A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I

Introduction for the Orthosphere

 I have a young son. I plan one day to talk to him about becoming a man. Of course, I currently mention the topic from time to time. But my son will need more systematic instruction, at least to lay the groundwork for thinking correctly about the realities of being a man. Thus the present work, which is a provisional script for what I plan to teach.

 Introduction: One day, you’ll be an adult

 Today you’re a boy. A child. But one day you’ll be a man. An adult.

Becoming an adult is a big change. As an adult, you’ll need to take responsibility for your own life. Now, what does that mean?

When you’re a child, your parents protect you. They protect you from the dangers that come from outside forces, and they also try to protect you from the harm you bring on yourself when you do the wrong thing. When you’re a child you get used to this protection.  You learn to rely on your parents to protect you.

Of course, they don’t protect you perfectly. And even as a child, you learn to protect yourself in certain situations. But when you’re a child you know that an adult will rescue you (or at least try) if you get in major trouble.

But when you’re an adult people no longer protect you. When you’re an adult people expect you to protect yourself. Therefore as you grow up you must change your ways. You must learn to do things for yourself. Sure, even an adult must sometimes ask for help. Nobody can do everything for themselves. But most of the time, as an adult, you must take responsibility for your own well-being. To be an adult you need to understanding what must be done, and then do it, without someone else telling you what to do. If can’t do these things well, you won’t succeed in life.

So you need to begin understanding what it takes to be a man.

There is also the fact that being a child is often fun. You don’t have to work hard at a job to earn money; your parents take care of that.  You don’t have to worry about inflation and recession and wars and earthquakes and other such things; your parents do the worrying for you. And even if your parents and your school push you to do schoolwork, you have plenty of free time, at least on weekends, to do all the fun things that children enjoy doing. Being a child seems to be more fun that being an adult and therefore many children want to remain children forever.

But that doesn’t happen. Children always become adults. The children who don’t want to grow up, grow up to be bad adults.  And the children who understand that they must grow up, become better adults. You should want to be the second type of child.

*

As you grow up, it’s certain that you’ll become a man. But it’s not certain that you’ll become a good man. Good men, that is, men who do well what it takes to be a man, don’t develop automatically. They must work hard to become good. And, most importantly, they must know what makes a man good. You can’t work on becoming a good man if you don’t know what you’re supposed to become.

It’s a fact, not generally admitted these days, that becoming a man is a fundamentally different process from becoming a woman. And we don’t just mean that the final result is different! Becoming a man is an achievement unlike becoming a woman.

This is not to say that for a girl to become a good woman does not require hard work. A girl has as many sinful tendencies as a boy, and she must fight them just as hard as a boy if she is to grow up to become a good woman. In this respect, girls and boys are equal.

But to become a man you must prove to yourself and others that you have strength and ability.  You must show others, and yourself, that you are able to work hard, that you have valuable skills, and that you’re able to defend yourself and your family. You have to prove that you have what it takes to be a good man. These abilities, and the respect from others that they bring, don’t occur automatically.

So your job, as a boy, is to work on becoming a good man. And you can’t wait until you’re eighteen years old to begin learning how to be an adult. By then it will probably be too late because the longer you practice bad habits, the harder it is change them.

You also need to know why you should want to be a good man. A boy needs a reason to want to do the hard work of becoming a good man. A reason to want something is usually called a motivation, so a boy (and a man) needs a motivation to do the hard work of becoming good.

This motivation must have two basic sources. One, you must know God and want to honor Him. You must come to know the true God, that is, the God described in the Bible, and you must know how properly to honor Him. And two, you must find at least one thing in the world (and preferably several things) that you love, for if you love something then you have a motivation to be a good man.  Of course, you must not come to love something false, evil or ugly, for then you will become a source of trouble for yourself and the people around you.

 How to receive advice

 There’s a lot of advice I could give you. Enough to fill libraries. But just learning a bunch of rules is no fun. It tires you out. What you need is a way to understand the “big picture,” that is, the overall situation. If you know the big picture then it’s easier and more fun to learn the details that fill in the picture.

*

We’ll come to the big picture soon, but first I have to give you some advice about advice.

I’ll be giving you lots of specific advice. Since children have a lot to learn, that can’t be avoided. But since a massive amount of advice can seem overwhelming, look at it this way:

In this essay, I’ll be describing many values, that is, things that are good and that you should want. A “value” is something that people want, something that has value.  And the values I describe here are ideals. They are things that mankind can never have perfectly, but that a man should try hard to achieve.

Nobody achieves these ideals perfectly, but we need to know them and honor them. To begin following my advice, take small steps toward developing good habits. You can’t do them all at once, so do a few things that are possible right now. And as you get better and better at the things you start with, continue to add a few more ideals that you work on. This process will last your entire life, but that cannot be helped. Man is always an imperfect creature, but he can always work on making himself better.

But what’s more important than trying to follow all of the advice right now is to understand what you must do, and why. If you have this understanding, and if you have a motivation, then it’s possible to grow up to be a good man.

