year, name of the person in the picture, title or main subjects of the document. In human interactions, these facts are taken for granted. We can tell that picture was a night wedding with our daughter as the flower girl, this document is about current trends in whatever subject, this slideshow is for chapter 18. But we don’t take pictures to keep facts straight, we do it to relive the emotions of the event or those related to that person.

We name files by facts. When someone asks about the wedding or how our vacation was, we answer with an overall feeling: “It was beautiful . . . so much fun . . . the best vacation ever . . . the most romantic and joyous ceremony I’ve been to.” We are using emotion to recall how the expectation matched with the actual experience. Computers can’t determine whether something is funny, pitiable, wretched, fair, or inspiring. And neither can anything else in nature. Emotional recollection is one of the astounding things that makes us human.

This emotional recollection theory becomes even more clear when we think back over significant chunks of time in our life. Junior high, high school, college, those few years in the military or in that other state. What immediately comes out is an overarching feeling of that time in our life. “It was horrible . . . I had so much fun with all my friends in school . . . most embarrassing years of my life . . . exhilarating to see him play one of the best seasons of his career . . . I was lonely because I didn’t have many friends.”

What we’ve done is opened the file in our head for that time in our life — and we’ve felt it all over again. That’s the primary way we connect with our own history. We don’t list off facts as much as we recall how that time felt overall and then back it up with selected experiences correlating to that main feeling.

It’s easy to see how one reinforces the other, facts and feelings working in tandem to get a more complete picture of each significant season of our personal history. We go through a week and stamp an emotion on it: great week. The next week: great again. The next two weeks: also great. So that month goes in the “great” pile. A few more like that and we can check off those six months as a really good stretch. It works with negative seasons of life as well.

Overall, how were your interactions with me as your dad? If you felt loved, taken care of, special, the top on my list, secure or safe, and that you could trust me, then you will probably have a positive recollection of me. If you felt you were not loved, not worth spending time with, unsafe or insecure with me, or that you could not trust me, then you will probably have a negative recollection of me. And your emotional recollection of our past will determine how you interact with me right now. You may remember a few instances of things that did or did not happen, but it will largely be based on your feelings — those tangibly intangible guides of our actions.

So, that’s my theory: Our individual history is inscribed and recalled primarily in emotion rather than in fact, and those emotions guide our current and future interactions.

And this is sobering.

222. Portfolio

How to build a portfolio:

  • When starting out, do some work for free to get experience.
  • Record important information, such as the dates of the job, parties involved, and your hours worked.
  • List the project’s goals, show before and afters, and list your accomplishments during the project.
  • Get recommendations from those you worked with.

Keep all this on file, and branch into two versions: one that has every detail of every project and another with just the summary and your accomplishments.

When applying for a position, you will need to tailor your portfolio to the job description. It’s worth it.

173. Remember

The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.

149. Life Enhanced

Moral boundaries are not meant to limit your experiences in life, but to enhance them.

119. Experience

Getting work experience in a variety of categories is a good idea for many reasons, some of which you won’t realize until later. I suggest fast food, a desk job, manual labor, a restaurant server, a place requiring formal attire, and a place that makes you clean bathrooms. Paying your dues breeds graciousness.

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