“Dad, what is love?”

<singing Beatles>

Love, love, love.
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy.

Description=Album cover of Love by The Beatles

Dad, come on, stop singing – you’re hurting my ears.

Okay, okay. You have no love for my musical talents, ha? Never mind.

So what is love, you ask. I was wondering when you’ll get to that question.

Well, I did.

I can tell you from my own experience.

When I met your mother, I saw a beautiful, intelligent, proud and independent woman. She was tall, had the most beautiful long dark hair, amazing dark brown eyes, she had this sense of excitement about her that totally captivated me. We laughed together, we went for long strolls on the beach and talked. She made me feel like the luckiest guy alive for just being beside her.

My emotional reaction to her was an enormous attraction mentally and physically.

I wanted to be with her, to talk to her, to hold her. I felt a sense of joy whenever she was around and my heart was racing every time she picked up the phone or agreed to meet me before we were together.

That’s love.

Love___by_CelticBeauty_by_love

So how do you know you are actually in love?

There is no way you can miss it, kid. When it happens, your whole being is responding to it, telling you – “go after this person, get her, be with her, think about her”. It occupies your mind and body till the next time you are around her.

So what exactly is it? An emotion?

It is an emotion. A very strong one. And if you recall we said that emotions are only a reaction to something else. Remember?

Yes, a reaction to values.

Right, so it is basically a PROFOUND REACTION to the values and character a person reflects. It is your judgement and appreciation of those values that invoke both mental and physical attraction like a powerful biological magnet.

So if you love someone, is it forever?

Not necessarily. This person has to continue and be your highest value.

Time is a good test to both your and your partner’s integrity of character – sometimes people find that the person they married is not exactly who they thought he or she was. But is other cases, love deepens and gets even stronger as the years go by and as you realize that you have found your true soul mate and both of you are going through the different phases of life with growing attraction and admiration to one another.

Can I tell you a secret?

You sure can.

I love this girl from my class. I think I want to marry her some day.

Why do you love her?

I don’t really know.

I think you need to know. But you can sleep on it… hmm… sorry, sorry, don’t sleep on it… I meant… just…

Dad, what’s wrong?

<smiling> Never mind. You’ll understand it one day. Just go to sleep and tell me what you feel about this girl tomorrow. Okay?

Okay Dad. I’ll sleep on it… whatever that means.

Good night my “growing-way-to-fast-and-asking-too-many-tough-questions” kid.

Good night Dad.


“Dad, should I be the president of the United States?”

Why are you asking kid?

Most of my friends in class think it is the best thing you can be.

So, here is what I think:

First, choosing a profession and a career is a serious thing. You have to know exactly what you want to do in life. You are going to spend most of your life working, and it can either be a boring drag, waiting for workdays to end so you can go back home, or it can be a long-lasting adventure with you pursuing something that you can’t get enough of.

It is the difference between an awesome life and an average one. And most people lead an average life because they are afraid.

Afraid of what Dad?

Afraid of fear. Afraid of risk and uncertainty. They are trying to make life as predictable and safe as possible, and by that taking all the fun out of it. Think about the people and characters that you admire. For instance, what is the common denominator of all the super heroes you like so much besides their powers? What kind of life are they leading?

Interesting, adventurous.

Are they taking risks? Do they follow their passions?

Yes, they do.

So, you see? This is what I wish for –  to be a super hero!  in whatever field of life it might be.

Obama

Thanks, Dad. And what about being the president?

It depends on what being a president means. If you read what our founding fathers meant, it was about managing the army, our foreign affairs and protecting our rights. But today it means something very different.

Let me ask you this first – what makes you proud of yourself?

I don’t know, maybe when I succeed in doing something?

That’s true. Trying something and succeeding, getting a positive feedback from reality and other people makes you proud of yourself. It tells you are competent, that you can deal with life and do even greater things.

Look around you. See this bed, the light, your desk, the laptop on it, your shoes, your toys?

Yes, what about them?

Someone made them. Someone thought, designed and built them so we can buy and use them. Those people created something. So how do you think it made them feel?

Proud?

You got it. But they also got to make money and enjoy other things in life.

So let’s get back to being a president. Why would someone want to be the president or a politician now days?

To pass laws and manage the country?

True, but what is the reason they want to do it?

Make everyone’s life better?

Right, but the question is: CAN they and SHOULD they? Because you’ll agree with me that you don’t want to choose a career in which you are doomed to fail. Right?