 The big picture

 OK, here’s the big picture. Here are the three most important things for a boy to know about being a man. The rest of this essay will fill out the meaning of these three points:

One, the world has a God-given order, and you must come to know this order, honor it, and take your place in it.

Two, the world is a battlefield. As a man you must do battle against the weak and sinful parts of yourself, and against the evil powers that are trying to ruin your family, your community, your nation, and your religion.

And three, a man is a leader. The battle of life requires leaders, and God designed men to take this role.

OK. Now that you know what they are, let’s talk more about each of these three points:

 The order of the world

 What does it mean to say that the world has an order?  Most basically it means that all the things of the world were intended to be arranged in a certain way. This arrangement was designed by God, the world’s creator. But although things should fit together in certain ways, man, because of his sinfulness, does not always honor this order.

The simplest example of an order is the system of numbers.  You learn about them in your mathematics class. Numbers do not just exist by themselves, they have an order. If you pick any two numbers, one of them is greater and the other is lesser. They have different values, and they belong in different places on the number line.

It’s similar with all the things of the world. They have different values, and each one belongs in a certain place. A husband belongs with his wife, not other man. Children belong with their parents, not with other adults. My son is more valuable than my dog, and my dog is more valuable than my rose bushes. People belong in church one day each week to worship God and learn His teachings. Those who commit crimes belong in prison or even in front of an executioner. And so on.

Of course, there is freedom within God’s order. But not absolute, unlimited freedom. Man’s proper freedom has limits, and to go beyond these limits is to commit sin and to earn God’s condemnation.

As a child who will grow up to be a man, it’s your duty to begin learning about the order of the world. And the most basic truth about this order is that it is divided into three large parts. One is the order of the natural world, called the natural order, which is studied by the sciences: physics, geology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and so on. [Yes, mathematics and philosophy are sciences, that is, organized bodies of knowledge.] Another part is the social order, the order of the human world, which has to do with what man is like and how he lives in a community with other people. And the third part is the divine order, which is learned from the Bible and concerns the things of God, especially how man is properly to understand God and honor Him.

 Finding something to love

 Learning the order of the world is not easy. It takes time and work. So it’s important to find something, at least one thing, which you love, because this love makes you want to learn more about the order of the world. Here’s an example.

When I was a boy my father gave me a book on the history of aviation. Although it was intended for children, it discussed aviation in a serious way and I became fascinated with aircraft.

But since it was a book on the history of aviation, it also discussed a lot of history. And this included World Wars I and II, which I also found fascinating. The book gave me a brief glimpse into the amazing and shocking events of the World Wars, and it made me want to learn more about them. So I began to read books about the World Wars, especially World War II, which had only been over for about 20 years at the time I first became interested in it.

And as I learned more about World War II, and grew older, I became interested in learning about how the nations of the world could have gotten themselves into the bad place of launching massive and disastrous wars that killed tens of millions of people and devastated entire continents. How could such awesome and shocking events come about?  And this question made me want to learn about the history of the world and the ways that different nations, ethnicities and religions think and live.

And then there are the scientific and technological aspects to aviation and war, and the many other subjects that an interest in aircraft and warfare led me into.

My point is this:  By coming to love and be interested in one specific thing (aviation), I was gradually led to become interested in many subjects, all of which combined to begin giving me an understanding the big picture of how the whole world works. (I say “begin giving” because coming to understand the big picture is a never-ending education.)

As an adult you, like me, will need to begin understanding the big picture. You will probably not come to love aviation as I did, but you need to start with at least one thing (in other words, one topic or one subject) that you love.   Only by finding something that you love and want to know more about can you begin to get the motivation to study the workings of the world.

 The battle of life

 The second basic truth that a boy (I should say a young man) needs to know is that the world is a battlefield.  That’s because things don’t always happen the right way. The world has a natural tendency to fall apart on its own, even if nobody is trying to take it apart. And there are many evil people, evil groups and evil ideas that threaten everything that you love (or should love), such as your family, your nation and your religion. There are criminals who threaten us physically. There are false teachers who threaten us intellectually and spiritually. There are organizations dedicated to tearing down the God-designed order of our nation and replacing it with a man-made and anti-God social order. And so on.

When you are a man, therefore, you need to protect yourself and the community of which you are a part by understanding the battle. Those who study the ways of war know that a soldier must understand his enemy. He must understand what the enemy is like, how he thinks, and how he fights, so that he can oppose him effectively. And the soldier must also understand how war is carried out. And what is true about literal warfare is also true about the war of life in which all people participate, whether they know it or not. As a man, you need to understand the war of life.

Yes, there is also a lot of good in the world. The world contains truth, goodness and beauty that you can enjoy and that can nourish you. There are beautiful sunsets, playful and loyal dogs, tasty and nourishing food, faithful friends and faithful teachers of God’s Word. But you must also understand what is wrong with the world so you can defend yourself and those you love.

