Random messages: a letter to my daughter Julie

Since you’ve found this blog and find it entertaining enough to make fun of my internet name (the accent goes on the second syllable, by the way–you’ve got your sister calling me “Bonald Buck”), I’m going to give some advice and observations. You’ve heard most of it before, but you’ll have noticed that my mind moves in small circles, and I like to repeat myself.

On Adult Preachiness

I’m pleased that you have inherited my irritation with adult preachiness, and especially teachers speaking outside their subjects to scold us about the world’s problems. The scolds want to show us what good people they are, how much they “care”, but really becoming a better person is the hard work of fighting our own temptations and making personal sacrifices for other people. There’s a reason Jesus said to love our neighbors. The neighbor is the one close by whom you actually have a way to help, and thinking “caring” thoughts about people on the other side of the world is no substitute for honoring our parents, showing kindness to our sisters and schoolmates, and so forth.

There is a lesson in these scolds. It feels good to think that you’re smarter than other people. To think yourself more moral than other people is sweeter still. If it can be had on the cheap, just by criticizing unpopular people, this feels best of all. None of us is immune to the temptation to self-righteousness, least of all people like me who spend their free time blogging! It’s the inclination Jesus criticized most often (see: “pharisees”, “hypocrites”).

On investing our time

I’ve called the time I spent as a kid playing video games a waste, but they’re actually good preparation for life in a sense. Kids seek out games that are difficult but not impossible. Too easy or too hard is no fun. When they lose or get killed, they don’t get frustrated and quit, but practice and get better. Fun is serious work. This is the way to approach schoolwork, flute practice, sports, and growth of spiritual understanding.

Opportunity cost is a really important idea when making decisions. The question is not “is this worth doing?”, but “is this the best way to spend my limited time and money?” A wise economist (Thomas Sowell) was once giving a lecture on some matter of government policy. After listing downsides of one possible policy after another, a lady in the audience became frustrated and asked him “Then what is the solution?” He replied, “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

Life choices: college and marriage

People talk as if everyone should go to college. For some jobs, one should go to college. However, it’s expensive and time-consuming, so one should only go after coming up with a plan to get a career out of it. It should not be assumed that a degree in some useless subject will automatically lead to a job with lots of money. Some call thinking this way about education “mercenary”, but I think young people with no money making a start in life are forced to be a bit mercenary. I would not even recommend one go to college to study humane subjects like literature, philosophy, or history unless one has a plan to turn it into a career. The humanities are better appreciated as one gains age and life experience and are better pursued as hobbies.

People also tell girls to concentrate on school and career before getting married and having a family, but they don’t tell you that women’ fertility drops greatly starting at around age 30. Many who put off marriage and children never have either. You should be open to the possibility that a desirable future husband will find you in your twenties. You don’t have to get married, but please make the effort to have close friends and to stay close friends with your sister, because you don’t want to be alone when your mother and I die.

On being a Catholic

We teach people religion as children, so we can only teach them the Faith at a level that children can understand. Then they go to college, and their atheist professors teach them atheism at an adult level. So people come away with the impression that religion is childish. As you mature, you will have questions and encounter objections that could not be covered in our 5-6th grade faith formation. It is important to know that the adult version of the Church’s theology is out there and how to find it.

I plead God every night to give you and your sister the grace to remain in the Faith despite the world’s pressures. I admit that in doing so, I am wishing you to be hated by the world and probably suffer for it, but so that you can retain something more precious. Some parents think they should let their children decide their religious and moral beliefs for themselves and not try to influence them. But the schools, Disney, and Netflix certainly intend to influence you, and those whose parents don’t fight back end up adopting the ruling class’s beliefs without even realizing they have done so or that they had any other choices. Because your father is an intolerant and dogmatic Catholic, you are aware that more than one belief is possible. A Christian in today’s world is bound to feel alone and isolated enduring the world’s scorn. It may help to remember that our ancestors and the saints are on our side. Indeed, on those matters where today’s world attacks us (that men and women are made for each other, that ancestors should be revered, and much else), the other great world religions and the great pagans of antiquity stand firmly on our side. Not only Saint Paul and Saint Patrick and Father Damien, but also Aristotle and Cicero, Confucius and Muhammed are with us–not bad company indeed.

