Notes to my Daughter on her 21st Birthday

Things to consider...

My daughter just turned 21, and her adult life is just starting to unfold. Fortunately, she’s already far smarter than me in a thousand ways (admittedly not a very high threshold to surpass, but that says more about me than her). Nevertheless, I offer for her consideration a list of observations, most of which didn’t really occur to me until — not so coincidentally — about 21 years ago in my late forties. Some are tongue-in-cheek, others offered for deeper contemplation over what I trust will be many more decades of a full and rich life…

  • All healing begins with gratitude.

  • Treat all living things with kindness and compassion and respect. How they treat you is up to them.

  • The digital mantra to think globally and act locally is a sales pitch, pure and simple. Better to think and act locally. The family dinner table is the best place to start.

  • Try not to waste all your time on all your time-saving digital devices.

  • Time is your most precious inventory.

  • The quality of life is a reflection of how and where and with whom you invest your time and faith.

  • Take comfort in the fact that you are first and foremost a spiritual being with occasional social, emotional and physical manifestations. Know also, however, that addiction is first and foremost a spiritual problem with occasional social, emotional and physical manifestations.

  • Addiction is a flight from spiritual truth.

  • All addictions, regardless of the narcotic, eventually steal our time and money and freedom.

  • In a society of default addiction and excess, the quality of life becomes a function of deliberate subtraction and disintermediation.

  • As addicts we deny the addictive power of our narcotics while we exaggerate our ability to resist them. So it is with our meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital.

  • HDTV and smartphones are history’s most perfect narcotics (so far).

  • Yesterday, your opium dreams belonged to you. Today, because of social media, they belong to everyone else.

  • Sometimes we forget that The Age of Reason and The Enlightenment ended more than two hundred years ago.

  • Facebook is a 21st-century opium den for social media addicts.

  • Social media sites are where we go to socialize by ourselves.

  • Begin each prayer with simple thanks.

  • Commercial media sell only four products: fear and envy and more fear and more envy.

  • Remember, the ads aren’t there to support the content. The content is there to support the ads.

  • You are the product being sold by every media franchise on the planet to every advertiser on the planet every second of every minute of every day of your entire life. You are worth the attention.

  • Despite the above observation, never base your decisions on fear and envy. Doing so will only incur more fear and more envy (and sell more ads).

  • Peace of mind is the reconciliation of what our minds tell us with what our hearts confirm.

  • We go to sleep at night in Procrustean beds of our own design.

  • Re Google and Siri and Alexa and GPS: How can we be found if we’re never lost?

  • True freedom is the freedom not to participate. True freedom is the freedom to walk away.

  • Artificial intelligence is where we currently deposit all of our hopes for a better future through digital technology — largely because we have no faith in our own intelligence anymore (for obvious reasons).

  • Ignorance is a far better place to begin a journey than to end one.

  • Ignorance and wonderment are the wellsprings of innovation.

  • Boredom is a reflection on you, not the world around you.

  • Seek out deliberate ways to simplify your life.

  • True entitlement always begins at the top.

  • Today’s utopian dream is tomorrow’s dystopian nightmare.

  • We don’t find things like inspiration and innovation as much as they find us. Our job is to clear a welcome path for them in our hearts and between our ears.

  • We spend all of our time in relationships with other people and things. How and where and with whom we invest our time within these relationships is governed by the rituals we build to service them.

  • Ritual — meaningful and/or self-serving — is the arbiter of time.

  • Addiction is what remains when we replace the meaningful rituals that stand between us and chemical destiny with the self-serving rituals of addiction.

  • Your current values are a reflection of how and where and with whom you currently invest your time and faith.

  • Ignorance plus intent equals innovation.

  • Spirituality and peace of mind are in the exhale.

  • Creation is a function of rhythm. All artists — regardless of the medium — create by ear.

  • Look to the future with wonderment and open arms. It’s coming anyway.

  • We become our attention.

  • Freedom is a spiritual endowment.

  • Freedom of religion is the first liberty enumerated in the First Amendment simply because there can be no freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of peaceable assembly or freedom to petition the government without it.

  • The Bill of Rights reminds the government what it cannot do to you.

  • Nothing is profane when everything is already rendered profane.

  • Never surrender your identity or individual sense of right and wrong to any institution or group. Be a good team player, but remember that you and you alone are accountable for the decisions you make in your life.

  • Love your country, but be skeptical of all technology, all media and all government authority. Skepticism is your first civil obligation in a free society.

  • Whenever possible, choose freedom and liberty over safety and security. Otherwise, you will wake up one day to discover that you have neither.

  • Slow down. Speed kills.

  • Laugh first and often at yourself. Humor — like art — is a critical metric of proportion.

  • Darwin had it right but backwards: Instead of evolving from apes, we’re evolving into apes. With any luck we’ll wind up high atop a jungle canopy with a great view and a fruit platter.

  • 21st-century digital America is characterized by diversity of everything except thought.

  • Nowhere is our illusion of control more evident or powerful than in our smartphones.

  • We don’t own our smartphones. They own us.

  • Bring gratitude, passion and patience to every encounter. You’ll need them.

  • Let the people you love know just how much you love them. Life is fragile and uncertain.

  • Seek wisdom of the ages over knowledge of the moment.

  • Seek moderation over excess in all regards. Excess anything will always steal your time and money and freedom.

  • Seek simplicity over complexity; look first at the obvious but be mindful and respectful of how quickly simple circumstance can degenerate into mindless action with unanticipated complexities and consequences.

  • Whenever financially prudent, choose time over money.

  • Know when to let go.

  • Happiness is a choice you make each and every day.

  • All of your choices have consequences.

  • You can’t change others. You can only change yourself.

  • The people you love want and need to see and hear it from you.

  • You are always and forever loved.