I guess.

I believe that pursuing a career  for the “greater good” can lead to something VERY wrong.

I know it is the opposite of what they teach you in school, but that it the truth because this is how our mind and emotions work. Doing great for you and society is a little more complex than what people think.

That sounds strange Dad. What is wrong with wanting to help others?

There is nothing wrong with that.

The question is how do you REALLY help others. How do you ACTUALLY make their lives better.

These days, politicians, including the president, are trying to simplify those questions by telling us that we should just do things for others. Pay taxes, serve our communities, help the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the environment, and even the polar bears. Their equation is simple: Someone needs something, that means you need to help.

But that is NOT how things work. This is a recipe for disaster.

Why? What’s wrong with just giving to other people?

Let’s think about it logically.

If you want to help someone, you need to give them something.

If you need to give them something, you have to produce it or earn it.

If you need to produce something, you need to think and act.

If you want to think and act, you need motivation and interest – or otherwise you are enslaved to do something you didn’t choose to do.

If you need motivation and interest, you need to have some kind of passion or desire to do it, assuming you are a free man and not living in a society where they tell you what you need to be doing for society like in North Korea, Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.

Where does passion and desire to do something come from?

From the things that you like to do.

Let me repeat what you just said. “the things the YOU, LIKE to do”. You didn’t say, what OTHER people need me to do. You said, what I LIKE to do. And that is a very selfish, self-centered thing to say… but it is the essence of what I am saying.

When YOU choose what you want to do in life selfishly, you end up creating something valuable that other people can use, making their lives better. The cars, houses, food in the stores, clothes – all were made by someone who CHOSE to do it for his OWN good, for his OWN self-interest, and by trading in a free market, he could then sell it and make everybody’s life better including his own.

That is the system that creates wealth and that lifts us all from being poor.

If you don’t follow this sequence – you end up with confusion, contradictions and unproductive, forceful laws. With politicians telling you what to do, how to do it, risking the subtle nature and the source of human productivity, and with poor people not being able to lift and motivate themselves out of poverty by hard work, because they get used to the idea that someone is obligated to help them.

But what about the sick people that cannot work?

Again, it seems like this begs a straightforward answer – right? Let the government take a little from each of us and take care of the sick, the old and handicapped.

But this NOT the role of government, because governments use force and force should be used only against force and not to motivate you to help. It is a fact that people want and do help WITHOUT anyone forcing them.

Really? Are you sure that people will help other people if no one forced them to?

Yes, and they did before we had governments in a much more efficient way.

What will motivate them to help?

Let me answer with a tough question. Did you ever see a hurt animal?

Yes. I did. I saw a squirrel that was hit by a car.

And what did you feel when you saw it?

Bad. I felt bad for it.

So what do you think you will feel if you saw a human getting hurt?

I would feel VERY bad. Much more that I would feel for the squirrel.

Why would you feel so bad?

Because it is a human being.

Exactly. We, by our nature, care for other members of our own species and we will help them as much as we can so they don’t suffer. We care about people because they make OUR lives so much better and we would like to see them prosper. There are people who do not care for other people at all, but most of us would like to live among other people and not on a secluded island.

If we had government step out from the role of forcing us to help each other, we would see a world of private charity that will funnel resources to the right people in the RIGHT way.

So let me give you the bottom-line.

You should focus on what YOU want to do in life and what will make YOUR life better. If you do that rationally, you will produce, make money, take care of yourself, your loved ones and anyone else that you care about. You might be so successful that you will be giving away a lot of money like many rich people do, because there is so much you need, and in the end of the day you do it for YOURSELF and YOUR CREATIVE MIND – not the money. Because money doesn’t buy you happiness – pursuing your values, including charity, will make you happy. And the truth is, that if we will be left alone by government to produce and take care of each other – everybody will be much better off.

So I don’t recommend being the president. I recommend choosing a real productive career.

Ice Cream

Hmm… I didn’t think about it that way. Besides, I want to build an ice-cream company that makes the best  ice-cream in the world. Better than the one we had in Italy!

You see? Without this passion of yours, how will people enjoy better ice-cream in the future?

They’ll just have to wait till I get older.

And if you want to get older, you need to sleep.

Good night Dad.

Good night Ben.

My name isn’t Ben.

You’ll get it eventually. Sweet dreams.


“Dad, do you like being a Dad?”

