Jul

18

Dear Vic,

Your son is ever so fortunate to have you as his father. You have provided him with much worthy advice in your letter.

One bit of advice that I see that is missing is how he will deal with his peers when he goes to school. It is clear that he is an extremely gifted and brilliant child. With all the effort you are making, he will enter school much more advanced than most of his peers. This could put much pressure on him to deal with a number of possible issues. One possible issue is boredom. At least you are able to pay for private schooling and to see to it that he is kept in situations that will prove stimulating for him, so he will probably be able to avoid that problem. To the extent he is kept in classes with others equally bright at a similar age another potential problem could be lessened. That problem is that he will stand out as being different and possibly having more mature values than his peers. A wise guidance counselor once pointed out to me that when someone is different he is either likely to be worshipped or ridiculed. Either could be a problem. Aubrey should realize that his excellence is a gift that he should be grateful for and nourish but that it does not him superior as a human being. That is something that relates to character, part of which requires treating others with respect and realizing that all may have something to contribute. You have already included that in your advice to him and he seems to be inclined in that direction. He should realize that if one is put in a leadership role by others one is there to serve and use that role wisely with responsibility. The more serious issue would be if he is instead subject to ridicule and pressures to conform. He should learn that he should always be true to his character and be willing to stand alone against the crowd if need be.

Another potential problem is not likely given what he is already like. That is the pressure he might feel under if living up to the high expectations you have for him are beyond that which he can accomplish or which he has fallen short of in some way. As you say, let bygones be bygones. We are all human and imperfect. We all make mistakes and at times perform foolishly. He should realize that he will always be loved and that while he might have to live with the consequences of his mistakes that you will not hold those against him in the future. Rather he should realize that you will appreciate his efforts to do his best and to overcome any shortcomings. If he has less interest or ability in some areas that seem to matter to you, he should realize that what you want for him is to do well and seek out that which interests him and is most fulfilling for him even if it differs from the activities that you value most.

With regard to the heroes, he should be aware that they often have failings also and that he should strive to emulate their worthy characteristics and avoid their shortcomings. For example, you list Thomas Jefferson who was also prone to personal indulgence and living beyond his means.

Speaking of heroes, of those whom I have known whom I might classify as those worthy of emulation, I would include Milton Friedman. His reliance of sound thinking based on evidence that he was willing to stand up for at a time when it was not popular is a most admirable. So is his patience as a teacher and his ability to get along with those of opposing views while trying to convince them of the correctness of his views with logic and evidence rather than personal attacks. He was a most decent human being who gained the respect of those who came into contact with him. He stood his ground without being arrogant.

Another person worthy of note is someone whom you may or may not know. I am referring to Prof. Lowell Harriss. Lowell was a professor of economics at Columbia University. I did not appreciate the man fully until I attended a memorial service for him earlier this year. He was a man of intellectual integrity who managed to get along well with those of differing points of view. He was very concerned about all his students as individuals and kept up relations with them after they graduated. He helped them get jobs and acceptance to other institutions. He corresponded with innumerable people, remembering birthdays, etc.. He had a great sense of humor and was famous for the cartoon collections he sent to his numerous friends and acquaintances. He was a great traveler even since his early college days, having gone through the world something like nine times. He was a great husband and father. His daughters noted that in traveling with him, it seemed that he knew people no matter where they went. He lived well into his nineties and until the last couple of years of his life he still traveled to conferences around the world. He never lost interest in intellectual issues, still attending conferences and meetings to the end. His intellectual interests were widespread. The mark of his accomplishment was the large attendance at the memorial and the warmth of feeling and appreciation of this wonderful man expressed by so many there. Such a person is a good role model for Aubrey just as your father is. It goes to show that one does not have to be famous or a person whose intellectual contributions are truly revolutionary to have lived a great live and achieved a character worthy of emulation. If he can accomplish that he will have a life he can look back on with pride.

A few years ago, my cousin once removed asked all the family and friends to write a letter of advice for her adolescent eldest daughter to compile into a collection to give her for a birthday present. It is for a later stage of life, but I have attached it nonetheless to add to Aubrey's collection of advice. Most of it is general and would apply to Aubrey, although a small part of it was specific to Gillian.

You are most fortunate to have such a gifted son. There is no reason you should not live into your nineties Vic and get to see Aubrey reach adulthood. I hope that will be the case both for your sake and Aubrey's.

Best wishes,

Rudolf


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