 You will be a leader

 The third basic truth a young man needs to know is that a man is a leader. That’s because God made him that way. Somebody has to lead, and this responsibility naturally falls to men. Yes, women sometimes lead. But overall, men do a better job of leading.

So when you are a man you will be a leader, whether you want it or not. As a husband, you will lead your family. As a worker, you will probably rise to a position of leadership over some of your co-workers. You may be a leader in your church or other non-business organization. And there are many other positions of leadership that you may occupy.

But know this: Leadership does not necessarily mean having the official title of a leader such as a president, pastor, or CEO. More fundamentally, leadership means understanding how the world operates and then taking responsibility for doing your part to make things go better in your family, your neighborhood, your church, your job, and so on. If you are this sort of person then as you grow older people will recognize your abilities, and you will probably achieve positions of official leadership. But the “leadership” to which we refer here is a matter of your knowledge, wisdom and good moral virtue, and so it is something to which every man should aspire. And people everywhere naturally look to men to lead.

Your only choice, therefore, is whether or not to be a good leader. And as a leader you will be engaged in a battle, whether you know it or not. Your family will be threatened, not only by criminals but also by false teachings that come in by way of the media, by the natural laziness and sinfulness of all members of your family, including you, and by other threats too numerous to mention. Your religion will be threatened by false teachers, by organized oppression originating from certain parts of the government, and by other threats too numerous to list here. Your country will be threatened by bad political ideas, by hostile foreigners, by the natural sinfulness of its citizens, and by other threats.  And so on and so forth.

 The threat of liberalism

 The threats mentioned above have existed in every age. But these days there is a specific battle going on about which you need to know. The two sides are generally called “liberalism” and “conservatism.” These two sides are not sharply defined, because most people are partly liberal and partly conservative, and because there are some good and some bad ideas and people on both sides. But in general, and although we acknowledge that there are exceptions, the liberals are dedicated to opposing God and establishing rules for society and government that oppose what God wants for man. The word “liberal” comes from a Latin word meaning “free,” and liberals want man to be free from God’s rule.

True, not all liberals want man to be completely free from God’s rule. If a liberal has a part of him that does not oppose God, then that is the non-liberal part of him. Liberal people do not necessarily oppose God all the way. But liberalism, that is, the liberal way of thinking, opposes God.

And the people who mostly support what God wants for man and human society are usually called conservatives.  There are varieties of conservatism, some of which are more infected with liberalism than others, but the good side of the battle, these days, is generally known as conservatism.

So there’s a battle going on. As a leader, you’ll need to support one side and defend yourself and those you love from the threat that comes from other side. The only question is which side you’ll support. And if you refuse to fight (or don’t know what’s going on), you’ll only be helping the strongest side to win.  Everyone is on one side or another.

 Being a leader

 A good leader is not necessarily a man who issues orders that must be obeyed. Some leaders occupy positions like this, but in general a good leader is a man who understands what must be done and then makes sure that it is done. Leadership, therefore, requires two things: understanding and action.

In order to know what must be done, you must understand how the world works, and how it should work if all people honored God.  A good leader must have a lot of knowledge about the world, especially since so many people are constantly trying to get us to believe things that are false. The most important battle is between truth and falsehood.

So as a leader-in-training, a young man must begin learning about the order of the world.  We say “begin learning” because the process never ends. You cannot learn everything about the world and then sit back and relax for the rest of your days. Learning never ends.

[If you don’t like the thought of a never-ending process of learning, consider this: The most enjoyable type of learning is when you learn more about a subject you already know. Once you know something, it’s easier and more fun to learn more about it.]

The most important knowledge is knowledge of God, as He is revealed in the Bible. Knowing about God, like knowing about the world generally, is not done just by learning a bunch of facts. Yes, you do need to know many facts, but that’s not enough. You must also understand how the system works. You must understand how the many facts fit together to make one system that works in a certain way. This is true for the system of Christianity, and for the other systems of knowledge about the world, such as chemistry, economics, politics, psychology, and so on.

Here’s an example of why you need to understand things as a system.  The Bible says that we are saved from God’s punishment for our sins only by repentance and faith in Christ. See, for example, Ephesians 2:8—9:

  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But the same Bible also says that faith without works cannot save us. See James 2:14—17:

 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

This seems to say that repentance and faith are not enough.

So one part of the Bible says that repentance and faith are enough for you to be saved, and another part seems to say that they are not enough.  The Bible appears to oppose itself.

The man who does not care about Christianity as a system will just shrug it off and say “Religions isn’t designed to make sense.”  But the good man will try to understand how the facts fit together into a system that makes sense.

In this example, the solution of the problem is that repentance and faith in Christ are the only things that cause us to be saved, but saved men and women always do good works. Therefore the one who has no good works is shown to be unsaved. Good works are the result salvation, not the cause of salvation.

The solution of this problem is not difficult to understand, once you’ve had it explained to you. [Difficult to accept, maybe. Difficult to understand, no.] But many people don’t make the effort to understand the system. They’re content just to know a few things about it, even if these things don’t make sense together. You should not be like these people.