Are you kidding me, kid? I love being your Dad.

It’s such a hard job.

Hard? it’s not hard. It’s the best job in the world. And you know why?

No.

Because I get to take care and be  around the person I care most about . You.

Watching you grow. Playing with you. Having to answer all your hard questions.

But how do you know to be a good parent? how do you learn that?

Being a parent is being yourself. Parents are as good at being parents, as they are good at leading their own lives. We teach what we ARE.

Dad and Kid

Hmm. So you don’t need to know anything? just be yourself?

No, I didn’t say that. You need to know a lot about how to  be a good parent. I said that being a good parent is a part of being a good person.

Let me explain what I mean. As a rational person, I know that my role as your Dad is to help you become a person with high self esteem, with an ability to understand and cope with reality, and lead a happy, fulfilling life.

So the first thing I have to understand is what makes a human being acquire self esteem, what is happiness and you get a sense of fulfillment.

So let’s start with self esteem. What do you think it is?

Believing in yourself, knowing that you are good.

Exactly. So the way I can help you is to show you that you ARE good as you ARE, that you ARE always important and able. You can always learn and grow your skills and knowledge, but I love, respect and accept you as you are right NOW.

Some parents have a set of expectations for their kids and they let their kids feel that they are good ONLY if they meet those expectations, only if they perform. That is bad for self esteem because the child feels that he is not good enough as he is now. Those parents say things like: “Why did you break that toy? you’re a bad boy!” or “You’re such a good kid, you cleaned you’re room”. Think about what it means. It means you are bad if you break something or that you’re good if you cleaned the room. A kid that hears those messages ends up thinking – “I am a bad person” or “I am good because Dad told me so”.

I think you are good regardless of your actions. Your actions might be good or bad, but I love you regardless. I believe that if you ACCEPT your child as he is than your child will develop SELF ACCEPTANCE – “I am a good person. I am loved”.

I also think that it is wrong to ask a child for obedience  but rather for cooperation. To be able to motivate HIMSELF and not conform to what ever his parents demands at a given moment.

But what if I do bad things?

Then I criticize your behavior – not you. I tell you – “your room is a mess, it’ll be hard for you to find your things” and then I leave the judgement, evaluation and the thinking of what needs to be corrected, to you. If I told you – “your room is a mess, stop being lazy and clean it up right now!” then I call you lazy, I decide for you what you need to do about it and even force you to do it right now. That will not teach you to be responsible, trust your own judgement and that is also not very respectful – is it?

No. I hear parents yelling at kids all the time. You don’t yell often.

Why would I? Do I yell at my grownup friends that are coming to my house?

No. But they are your friends.

And who do you think is more important to me?

I am. <smile>.

You are. I try to be patient, and not lose my temper because it is very important for kids to have predictability. And if a Dad gets back angry from work and starts shouting on his kid for no reason, that kid will develop an anxiety because he could never know why he gets treated a specific way.

But even if I do lose my temper, what do I usually do after that?

You apologize.

Right, and that is because I respect you and I because I admit when I’m wrong.

So let’s talk about how, as a parent, I can help you become a HAPPY person. That is a little tougher because now I have to understand how someone becomes happy and how to instill that in my kid’s mind.What do you think makes people happy?

I don’t know. Making enough money to get all the things you want?

No. That is not how people become happy in the long term. So here it is, and I want you to think about this later:

Happiness is an emotional RESULT of pursuing and achieving your rational values and goals. It is a psychological EFFECT of knowing that you are doing the right things for yourself and your life.

So how do you know  what you need to do to become happy?

As you grow older you will define a hierarchy of values and goals you’ll want to achieve or sustain like family, friends, work and hobbies. Everyone has to figure it our for themselves.

The primary value, for all of us, is life. To get food and shelter, clothes and other basic needs.

Then you’ll develop passion towards specific things in life and should try to spend most of your time around those things. Like inventing, drawing, racing cars, making music, building bridges – whatever fascinates you about this life. That will result in a sense of achievement and… happiness.

So whatever I choose to do will make me happy?

Not necessarily. Your goals need to be RATIONAL and not whimsical. You won’t achieve happiness by doing “whatever you feel like” – because whims and emotions cannot guide you and you won’t know why you are doing what you’re doing. That is why people drown in drugs or either get lost by random, contradicting actions just because “it feels good” at a specific moment.

