Letter to Future Mercy

My sister has done this letter plan with her three kids. When they turn one you give them a letter to be opened when they are eighteen. It's a good idea. Today Mercy is having her first birthday party. This is my third time doing this type of letter and it's a unique experience each time.

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To Mercy,

It's odd to write a letter to be opened so far into the future. It's impossible to know what will have happened by then, who you'll be, who I'll be, and what state the world will be in. Right now you're outside walking around on the trampoline on wobbly legs, pressing your face against the mesh, smiling and clapping your hands.

By eighteen you've made a lot of decisions. Your life is your own. Maybe you know the direction you're headed, more likely you're searching around. And this is where I'll offer just a few thoughts.

One, your natural predisposition is happy and engaged. That's not true for everyone, but it is for you. For instance, you fell and scraped your nose the other day. It's pretty scabbed over right now. But, you went right through the area you fell on the cement. You're still enthusiastic about going around the yard and getting on the trampoline. You're still climbing around the house and wielding a spatula. And I was just holding you up in the hallway so you could look at the pictures of your family that you like to study and screech at. So, if you're not happy and engaged it's not because of your natural tendencies, it's because of your experiences, decisions, beliefs, frames of reference, and the perspectives you've chosen. In that case, change the circumstance, heal, and restore your natural attitudinal state.

Two, I'm currently an elected township supervisor. I highly recommend not going into politics. If the society is good then there's no need. If the society is bad it's no use.

Three, read autobiographies and memoirs. Learning history is interesting and useful. Learning different career fields is interesting and useful. Learning self development is interesting and useful. But, life is more than all of that. Reality is not a concept. Life is a combination of learning from other's experience and integrating it with our own. If you want to learn about physics it makes sense to study physics texts, take classes, and do experiments. If you want to understand how things really work and really develop, read the autobiography of Max Planck. For biology, Charles Darwin wrote an autobiography. For science, Karl Popper. If you want to understand the chaos and complexity and unpredictability of real life then there is nothing better than autobiographies. If you want to understand overcoming hardship to succeed, people that have done it have written down their own story: Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Booker Washington, Josiah Henson, Andrew Carnegie, Conrad Hilton, Viktor Frankl, Thomas Sowell. If you want to understand retail read Sam Walton and Howard Schultz and Phil Knight, if you want to understand manufacturing read Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, if you want to understand finance read Peter Peterson, if you want to understand television read John Hendricks and Mark Burnett. If you want to write, or teach, or nurse, or be a rocket scientist then you can find someone that has done it and read their story, and it can inform your story. Not because they will be the same, but so that you can understand the complexity and the unlikely series of events that go into the way life really develops as opposed to the simplicities presented in fiction, movies, tv, and news. You'll learn things about people and history that no one will ever tell you otherwise. You'll learn that everyone is making the wild decisions that life is made of.

If I'm still alive then I'm sure we'll have had many conversations. If I'm not, then I've written hundreds of articles and essays and you can know me as well as you want through those.

I'll leave this letter with this. We humans are driven by our emotional reactions. Everything we encounter is automatically rated as good or bad. If you look past that and see that change is always happening, always churning, you realize that each change, even if bad, is an opportunity of some form, an opening, an emerging of new learning, of a new fit, a new formation, a new order of reality; and that's what life is, so engage with the opportunity and live it.

Jeffrey Alexander Martin

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It's hard to say if that's good or not, if it will be useful or not. The letter is printed and in her box to be opened in seventeen years. Although, while putting this into an article I did find two typos that are in the physical copy of the letter that I've corrected here. Alas, something for her to notice at the time.



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