Understanding the system of Christianity is also important because there are many Christians (or so-called Christians) who misunderstand Christianity and who teach these errors to others. The Christian world contains a lot of bad teaching, and you need to be able to recognize these errors and reject them. Therefore a good leader must be a student of Christianity.

*

Why is a man a leader? Because God created him that way. Men are especially interested in understanding how the things of the world work. And most men are also interested in working to make sure that the things over which they have influence work well.

In contrast, most women do not have these desires. Most women are mostly interested in having good relationships with their family, friends and acquaintances, and in having comforts at home. We do not say this to put women down; the world needs good relationships and comfort at home. But to be a good leader you must not have your highest goals to be achieving good relationships with people and comfort at home. A leader must be able to do what’s right even if other people don’t like it, and he must be able to endure pain when it’s necessary to do the right thing. Therefore most women are not suited to be leaders. That’s usually the man’s job.

So, my son, one day people will look to you to be a leader. On that day, if you’re not the type of man who can be a good leader, people will look down on you, even if they don’t say so to your face.

[Part Two is Here.]

Note:  Hostile or off-topic comments will be deleted.

51 thoughts on “A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I

  1. Pingback: A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I | Neoreactive

  2. Very good, sir. Are you familiar with the processes involved with making a (parabolic) mirror for a relecting telescope? I have often used the entire process, start to finish, as an analogy for the way the mind of a boy must be shaped in order that the images it reflects of the things of the world surrounding him may be seen clearly and in vivid detail when brought to a fine focus. …

    • Thank you.

      I’m familiar with the reflecting properties of the parabola, but I’ve never seen it used as an analogy of shaping the mind. Can you expand your point?

      • Sure. I’ll give you the “condensed” version, minus all the mathematics (which are not important to our purposes in any event) and leave it to you to fill in the blanks between shaping a piece of glass for studying God’s universe, and shaping the mind for studying one’s purpose, under God, and applying His eternal principles throughout one’s life.

        The process of mirror-making begins with what is termed a “blank,” which is a piece of glass (or pyrex) cut to a predetermined thickness and diameter. Thickness is important because of the distortion properties inherent to the glass (a super-cooled liquid, so called); diameter because of light gathering capability, of course. One must determine focal length of the telescope before beginning the mirror grinding process. Pre-establishing focal length determines the depth of (concave) curvature one must grind the mirror surface. Various tools are used throughout the process for different purposes.

        The mirror grinding process involves several steps. First one must “rough out” the desired depth of curvature by use of a “tool” (a separate piece of glass or pyrex cut to the same diameter and close to the same thickness as the blank), and a relatively course grinding agent lubricated with water. Once the rough grinding is done to satisfaction (measured by a premade template to determine desired depth), the next step is to begin smoothing the surface of the blank with a less abrasive grinding agent, and then a less abrasive agent after that, and so on. The final step (before applying the reflective surface to the mirror blank) is to polish the surface to a blemishless finish. It is during the final phases of grinding/polishing that the parabolic figure is accomplished; prior to this one is working with a spherical figure cut in the initial phases of grinding, which will not produce sharp images when put to the test. Nevertheless it is necessary to begin with a spherical figure before moving to the superior parabolic.

        Now, the analogy consists in the process itself. The “blank” that will ultimately become the primary mirror in a reflector is, of course, analogous to the unenlightened mind of the child in question; you are the primary “tool” (cut of the same material, of more or less the same thickness and so forth) used to complete the grinding/polishing process in all of its phases. The “grinding agent(s)” used (more and less abrasive), including the polishing agent/compound, are the facts and data you will teach him to accord with his purpose and function – you begin by “roughing out” general principles, adding the details as he is able to receive them. The “distortion properties” inherent to the glass are the distortion properties inherent to the mind, given bad or incomplete information, too easily persuaded (it is common practice for experienced telescope users to set their telescopes outside to climatize for an hour or more before using them due to these distortion qualities inherent to the glass. The analogy here is that of a properly formed mind not being too quick to judge a given situation before it has received more relevant information by which to form a clearer judgment.).

        That is it in a nutshell. Of course the analogy gets more profound when one delves off into all the mathematics and testing procedures used throughout the process to determine focal length, proper depth of curvature and proper shape of the surface (a parabola) to produce the most vivid, detailed images. I could get into atmospheric conditions, climatalogical conditions at given locations, light pollution levels, elevation above sea level and so forth, and how each of these affects, in one way or the other, how effective a telescope will function under various circumstances and how these varying conditions are analogous to the mind given certain situations, but that is all more than was intended in the first place, and there are several good books on the subject of mirror grinding that do a much better job of conveying all of that than I can. Thanks for asking.

      • Any sort of ‘manufacturing’ metaphor in the formation of one’s children is dangerous and repellent, because children come to the parents already shaped by God with their own peculiarities, both strengths and flaws, which cannot be predicted by any blueprint. If a blank comes to you which goes outside standard manufacturing tolerances, and applying your scheme to it yields a worthless lens, you’re free to throw it in the garbage and start over. You’re stuck with your children. Because of this, the scheme of ‘formation’ cannot be structured without including continuous feedback from the needs of the child.