And now that we’ve talked about what happiness is, how do you think a parent should teach his son to be happy?

dad-young-teen-son-talking-on-bed

Talk to him every night before he goes to sleep?

That too, but that’s not the main way kids learn. Kids learn from watching.

So that means that I need to practice what I preach. To exemplify what I think you should do to become happy.

So a happy father will have a happy son?

Not necessarily. We are two different human beings and it will be your own responsibility to make yourself happy. All I can do it to try and make myself happy and hope that you’ll find a way to do it as well.

Are you happy Dad?

Yes, I am.

So I’m happy too.

So I am happy three. Now go to sleep dear boy.


“Dad, why do we need art?”

Wow, your questions are getting harder and harder. But I like it…

Let’s think about what art is and how it is created.

An artist selects a subject that he wants to focus on, be it a subject for a painting, a melody, a theme for a book or a movie, and so on. Why do you think the artist needs to select that subject?

What do you mean? The book or the painting has to be about something.

Exactly. The first thing an artists does is isolate some aspects of reality and focuses his art on them. That selection shows us what is important for the artist. It might be the beauty of a human body, nature, some idea like the movie we just saw – remember “The Help”? What was it about?

the help

About equal human rights for black people.

Correct.

Now, what is so special about art is that it shows us those ideas and values in a real sculpture, painting, music or a story. it allows us to directly experience the most important thing in life – VALUES.

It is like FOOD FOR OUR MIND. Our mind, that lives on concepts and ideas.

It needs to visualize those values in reality and see them successfully implemented. This is why animals do not need art as they are not conceptual beings.

Now, this is also why we react to art in such a profound way. We “sense” and “feel” art. We laugh, cry, or are deeply moved. We either admire it or despise it.

So every piece of art represents a value?

Yes, if it is a piece of good art. There is some things out there under the category of “modern art” that does not qualify in my view as art. Like smears of paint on canvas that no one can interpret – that’s not art.

Bad art can also leave us indifferent because it does not represent any important value to us.

You see, art is so important because we have to stop from time to time and look at how values are being implemented in life through a story, a painting, a piece of music that invokes a specific sense of life in us. If shows us that those values are real, achievable and possible. It fuels us to move on and deal with life.

So it is like a mirror? 

That’s an amazing way to put it kid. It is a mirror to life and its possibilities. It shows us ideals.

So why do some people like horror movies and violence?

Because they hold a specific view of the world. The kind of art a person responds to, is a great way to learn about his set of values.

So why do you like Jazz music?

Because it shows me how sophisticated, masterful and creative one can be if he invests the required mental effort. But I also like rock music that shows me how energetic, joyful and fun life can be.

What do you think about the picture I bought you?

BBTPlane

I love it. It shows me what small ,simple ideas can lead to.

Do you remember the picture I have in my study room?

Getting ready for the day

Yes. With the woman getting dressed.

She is actually fixing her hair, but you’re right, she is getting ready for the day. Why do you think I like it so much?

I don’t know.

When I look at that woman getting ready for the day, fixing here hair in an effective, diligent, beautiful yet simple way, my sense of life responds immediately and I get a sense of purpose, it makes me look forward to the future in conviction that it is wonderful to be alive and that I should look forward to live another joyful day.

All of that from a woman fixing her hair?

Yes.

Okay. You know it looks a little like mom.

Yes I know. Think about what that means.

What?

Let’s talk about that some other time.

Does it mean you love mom?

Yes. I love your mom very very much. And I love you too. Now go to sleep, its late.

Good night dad.

Good night kiddo.


“Dad, is it bad to be selfish?”

How do you define “selfish”?

I don’t know, maybe someone who is interested in himself?

Okay. Are you interested in yourself?

Yes.

So you are selfish.

And I think it is great that you are interested in yourself because that is what life requires if you want to live. Every organism is selfish by sustaining its OWN life and pursuing its own values.

But being selfish seems to be bad. People don’t mean good things when they call you “selfish”.

People are wrong. They have this false assumption that being selfish necessarily means hurting others. But if you are a rational person who really cares about his long term well-being, you know that hurting others is not being selfish, it is just being stupid. Hurting other people will eventually hurt your life, and that is the opposite of being selfish.

But if everyone will take care of themselves only, life will be miserable.

Is life here in the United States so miserable?

No.

So how did you come to the conclusion that if we all behave selfishly, life will be miserable?

