Some brief life observations for my children, in the not-so-distant future:
People will always disappoint you. Your capacity to be disappointed is directly proportionate to how important you perceive them to be in your lives. Parents, friends, teachers, prophets–be wary of how much expectation you invest in them. Do not expect more of them than you can rightfully take for yourself. We can be selfish or lazy in expecting gifts that they do not have the right or the capacity to give, even if they say they can. Study these people closely, though. You still depend on them for various things. You should expect love from your parents, support from your friends, learning how to learn from your teachers, glimpses of Zion from your prophets. But don’t expect miracles from human beings, even if they tell you they can provide them. And yet–miracles do happen. People often surprise us in redemptively humbling ways. The opportunity to revise our preconceptions and judgements of others is a joyous gift we should gratefully receive. But this isn’t because they suddenly changed who they are; it’s because they gave themselves to us in ways that we couldn’t previously see or that we had refused to see. Pay attention to these moments and learn from them. Engrave it in your psyches that people are not so much more than you think they are (though they often are) but beyond what you can comprehend. And remember–you’ll do plenty of disappointing others yourself. Remember that when someone doesn’t rise to your expectations.
Your worldview is like a picture. What you believe is captured in this picture. But the picture can change; it’s not painted with permanent oils. You can frequently try to touch it up and even add to it or subtract from it, but its hold on you–how compelling it is as a representation of your world–can fluctuate. People think that discovering historical facts or truths about religion or world events can destroy the picture, but this isn’t quite accurate. By the time you are counting and measuring, weighing pros and cons, numbering the pixels of the various images that constitute the picture, trying to figure out the style it was painted in–the picture had already begun to fade. Your initial counting itself was evidence of this. You wouldn’t have begun if the picture was no longer vibrant enough to meet your needs. But that’s ok. Counting and measuring are a part of growing up, though they are not the final destination of the spiritually mature. Human beings will always want to know the origins and mechanics of their universe. But don’t confuse counting with the essence of how the picture functions in your life. The difference between those who come to disbelieve versus those to continue on at this point is personal willingness or unwillingness to see the picture transform into something related yet radically different. Apostates and apologists both count and measure–but they are equally mistaken if they think that such counting is the essence of belief, or that they themselves are the sole painters of these pictures or the ones that come to replace them. Which pictures capture us is largely out of our control. What we can seemingly decide to do is to determine the intensity and honesty of our own fidelity to the pictures that seize us and call us onward.
Finally, remember that the World is a dangerous, even unspeakably horrifying place. But it’s also unspeakably beautiful. And ordinary and banal beyond imagination. It’s all of these things. But also, there’s no such thing as “The World.” There are worlds–religious, secular, spiritual, corporate, urban, suburban, ecological, animal, human, fictional–and you are a resident and product of all of them in one way or another. Educate yourself about the worlds, not just the world. Learn about them in terms of these multiple identities rather than just geological or political facts you memorize about the earth. Relate to the earth in terms of these identities and you’ll more appropriately and deeply care about it in ways that respect it and sustain it.