      • Arakawa: don’t I pray fall prey to the modern purblind notion of mechanism. It is not so much that organisms can be reduced to machines, as vice versa: machines are what they are and do what they do in virtue of their participation in organic society. Machines work because they share some characteristics with organisms, or because like any other bits of matter that have been appropriated by organisms for use as tools (as humans appropriate food, or hammers, or computers), they have been integrated into organic procedures.

        Lens grinding is an extension of the human process of focusing and aiming the eye. When we look at something, that too is a kind of factury. When the hands are engaged in the project, so that manufactury serves oculufactury, the process is not thereby deadened, but enriched; as when we pick up a stone to look at it more closely.

      • Arakawa, would it make you feel better about it if I added that the scheme of formation in the mirror making procedure also involves constant feedback throughout the process (following rough grinding) from the blank itself via the use of testing procedures which show existing surface flaws and their severity in relief, thus where and to what extent to concentrate one’s efforts in correcting, as well as what procedures are best suited to the correction?

        Also, while one is free to throw a “useless” blank out and start all over, the great likelihood is that one isn’t going to receive a completely useless blank anymore than his child can be completely useless at birth, in spite of his defects. Moreover, if one has spent a great deal of time and effort grinding his mirror only to discover, at length, slight flaws in its surface he is, for whatever reason, unable to correct, he isn’t likely to dispense with it altogether but to apply the reflective surface, install it in his telescope and utilize it to the extent it still produces relatively good images. Meanwhile he will likely get the impulse to start another mirror grinding project wherein he will determine to improve upon his last, AND, having by now learned how to detect and correct certain defects he was before unequipped to deal with, he can always go back to his original and repolish its surface, making the proper corrections then IF it is determined the glass itself can withstand the additional polishing and re-surfacing. …

  3. Pingback: A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I | Reaction Times

  4. I have no children as of yet. It is hard being a young man to find out where one could possibly raise children these days and not be abusing them through subjection to our world.

    I would hope to have both sons and a daughters though, and instill in them the Tradition of our forebears. The value in children is, post-death, in the legacy you leave and it is the sons that carry this forward. Essential to preserving the legacy you create or pass on is teaching a son the essence of manhood, the privilege and the sacrifice.

    What more important doctrine could there be than that of being in the world but not of it? The challenge for a son to be a man in this day and age is that the rest of the world wants him to be an animal. Vital is teaching the son how he can be better than an animal.

    • The cultural climate is, to be sure and in many, many ways, not especially conducive to raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. But it’s not a hopeless undertaking notwithstanding, and children are an heritage of the Lord; blessed is the man who has a quiver full.

      Are you married, Mark?

      • Not yet. But I’m still young. As a Reactionary, it is absolutely necessary for me to find a woman who fulfills the Traditional ideal, which in today’s world is like finding a diamond in the local sewage works. Alas, I am planning to travel extensively in the coming couple of years, on the prowl as it were, so I’m casting a wide net. That’s the plan anyway.

      • Hmm. Well I hope you don’t cast your net too wide. Recall the moral of the story of Acres of Diamonds.

      • I know the tale. Mr. Conwell was however fortunate enough to have lived at a time when the flesh of Modernity hadn’t totally rotted. I dare say seeing the world today would have put him in an early grave. How much worse could it get at this point? Even if you find a Traditional woman, the state simply refuses to leave you alone. They must rub your face in their ‘progress’. You practically have to become Amish to get away from the grinding squalor.

  5. I like Terry Morris’s metaphor. His description of the mirror-grinding procedure is a model of readable technical prose.

  6. One of the most important things I want to convey to my children is something that was missing from my own upbringing. I was taught a lot about not being selfish, like sharing toys and snacks.

    I was not taught about not being ego-centric, not being narcissistic, which means not focusing my attention on myself, but on other person, other things, tasks at hand, and, for the religious people, God.

    As my Buddhist teacher taught us: “If we think of ourselves, we have problems, if we think of other people, we have tasks. Having tasks is better than having problems.” True, except that instead of other people he could have just said “Really, anything else but me. A research project, for example.”

    Being selfish and being ego-centric / narcissistic are different things. It is entirely possible to
    be ego-centricly unselfish, if your attention is focused on not on the people you share your snacks with, but on yourself being virtuous by the act of sharing. It is also possible to be selfish and not ego-centric. They are people who have interesting hobbies like motorbiking and paragliding, invest their all into them, and for all they care the world may disappear. They do not worry about being good or not, adequate or not, inferior or superior.

    Children are NECESSARILY born ego-centric. Babies are full of needs, and lack any means to supply them. So basically when they are thirsty, 100% of their attention is on them being thirsty, they just express it wailing and expect the world to rush to their aid. And it does.