6 thoughts on “Random messages: a letter to my daughter Julie

  1. Dude, even Buddha is with us too; he taught plainly that pandakas (ancient Pali word for lgbtq+) are not allowed in the monasteries and are to be shunned by his monks.

  2. I have five sons, 27-43. My view of college has changed over the years, as it gets less and less valuable while getting more and more expensive. There was a day when a degree in just anything was career path. Perhaps up until about 1970, and diminishing yearly after that.

    As for career and marriage, it is the single area where young people are given the most bad advice, usually by adults who are trying to justify their own decisions rather than look objectively at the data. I now tell young couples “Have more children and pay less attention to them. They’ll be fine and they are loads of fun as adults.” One of the main things one needs to parent is sheer energy. The myth of financial stability will never be attained. If children have food and a roof and are loved, that is enough. Some would say that even those are not absolutely essential, so long as they have relative nutrition and safety. Everyone in the world up until 1700 and most of humanity after starved for at least some portion of the year, and somehow Dante, Shakespeare, and Bacon existed.

  3. “We teach people religion as children, so we can only teach them the Faith at a level that children can understand. Then they go to college, and their atheist professors teach them atheism at an adult level. So people come away with the impression that religion is childish.”

    This is why you need a Christendom. Then the faith of the fathers is just there and you simply live it; you don’t have to propagandize it, a fight which the atheistic democratic State (all democratic States are atheistic) will ultimately win, every time.

    Modern Christians, including and in particular the Catholic and the Orthodox, conceive of Christianity as an ideology rather than a living creed. They therefore require their children to run an ideological gamut to prove themselves worthy of salvation rather than assuring them of their place in the plan of salvation by the natural life cycle of baptisms, weddings and funerals in their Christian lands.

    Young people, correctly perceiving this modern Christianity as only the burden of religious praxis with no blessings, simply opt out. Contrary to the Lord’s message, the yoke is hard and the burden is heavy. But this just reinforces geriatric Christians in the correctness of their position. Thus, Christianity becomes a geriatric book club, a revolving door of middle aged converts, or just another front of New Age universalism.

    This problem is not unique to Christianity.

  4. The humanities are better appreciated as one gains age and life experience

    I am old enough to appreciate the truth of St John Henry Newman’s assessment

    Let us consider, too, how differently young and old are affected by the words of some classic author, such as Homer or Horace. Passages, which to a boy are but rhetorical commonplaces, neither better nor worse than a hundred others which any clever writer might supply, which he gets by heart and thinks very fine, and imitates, as he thinks, successfully, in his own flowing versification, at length come home to him, when long years have passed, and he has had experience of life, and pierce him, as if he had never before known them, with their sad earnestness and vivid exactness. Then he comes to understand how it is that lines, the birth of some chance morning or evening at an Ionian festival, or among the Sabine hills, have lasted generation after generation, for thousands of years, with a power over the mind, and a charm, which the current literature of his own day, with all its obvious advantages, is utterly unable to rival. Perhaps this is the reason of the medieval opinion about Virgil, as if a prophet or magician; his single words and phrases, his pathetic half lines, giving utterance, as the voice of Nature herself, to that pain and weariness, yet hope of better things, which is the experience of her children in every time.

  5. Imagine sending all eighteen-year-olds to a monastery where clever monks would demolish their high-school science. And imagine that their high school had no advanced classes and met for only half a day once a week. And imagine that all scientists on television were grifters, or perverts, or manifest imbeciles. I think this would clip the wings of science.

    I think you’ve taken the right tone in this fatherly advice. It’s hard to be seriously countercultural without sounding deranged. This is especially hard when it comes to explaining the perils of prolonged education to a daughter. The culture has already given your daughter a stereotype of the uncool dad for you to match.

    I was annoyed by the indolence and frivolity of my children when they were they were indolent and frivolous. Then I decided that I was just working off anger at the indolence and frivolity of my own teenage-years. I think most adults have a grudge against their teenage self, and that they take this out on their children.


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