We ARE selfish and we are pursuing our OWN goals. The beauty of human life is that by acting selfishly in a free society, we actually produce goods for other people by trading with them. It is a win-win for everyone.

win win

I don’t see how. If you win someone else loses.

That’s the most common mistake people make. Life doesn’t work this way in a social context.

Let me give you an example: the guy in the our local bakery that you like so much – why is he making those great breads and cookies?

For his customers? For me?

No. He makes them for himself. He wakes up very early every morning to bake in order to provide for his family. He makes bread for himself so he could sell it for money and only as a byproduct you get to eat his delicious cookies.

So he doesn’t really care about me?

I know he likes you very much, but he doesn’t have to like every customer. He bakes because he needs our money. If you really think he is making them for you, try asking him day after day to give you cookies for free. What do you think will happen?

He won’t give them to me.

And he shouldn’t, because then he will be sacrificing cookies to feed you instead of taking care of his own child. And that is bad and irrational. That will be acting selflessly, which many people unfortunately regard as a virtue.

So donating and giving to charity is a bad thing?

Not at all. Remember the definition of being “selfish” – doing what is rationally good for YOU.

So if you earned money honestly, you have the right to spend it however you want. If you have enough to also give to other people who are sick or poor, it is your own choice, but you don’t have ANY moral duty to do so and it doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t. I believe that every person has the ultimate responsibility for his or her own life. Otherwise, you will be a slave to other people’s needs.

I know it is a little complicated, but do you understand what I mean?

I think so. But why can’t we live together and share what we all have?

Good question. I actually lived in a place where people shared everything they had, and let me tell you, it was bad.

Ind vs. Col

Why?

Because of the nature of living things. Nature made us pursue our OWN goals like feeding ourselves, finding shelter, breeding and in the case of human beings, it also made us use our mind and our reason in order to produce what we need to survive.

When human beings are left alone to take care of themselves, the result is wealth, trade and prosperity. A free man can use his mind to produce what he knows to produce and trade with others – it is called the division of labor. This why the baker makes bread and I make software.

In society there are always people who use force instead of reason, like thieves or crooks, but the police takes care of them. Most people are moral, decent and productive.

But when you tell people that they need to live their lives for someone or something ELSE, like the community, the state or the race, you are asking them to act not according to their nature, and this is where things go wrong.

History has shown us that replacing SELFISHNESS with SELFLESSNESS results in poverty, misery, corruption and murder. Your life in those kind of societies is not worth much, because you are a tool to serve other purposes other than your own life.

People will try to wrap this “selflessness” idea with nice names like brotherhood, equality, compassion, humanism, justice, greater good – but those are just covers to a very evil idea called ALTRUISM.

What is “Altruism” Dad?

It means “Otherism”. Living your life to serve anything OTHER than yourself. Live for your brother, for the state, for the earth, for the poor, for the polar bears – anything but you.

But why do they do that?

Power.

If they convince you that you have a MORAL DUTY to serve someone or something else other than you, then they can control your life, take your money and your property and call it “the right and moral thing to do”.

The sad truth is that the only people who win in those societies are the ones collecting the money and ruling the people. Look at countries like Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia and other countries where “Otherism” was the goal in life. life was miserable in all those societies, and people fled by risking their lives to the United States because it offered one very important thing – freedom. Freedom to live your OWN life and be selfish.

In a truly free society you cannot control or rule people because they are free to think, to choose and to keep their own property – you have no way to force them. But sadly, when people buy into the “Otherism as the moral good” idea, you suddenly see them willing to give their money away by taxes and starting to sacrifice their own values for other collective values.

Dad, people got it all wrong. Teachers in my school keep talking about putting other people’s needs before your own. I now understand how evil that is.

I don’t think they understand the contradiction between freedom and altruism, and the inevitable consequences of living up to that idea. Maybe you can change their minds?

I am not sure I can.

Thomas Jefferson once did. But that is a story for another day. It is getting late.

Am I free to read before I go to sleep?

Yes, this is still a free country. Good night my dearest.


“Dad, what should I be when I grow up?”

Hmm… I don’t really know. But I can give you some clues on how to find out.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation that might happen to you in several years.

You graduate from high school and you need to decide what to do next. You think about what will be the moral and right thing to do. You know you love drawing, especially cartoons. That’s what fascinates you, something you’d wake up every morning and do for 10 straight hours if you could afford it.