    As they grow, their attention should focus more and more outwards. The needs of other people (siblings, parents), but even on inanimate objects. When a 3 year old feels thirsty, ask and receives a cup of herbal tea, he can only divert 30% of attention to feeling thirsty and must put 70% of attention into drinking from it correctly so that the tea goes in the mouth and not on the shirt. So this is less ego-centric.

    Children who have mandated attention-focusing outwards, because they have siblings, or pets, their parents expect them to help with housework, or push them to stuff like piano pracice or sports, learn this early.

    I… I was a big baby even at 16, this means, a complete ego-centric narcissist. This was because I had no reason to focus my attention outwards: no religion, no piano nor sports practice, schoolwork was easy for my IQ and I could do it absent-minded, no sibling, no helping with housework, no pet, no social life, hardly any friends, my life was largely just about entertaining myself with computer games. I hardly even needed to fend for myself, my mom would knock, brings snacks and soda, and let me focus on my games. She was that willing slave kind who would collect the used socks of a 16 years old boy from the floor and wash them instead of insisting to do something myself.

    This made me a narcissist. 100% of my attention was focused on ME. I could have easily become an SJW, since the SJWs are characterized by narcissism. But we lived in an ex-Commie country, this kind of individualisic Leftism was not known, so I became a right-wing SJW: a Nietzschean. I could have also became a Randian easily. They are the righ-wing narcissists, the right-wing SJW types.

    I can tell, it is no fun. If you put 99% of your attention on yourself, you become super-important (“feeding the tiger, it grows” in Buddhist lingo) and thus you expect yourself to be PERFECT, and every fault, every inadequacy, every time anyone has a less than worshipfully admiring opinion of you is DEVASTATING. Every reminder you are not perfect feels like you and your world stopping to exist. One typical symptom of that is vertigo and physical nausea – if you read SJW texts they all go “OMG this misogynisttranshomophobicracist view makes my physically ill” – they are not lying. That is how these ego-threats feel if you are a narcissist. You feel dizzy as if falling free through space. Nauseating.

    It was hard to come up from that. Buddhist meditation kinda nuked parts of it. Work, real-world work in business helped too. In a painful way: having to learn nobody giving a damn if I am brilliant or not, just caring if the job is done or not.

    I think I managed to get to the point where I have such a long to-do list to focus on that I go for days without thinking if I am good or bad, smart or stupid, or anything else.

    I think I would not have understood it at 16. I thought people who don’t hate themselves think they are good, and I don’t. I did not realize that actually they think they are not very important, and thus they do not spend much time worrying if they are good (smart, brilliant, strong etc.) but rather focus on the tasks at hand: or the pleasures at hand.

    Since that I realized that actually good parents (as opposed to merely “nice” parents: sorry, mom, dad) have always known this set of problems one way or another. I don’t know how they knew it. Maybe for religious folks it is somewhere in the Bible. Or it is a tradition.

    It is important to explain this to children. But it is also important to use the traditional parenting tools focus the childrens attention away from themselves and on other things, even if they resist it hard:

    – Pets. I hated pets, precisely because they demanded attention away from myself. I will now force, if needed, pets on my kids. Precisely because they need to divert attention away from themselves in order not to become ego-centric narcissists.

    – Siblings, although I think we will stop at one, under 1 year old = parents are enslaved, and now at 37/34 we feel old for a second little tyrant.

    – Piano or sports practice – any hobby or pastime that requires focus and attention, not idle playing.

    – Helping with housework.

    – We are not religious and will obviously not push our kid(s) to be so, but I do understand that a huge God-shaped attention magnet would be tremendously useful against narcissism.

    I have only figured out probably not more than 20% of it. I got the general theory right but not the details of practice. Please fill if you can. There are probably at least 20-30 similar traditional parenting tools for diverting childrens attention away from themselves.

    • I was not taught about not being ego-centric, not being narcissitic, which means not focusing my attention on myself, but on other person, other things, tasks at hand, and, for the religious people, God.

      Amen!

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  9. Thank you for saying so, Alan. I must reply that one main reason I frequent this site is because of the *greater* intelligence and honed skills of the contributors. To the man.

    As far as the metaphor goes, I’ve just read a half-dozen or so books on the subject of mirror grinding, including a couple very good ones (the others not s’much, but they also have their usefulness). I developed the metaphor some years ago as a means to help keep me focused on my task as a primary educator of my children.

    There are great things in the OP that I hope to get around to discussing within the next few days, one of which is the whole-to-part method of education (as opposed to progressive education) you embrace (I have a metaphor for that too. :-)). Another is the importance of a child becoming a lifelong, independent learner and developing an interest in many useful arts and sciences. But like I said, I’ll write from my computer later instead of from my phone, and discuss it more in depth.

    Until then, and again, well done, sir! I look forward to the next edition.

    P.S. I share your interest in aviation, and all the perks (educationally speaking) that come from studying its principles.

