Letter to my son
for his birthday

Dear Rich, It seems strange to be saying Happy Birthday tomorrow, 18th January 2019, to my No 1 son on his reaching the age of 63. I don’t feel old, nor do you. You have five bouncy grandchildren of your own, all beginning to look about them at the strange world we played some part in bringing them into. They don’t think it is strange. For them everything that is happening is quite normal. As it was for you at their age; as it was for me at their age, too. Normal is so unusual.

Looking back later in life, I daresay they will think it was positively dull. Mad politicians, rapacious business people, ill-willed hackers, terrifying technicians – all that may appear as a millpond by comparison with what is to come. So what messages can we possibly leave them that will contribute to happy, fulfilled lives? How should they cope with galloping change? Can they learn enough while young to save them having to spend half their lives figuring it out?

You already transmit messages of joy and hope to many people through your ministry in the United Reformed Church. When in the UK we come to one of your services. It is like basking in a glorious sunshine of words, thoughts, ideas all nudging those who hear them to think for themselves, all lifting eyes to see above whatever is normal. ‘Normal’ is certainly unusual when you light up a congregation. I do not know of any other way to say how proud I am of what you achieve.

When I add to that success your work in computing with your son, Tim, I see a whole new world of creation beyond the faith that drives your ministry. It is as though you had already got to the other side of the ‘glass darkly’ while your feet are still firmly planted on the planet. Congratulations.

Here’s a thought, though. I was brought up during WWII. It started when I was 7 and finished when I was 13. Even though it was one of the biggest adversarial events the world has ever seen, it was strangely cohesing. A common enemy often unites people. Or, rather, used to. You were brought up at a time when reconciliation after WWII was key to improved economics and to the avoidance of the next war. Cooperation with Europe, lowering trade barriers, wider travel and seeing how the other half lives, educated everyone far beyond what we learnt during WWII. We may have been politically split but we were united in reasonableness and common sense.

During the last fifty years our adversarial way of life has taken on a new viciousness. We fight over divorce, over misunderstanding, in fact over anything a lawyer can make a dollar out of. It has become technical rather than reasonable. Our negotiations have become compromises, achieving half satisfaction, which is no satisfaction at all. Plea bargaining is the final proof of insanity. Admit some wrong you didn’t do to mitigate the consequences of some wrong you did do. Madness.

Brexit – oh, yes, we cannot escape the disgrace of that – is evidence of social stupidity in the hope of economic gain. Views that we should be a part of Europe (my view) or that we should split from the EU are both reasonable. How the leaders, first, and then how the masses, later, tackled them have been unreasonableness at its worst. We haven’t had fisticuffs in the Parliament but we have had dangerous wordicuffs. Reconciliation from them may take a while.

The issue of membership or not of European Union could be settled by a simple test of which is the more reasonable of the two options. The criteria were never presented to voters before the referendum. Now it is a shouting match with Boris as the Chief Shouter. Inventions of moderation, of reasonableness and of kindness should be discovered (Eurika!). A philosophical approach to life is better for the digestion and cheaper on the pocket. That’s what successive generations need.

I asked the question, I must try to answer it. ‘Time devoted to reconnaissance is never wasted’ says the Army General. That’s true about life, too. If I would have done one thing differently, and tried to persuade my children to do the same, it would be to ponder what life is all about while much younger.

Obviously I don’t know how you will mark your report. I would mark it very highly indeed. As for my own I think I’d say ‘A’ for effort and ‘?’ for result.

But then the effort is all that is required, isn’t it?

Happy Birthday, Rich, and many more to come

With love, Dad

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