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.