  10. Shenpen, the “good parents” you’re talking about, as opposed to the merely nice ones, learned their basic skills in an environment where their own parents did their jobs well overall, and didn’t over-indulge their children, nor brow-beat them to death for their imperfections. And, yes, for us religious folk it is not just found somewhere in the Bible, it is, quite literally, all throughout it.

    I was once approached by a dear old woman in a nursing home, while visiting my grandmother there, who said of my children after spending several hours with them that she could tell that they had all well-learned the meaning of both the word “yes,” and “no.” I only tell that story because she was a woman (a mother and grandmother) who “gets it” when it comes to child-rearing. …

  11. May a grandmother add to this important discussion?

    Just a few short notes:
    Read to your boys (and girls), but only the very best literature, most of which was published prior to 1950. This winter I am reading “The Long Winter,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder; in it we have men of extraordinary virtue and hardiness (Laura’s father and Almanzo Wilder) as well as men of weak character — and the contrast is striking. LIW,’s “Farmer Boy,” should also be a source of modeling for young boys (and parents) and also a glimpse into what America and freedom were like, so long ago now.
    And do consistently teach Bible stories, if not daily then weekly at the least.
    And TV should not be in your homes except as a means of viewing wholesome entertainment via DVD.
    To put it rather crassly, garbage in garbage out. Fill your charges with the very best of everything noble, pure, honest, of good report, and all the rest that Philippians 4 urges upon us.

    But most importantly, pray for your boys.

    • Thank you, Debra, for your comments. Excellent, as always.

      I recently gave my daughter the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” oeuvre; she devoured them, and then proceeded to read them again—and again. I read them all, too. They are excellent on so many levels. In addition to being entertaining and well-written stories, they are good history books. They also teach the value of hard work, and are morally uplifting.

      I found Pa Wilder’s take on freedom particularly fascinating. When one of his boys had the opportunity to be apprenticed and learn a trade, he argued against it, saying that only a farmer was truly free, while a tradesman was always dependent on his customers. Yet he let his son choose for himself (forgive me if I’ve forgotten or misremembered any of the relevant details). Homestead farming is a hard life, but to be indebted to no man was worth the price to them.

      • I would say that of all the details related in “Farmer Boy,” the one you mention about Pa Wilder’s defense of freedom as being most perfectly conceived in the life of the farmer is the one that impressed me most and stayed with me the longest. That’s probably because I never thought of farming in those terms, nor the trades as being a more dependent sort of life’s work. Attitudes such as Pa’s are more rare today, sadly.

        And yes, the Wilder books are superbly entertaining history; my almost 7-year-old granddaughter begs me, “Just one more chapter, pleeaasse,” as she jumps up and down with hands up in puppy dog fashion, tongue hanging out.

  12. I am leery of the idea that all men are destined to be leaders as it’s profoundly untraditional. If you yourself are already leading men and support multiple households that aren’t yours, then I understand your desire to pass this teaching along to your son. If you aren’t, though, then I think it’s more profitable to teach your son the importance of knowing one’s place and being willing to embrace it, even if it isn’t a leader’s place. This is part of passing along acceptance of a Divine Order. All men are not leaders, but a boy can become an excellent and Godly man without being a leader at all or being raised with the expectation that he will be.

    I have no idea what will happen with teaching our own boy(s), it’s not going to be something we can tackle for a few years yet. I can say we chose an agrarian-oriented life to make some of the man-work Daddy will do with them easier to jump into. And consequences of bad decisionmaking are much more visible, which also helps with raising up productive, hopefully God-fearing young boys into such men.

    • It is important to prepare a young man, as best one can, to become a leader, even if his leadership doesn’t ultimately involve the sense of the term in which you’re using it. Who says a man isn’t a leader who isn’t responsible for the well-being and sustenance of several families not his own?

    • While it’s true that most men will not be leaders in a formal sense (e.g., governors, mayors, legislators, CEOs, Pastors, etc), many will, and every married man is (or ought to be) the leader of his family. And it’s important that a young man learn to think like a leader, that is, to understand what must be done and then make or support efforts to see that it is done. As a potential leader, a young man needs to learn not to follow the crowd or to crave its approval.

      What we don’t want to do is raise boys who will crave power over others just so that they can feel important or feel the thrill of bossing others around. That’s not real leadership.

      There is also the fact that being a leader in the true sense requires also being a follower: good leaders respect their superiors.

      • Yes, but what if your son doesn’t marry, or is born less bright? Unmarried celibate permabachelors are men, and so are below-average or average intelligence guys. Or at least, they can be.

        I dunno, I guess I’ll get back to you on this one in five years, when my husband will have had at least a little direct experience with this very topic.

      • Almost all the leading that a man can possibly do consists of leading *himself.* And that project is doomed to fail, sooner or later, unless he submit himself first and foremost, and utterly, to the leadership of the Lord.

    • PC, I have a question: is it your view that training a young man to be a good leader is *opposed to* training the same young man to be a good follower? What I mean is, why, to your mind, is it that a young man not endowed with a high IQ, say, is not entitled to a good education in the art of being (or becoming) a good leader?

