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Entry 28 – A letter I wrote to my Dad resurfaces

April 14, 2010

Recently I was going through old emails trying to clean out my inbox when I came upon a letter I’d written to my Dad back in 2006.  It was New Year’s Day, and I was sending my Dad well wishes, and responding to some of his emails to me from 2005 regarding the intelligent design/evolution debate. 

The Kitzmiller v. Dover Trial in PA had just finished, and my Dad and I had been going back and forth on our positions on the issue.

I thought I would share this letter as it speaks more to my state of mind regarding my father while he was still alive. 

My letter follows:

Hey Dad,
 
Happy New Year!  Glad we were able to talk last night.  Hope you and Mom got to do a little celebrating.  We drank some warm sake, watched a little more of the celebrations on TV, and called it a day around 2am.  Sorry I’ve been pretty lax in responding to your emails as of late. I did read them and wanted to offer a few of my own comments, albeit probably not the most analytical. 
 
You asked for any literature or books that express my world and political views.  Well, I can’t offer any better book except the one I am writing everyday, my own experiences 🙂  And I’m sure I’ve said this before to you at various points in our discussions of Intelligent Design (ID) and evolution, but I will just for the record state again: I start from the premise that we just don’t know enough right now to explain how we or the cosmos got here.  I realize that’s probably a very weak intellectual premise for anyone to start with, but given the amount of time we’ve been here, I think we are just too much in a state of infancy as inhabitants of the planet to know enough to answer such huge questions. 

I believe everyday there are advances in science, specifically theoretical physics and evolutionary biology, that inch us closer to learning about our origins, but right now, our scientific knowledge is nascent relative to where we’ve been in the last 6000 or so years of our recorded history.  In another 500 or 600 years, maybe we’ll know a little more and can offer better educated guesses based on the scientific method.  But right now I believe we just don’t know enough. 
 
But, in saying that, we live in a world where saying I don’t know is particularly disconcerting and disorienting to most of the populace.  We have to have answers and we have to have them now.  There is no time to wait for an answer.  So we come up with best educated guesses as to how we got here.  Some are religious stories, others are based on science, others on pure nonsense.  But ultimately, how we got here cannot be tested empirically, yet.  Maybe one day it will, but for now, we can only offer guesses. 
 
There has always been the story of a higher power creating the cosmos and putting us in it regardless of the religion being taught.  And kids today can go to various houses of worship to hear these stories told of how we got here and feel assuaged of any fears as to why they are here and what their purpose is.  I chose about 12 years ago to not go that route any longer.  I chose rather a route of not knowing and exploring other (non-religious) ideas of how the world and we got here.  It’s been a hard road to say the least, I feel at times I am just too far behind and mentally incapable of deciphering the unending explosion of information that hits us on a daily basis.  But to say the most, this time of exploration has been extremely rewarding.  
 
And I don’t mean to slight what you and Mom taught me in my first 23 years on the planet.  I am grateful for that time and you both taught me a great deal about the world that has helped me tremendously.  I probably don’t say enough, but I thank you for the time you gave me.  You provided food on the table, a roof over my head, and a chance to learn, something a lot of kids don’t get.  I would never have been able to venture out of the nest if it weren’t for the opportunities you gave me to learn.  But, in my experiences in and out of the nest, sticking to a sacred text to explain the meaning of life and our purpose here is far too limiting an exercise and I think far too dangerous for our existence here on the planet.  There are too many competing sacred texts for us to coexist.  And until we realize that these sacred texts are only sacred because we, homo sapiens, have made them that way, then we will continue to kill and maime and be indecent to one another here on the planet.  
 
Having said that, I think that our main problem here as humans is more an economic one, than a religious one.  But I see in my experiences that following religious texts for the most part feeds into the economic problem.  It stifles creative thought processes and ideas that can allow people to be free of chaos brought on by poverty.  I am speaking of mainly religious fundamentalists who are already in poverty and can justify it according to their religion.  It makes people fall into line and perform according to the dominant religious or political power.  
 
I sincerely hope we are heading for a time where the fundamentalists of our day will simply have no reason to exist, that they will be relegated to the back of the room so to speak with their weapons and tendencies toward violence curtailed and even eliminated and not allowed at the table where real decisions are made of how to run the world and make peoples’ lives better.  But honestly I don’t think that will be achieved with violence to meet violence.  As we see throughout history, this sort of retaliatory tactic only breeds revenge attacks and continues into infinitum.  The only way to combat this problem is to eliminate poverty and the chaos that surrounds it.  It will be met with love and with striving to bring other countries closer to a standard of living that respects the health of all its citizens.  It is still a day far in the future as religious zealots still have their place and use violence and scare tactics to get their points across.  I dream of a day where great ideas are the single most valued form of currency in all forms of government, and any religion is allowed to be freely practiced by its citizens.  But, and this is a big but, religion as I see it should never have a place at the table for making political decisions.  The separation of church and state should be able to work and work effectively without anyone’s toes crushed in the process.  I guess in a nutshell, Dad, that is my world and political view.  I could go on, but I think you get the gist of it.  Not pretty, not perfect by any stretch, full of holes I’m sure, and probably incredibly different from how you view the world.  But in my 35 years, it’s what makes sense to me, as in your 64 years, what you have shared in your emails makes sense to you. 
 
