11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection February 25, 2018
To Clark: As You Turn Two by: Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Dear Grandson Clark: As promised, I’ll try to write you with some thoughts on each of your birthdays as long as I’m able to do so. I’m so happy you are here!
Life is absolutely the most precious gift we humans are given. Unfortunately, life has its inherent challenges. Life can be very hard for a great number of our fellow humans. Yet existence is always better than non-existence. Always!
Some time ago I wrote to your darling sister, Daphne, about how the pursuit and creation of beauty could well be a satisfying life-calling. In this letter, I’m going to suggest another possible life-calling.
The ancient Greek philosophers wrote eloquently about three important life-pursuits. These three pursuits (sometimes spoken of as “Transcendentals”) are: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
All three are worth pursuing. I have, however, found it difficult pursuing all three as much as I would have liked. So I focused primarily on the pursuit of Truth. If I were to sum up my life I’d say that I sought Truth in all its manifold manifestations. The pursuit of Truth is not an easy journey. I was “silenced” by the Vatican for my writings. The truth is that untruths abound! Many of us have fallen prey to those who seek to lead us astray.
Education, ideally, helps us learn the truth, speak the truth, live the truth. Our teachers, including parents and family, should help us discern truth from untruth.
Unfortunately, there are many who believe they possess the Truth when, in fact, they are misinformed. Beware those who claim to know the Truth. To know the Truth requires a profound humility that is sorely lacking in many of our leaders.
I’ve spent many decades in ministry, trying to help people understand deep and abiding truths. I’ve always sought to learn as much as I can about the world in which we live. The deeper we go into anything, the more complex and “richer” it becomes.
I love learning, even at my advanced age! I love reading. An important truth is that people who do not regularly read live beyond the pall of Truth’s promise. Clark, read, read, read!
I couldn’t believe it when I got my first library card and could check books out. What a joy it was to bring home armfuls of books from my local library. Still today I almost always listen to “books on tape” as I drive. There is so much to learn. It’s hard trusting anyone who doesn’t love learning.
Lying is the antithesis, the opposite, of seeking the truth. Yet it’s hard knowing where to turn to find the truth. There are a vast array of powerful people who twist the truth, distort the truth, bend the truth to their own misguided machinations. Truth is truly hard-won in a world that continues to applaud “winners” at all costs.
Clark, I wish the world was better, more truthful, more kind, more caring, more beautiful. I wish the world you and your sister will grow into was a place where virtue was more highly valued than cunning. I wish the world was not in love with manipulation and unbridled consumerism. I wish there were less bullies abounding. But our world is what it is.
Many, if not most, of us react rather than reflect. We too quickly arrive at rage. We see this reactive response in our driving and in our politics. Truth is, Clark, that I have a temper! A temper may be in your blood-line or perhaps it’s just part and parcel of the human condition.
I’ve read much over the years about Zen Buddhism and its teachings meant to temper tempers. I spent many years learning and practicing the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do as a way to discipline my more reactive propensities. How successful I have been at tempering my temper is still open to debate. One thing I’ve discovered, however, is that most healthy life pursuits require considerable discipline.
Reflection is an important life-skill. Unfortunately, reflection is not normally taught in our schools. Truth cannot normally be attained without learning and then reflecting upon the learning one receives. It helps to have teachers who love the Truth. I have had a few such teachers in my life. Those teachers remain precious to me even long after I sat in their classrooms.
One important gift given to me by those special teachers was a healthy skepticism. They taught me not to blindly swallow everything being poured out in print and media. They taught me the sacredness of questioning everything. Questions live in the marrow of Truth. Good questions may ultimately be more important than answers.
Clark, I hope you and your lovely sister will fall deeply in love with Truth. Follow Truth wherever it leads. A life pursuing Truth would be a worthy life. I pray I may live long enough to help you in that pursuit. May the Mystery that lives at the Center of Everything lead you and guide you!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor