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Archive for the ‘Advice for living’ Category

People love giving advice.

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I’ve even been known to offer some myself, considering that this and my other weblog give suggestions about a world of subjects. But as Gildor Inglorion told Frodo,

Seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.

My advice is often general in nature, since I don’t know your circumstances. And that’s the problem with much advice. We’ve all known someone or many someones who swoop in to provide the solution to a given situation. Except they don’t know all of what’s going on, what our desires and motivations are, and too many times don’t even know what they’re talking about. Such people consider that acquaintance is a license to meddle.

And so it is that I offer this piece of advice. It may or may not apply to you, though I would like it if you think carefully about that. Here it is:

Be as frugal about giving advice to those you know as you are about taking it.

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When I was a child, I took mild amusement in the advice that adults feel compelled to give children. It was always predictable. But reading H. P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter stories today, it occurs to me that most of that advice comes from a desire of adults to relive their own childhoods. The problem, of course, is that if we really could go back to the days of our youth, we’d probably forget all the wisdom we think we’ve accumulated. Thus all the words of counsel, given in an attempt to play with someone else’s young life. With that in mind, I hereby belly flop into the subject and pee in the pool:

1. Play

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I played a great deal as a child. More precisely, I wandered for miles, making up stories that appealed to me. But sorry, kids, play, by itself, counts for nothing. What matters is what you learn from playing. A lot of my writing today comes from stories that I worked on as a child. What I figured out was how stories had to be structured. And since I was walking around my neighborhood, I also learned that stories needed chapter breaks and timing to be done until next time when I got home. Unlike the children in the picture, you should find time to play alone. You need to become yourself. More on that later.

2. Learning

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The earlier you learn something, the easier it will be–at least, that’s how you’ll remember it. But the more you learn early on, the more you’ll be able to learn later. For example, find people who know other languages and pester them until they teach you. When you’re an adult, learning languages becomes much more challenging. The same is true about mathematics. Read lots of books. Read mine. Read the ones your teacher assigns, but pick others that you run across. Hunt for more. Above all else, believe that everything you learn will be useful to you in the future. You may not see it now, but that is true.

3. Society

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Remember that bit about being alone? Well, you should also be sociable with lots of people. They can be useful to you. But be friends with only a few. I don’t mean Facebook friends. I mean something else. Imagine the sort of person you’d be willing to journey across the country with after the zombie apocalypse gets going. The kind of person you could trust and tolerate through that experience is a friend. There aren’t many of them in this world, and the ones who would be my friends aren’t necessarily the ones for you.

4. Identity

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The fellow there is Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the things you should read is his essay, “Self Reliance.” But if you don’t learn any of these other lessons, learn this: Be yourself. Yes, you have to fulfill a lot of expectations of others, but those are chores. You have to help others and avoid harming them, but that’s morality. The key duty is to figure out what you expect of yourself. You’re the one you have to please. That’s especially true when you’re considering the people you will spend time with. Whether you’re attracted to someone or you are being a friend–and it’s best if those two go together, ultimately–trying to change yourself to match the other person is a fool’s errand. You’ll lose yourself and not gain anyone else.

Too many children and adults these days can’t read these many words. If you’ve made it this far, you got the point, and I’ve said enough.

Now go and sin some more.

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