      Kristor, absolutely! You have identified what some of us take for granted as somekind of self-evident truth. Of course it’s not self-evident, except to us believers.

      Debra, again absolutely on every point. Not that I’m very good at following some of them to the “T.”

      • Thank you, Terry Morris, for the acknowledgment; I appreciate your feedback.
        Laura Ingall’s Wilder, by the way, was born February 7, 1867, a fact that I only realized Saturday, the 7th (still today where I am).

      • Of course it’s opposed to being a good leader. I think much of this discussion doesn’t come from men who have lived among people who are not very bright, so they simply don’t understand how to educate and disseminate information to those people. If this reply isn’t clear, it’s been cut off due to a nursing emergency.

      • Of course [training a young man to be a good leader is] opposed to being a good leader.

        You’re ignoring the proverb “to be a good leader, one must be a good follower.” A good leader is one who knows his place in world, and does not have an unrealistic sense of his abilities.

        Men who are not very bright still need some understanding of how properly to take the initiative in life.

      • Oh no! Hope everything turned out OK!

        In lieu of a more detailed explanation of your position, I will only say that Carry On Mr. Bowditch might be a useful tool for you to help cleanse away some of this ‘not very bright, therefore not able to learn’ mental baggage you seem to have adopted based on what I assume to be your experiences. It might surprise you what the “not very bright” among us can learn, and how proficiently they are sometimes able to apply it. I have enough experience under my belt, both in teaching my own children and in teaching other young men of various ages and from varying backgrounds, to know that very often what they lack is not intelligence or the ability to grasp higher concepts per se, but inspiration and someone (a man) to hold them to a higher level of achievement. My boys in particular would be quick to tell you that the very best educational moments they can call to memory came not in the formal classroom setting with their mother, but out on the job, … with me. (I have four boys, btw, ranging in age from 27 to 4.)

  13. Interesting, Debra. It just so happens that my wife’s birthday is Feb. 7. I know that she and girls read some of the Little House books (while the boys and I are more inclined to the likes of Carry on Mr. Bowditch and such as that), but I don’t think she realizes she and Ingalls-Wilder share the same birthdate.

    I just read Laura Wilders’s biography, prompted by your post, and was surprised to learn she lived to be 90. Also that her daughter, Carrie, was an accomplished writer in her own right.

    • That’s mighty fast reading, Mr. Morris. Did you know there is just recently published an autobiography by Laura Wilder titled Pioneer Girl? It’s on back-order at Amazon — and coming to my house as soon as it comes in.

      I haven’t heard of the Carry on Mr. Bowditch books, since until the birth of Toby almost five years ago, there were NO boys in our family: My parents had girls, my sister and I had girls, and our girls had girls, until Toby. So, thank you for the reference. We do lots of science and airplanes, and cars, and airplanes, and airplanes. If you get my meaning.

    • Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was Rose Wilder Lane who, according to the Wik, was a moderately successful writer and one of the founders of the Libertarian movement. Carrie Ingalls was one of Laura’s sisters.

      But I also want to add an “amen!” all that has been said about the Little Hose books. My son and I have enjoyed them all and they portray something like an ideal of how home and society (warts and all) should be.

      [Speaking of warts: There is a scene in one of the books where Laura, a new teacher, is boarding with the family of one of her pupils. In the middle of the night, she awakes to discover that the wife is threatening the husband with a kitchen knife. But no homicide occurs, and the next day it’s back to business as usual. (I cite from memory.) Life on the prairie was not for the faint of heart.]

  14. Well it was a short biography, not especially quick reading.

    No, I did not realize it is newly released, but I did see it mentioned in the bio I read. I’ll have to get my copy on order.

    Carry On Mr. Bowditch is a single book, not a collection. I think it is listed on Amazon.

    Airplanes … yes! What about them would you like to discuss? Are you into Meteorology yet? You will be! 🙂

    • Fascinating. Yes, I see you understand the implications of “airplanes.” Master Toby’s dad is a pilot and has this winter erected a weather station in their home’s backyard! And his mother is also aviation-oriented. So you are on target in your analysis!

  15. Alan, oops! Yes, Rose, not Carrie. Duh! Well, I get my own childrens’ names mixed up from time to time (not to mention their birthdates!), but that’s what tends to happen when you have eight to keep up with. It becomes a virtual “who’s-who?” among your own offspring! Ha, ha.

    And then there’s the grandchildren …

  16. Well, master Toby’s Dad isn’t the only pilot among us, but he is definitely the most important pilot to master Toby!

    My piloting days are over, I suspect, given my age and this and that. But none of that means that I can’t convey the riches of aviation training (including all the Meteorology & whatnot) to my sons and grandsons.

    By the way, your family’s history of having/raising girls is … very impressive on the face of it. Anyone who has raised both (girls and boys) to adulthood knows the difference!

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    • Thank you for your kind words. And I appreciate the pictures you added in your translation. Feel free to translate anything of mine you feel worthwhile.

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