Guess I just wanted to share my piece and respond to your emails in kind.  I am reminded of a scene in a movie that was made in 2004 called “Garden State”.  It’s a coming of age story of a young man in his twenties who goes back after 8 years of being away from his hometown to attend his Mom’s funeral (she committed suicide).  The father son relationship is strained as he blames his son for her unhappiness that lead to her death.  The son is in a state of numbness coming back.  But over the course of his short time in his hometown, connecting with friends, meeting new ones, he comes to understand that he is not responsible for his mother’s death, and even though him and his father will never see eye to eye on most anything, they can still “be OK”.  There is a poignant scene where the son and father hash it out, and the son just puts his hand on his Dad’s chest, looks at his Dad with love and says Dad, “I think you and I, we’re going to be OK”.  So I guess what I’m saying is Dad, you and I are going to be OK with all these world and political views that clash.  I respect that you believe a higher power brought us here and came down to earth to be God and save us.  I do.  I don’t want to disrespect that belief.  But, in the same breath, I would like to be respected that I hold the position that we don’t know how we got here,  and I choose not to believe it was via a God as the Judeo-Christian and Islamic texts relate.  I also don’t believe that we have to acknowledge this God in order to pass on through the pearly gates.  Nor do I believe I have to acknowledge this God or endure endless torment in hell.  I believe this life we have here on planet Earth is all there is, plain and simple.  We have to make the most of it, plain and simple.    If we don’t then we’ve wasted our most precious of gifts, life.  I can’t offer any great explanations of how we got here nor do I want to.  I see our time here as precious and one that requires us to have focus and cunning to survive.  It requires us to pursue a vocation that makes us happy and the ones around us happy.   If I ever reach a stage of existence where I don’t have to worry about where every calorie comes from (ie. win the lottery), then I hope I would have the wherewithal to use the remainder of my time helping other people achieve a similar state of equilibrium.  
 
Guess I’ll end it there.  Got to get some work done on this article I’m writing.  Keep you posted.  
 
Again, I appreciate all the emails and the thoughts shared.  I really think you should consider submitting some editorials to the local paper there and get more of this dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs off your chest.  I need to follow my own advice and do the same.   🙂
 
Love you and hope 2006 is a great year for you Dad.  You guys are always welcome up here.  

Happy New Year to you and Mom!

Letter ended…

Two years and two months later, so did my Dad’s life.  Dad, I miss you terribly.  There isn’t a day I don’t think about you fondly.  

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Oliver permalink
    June 18, 2010 4:03 pm

    That was moving to read. I wonder how he responded? It would really be easier if everyone could just admit we don’t know it all and old stories won’t do as explanations any more, and then we might not have these clashes of worldviews between people. I would rather not have been brought up to believe irrational things, and would prefer it if some of my loved ones didn’t still believe in them. Sorry for your loss.

    • TRC permalink
      July 6, 2010 9:41 pm

      Oliver, thanks so much for your kind words and comments. Every time I read that email it moves me to tears. I wish I could tell you how he responded, but I have no email trail of his response, and my memory is fuzzy now 4 plus years since I sent the email. I do believe he called me right after he read it, and we probably just talked a little about agreeing to disagree and that he loved me and appreciated what I shared. He was such a gracious person and always wanted to maintain open communication lines. As I get older I notice how much I am like my Dad in certain respects and different in others. The real ‘trick’ in life I think is being able to realize these traits in yourself and be able to share that fondly with your parent. My Dad never got to see me as a Dad and that is something I deeply regret and feel sad that my son will never know his Grandfather on his Dad’s side. But, there is my charge…to keep his memory alive and teach my son about the wonderful traits of his grandfather. I’ve gushed enough I think for an evening, but I sure appreciate you reading my post and responding.

      To those out there with parents and siblings that you may be quibbling with over these types of existential questions, trust me on this, these battles aren’t worth harming relationships. Remember that we are all flawed and going through this thing called life together. None of us have all the answers. Tell your family members that you love them, hug them, spend time with them as much as you can, life is so short and so precious.

  2. December 9, 2010 11:40 am

    …there is my charge…to keep his memory alive and teach my son about the wonderful traits of his grandfather.

    I feel the same way about my grandparents and teaching my boys about his life, it is very important to me.

    That is a lovely post, thanks for sharing what you did about your father. Have you read Lauri Lebo’s “Devil in Dover” book? This post reminded me of it, discussions of the Dover trial between parent/child of differing beliefs. I highly recommend it.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      April 23, 2011 8:24 pm

      Thank you, atimetorend. I’m sorry this reply is SO late. I usually try to respond back to all the commenters on this blog as quickly as possible, but for some reason this comment slipped by me. I really appreciate you reading that post my about my Dad, and sharing that book recommendation with me. I hadn’t heard of that book, and now will go about trying to find it so I can read. Really appreciate it. Hope keeping the memory alive of your grandparents with your boys is going well.

      • atimetorend permalink
        May 12, 2011 8:09 am

        No problem, better late than never!

      • Anonymous permalink*
        August 15, 2011 9:12 pm

        Thanks!

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