You’re dad says that it is impractical. He claims that Cartoonists can barely make a living these days and that you have the potential to become a great engineer like he is. He can also help you get a job in that big company he is working for. He talks to you about being logical and planning your life. About saving money to buy a house, marrying the right girl and avoiding risky moves.

You think about it and you are very tempted to take his advice. But something doesn’t feel right. There is a contradiction somewhere. And you well know by now, if there is a contradiction, there is an error here waiting to be fixed.

So you think about it some more. What if you take his advice? What if you become an engineer and start working in his firm?

Will you be happy waking up every morning to go to work? Not really. Will you make good money? Probably. You are smart and you will do fine, better than average. You will be able to save, meet someone nice, get married, buy a house and have kids. Will you be happy? You will be quite happy.

But, there something else here. Will you be truly happy? Truly fulfilled? Will you feel that you missed on something better, bigger and more rewarding than this path your father lays out for you? Yes.

Let’s say you go take a course with this genius cartoonist that you admire. They say that only one out of a hundred graduates get to find a real steady job doing cartoons. You will spend all your money on that course but you will learn all the technics you need to sharpen your skills.

You will apply to work in a daily newspaper. You will probably fail in the first couple of times. You will run out of money and will have to wait tables for a while. But you will not give up and maybe find a job as a designer while you apply over and over. You will be confident and proud about yourself pursuing your career and not giving up even if it is hard. And because you will get better and better, you will probably make it this way or another. In the process, you will probably meet a girl. She will be interested in what you do because that is what you will be – a cartoonist. She will probably be doing something that you admire. Why? Because the more principled you will be and more true to your goals and your passions, the more self-confident you will become. And I’m guessing she will find you more attractive.

cartoonist

People are attracted to values, spiritual and material.

You are pretty good looking and your character will be much more attractive if you’ll stay true to your values. You will develop a virtuous way of life and thus have higher standards in all fields of life, including love and romance.

You won’t be able to buy a house, so you will rent one with that amazing girl. You will have passionate love and probably a child. You will become a proud dad and teach your kid not to give up on his dreams. You will be a great dad. And who knows, maybe even a world famous cartoonist at one point in time.

So which option is better?

The latter Dad

I agree kid. All you have to think about is what makes you happy and proud.

That’s easy. Making ice-cream

I know a couple of guys that are very successful doing that.

Really? I think you’ve answered my question dad

Glad I could help kid. Now close your eyes and think about new flavors you can come up with.

Good night dad

Good night Jerry

My name isn’t Jerry

So, good night Ben

Dad? why are you calling me Ben & Jerry? Oh…


“Dad, how do we know good from bad?”

You ask tough questions kid.

Well, before we talk about good and bad, we need to answer the questions: Good and bad for whom? Good and bad for what?

good-and-bad-funding

That’s easy. Good for me. Good for the world.

Well, those could be two very different things. And besides, who’s the world exactly?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with good for you. What is good for you?

So think about when you were a baby. You were crying when you felt something bad and smiling when it was good. In your early days, good was just a comfortable feeling of being well fed, not being sick, hot, cold or in pain. Those are the basics. Pain, for instance, is a biological mechanism through which reality lets us know if something is bad for you. Stress, fear, depression are cognitive mechanisms that do the same.

So how did you know as a baby to decide what is good and what is bad? You had some kind of criteria. That criteria is LIFE. You have an automatic mechanism that is programmed to sustain your life. So life is the VALUE you are trying to keep and is the standard of what is good and what is bad, when to cry and when to smile.

So my life is what determines good from bad?

Yes, without that value, there is no meaning to good or bad. Without life there is no good or bad. The need for good and bad decision, or in its formal name, morality – is only for living things. Only living things have values. The universe is not good or bad – it is just there.

But as you grow up, the same thing that happened with concepts and the development of your knowledge, happens with values as they become more complex and abstract. You’re looking to be happy, to be satisfied, to be passionate about the things you do, to pursue a goal, to get that girl you adore, to work in a field you love, and get that car of your dreams (in my case). It is not just about staying alive anymore.

Suddenly, your values become more complex and challenging. They require long range planning, prioritization, and a lot of hard work. You realize that you want to pursue long-range goals. You understand that a flu shot and a dental procedure that hurt a little are actually good for you and that you have to save money in order to pay for school, buy a house or a car.

So if I do something to achieve my values it is good?

If your values are rational, then yes. Some people choose irrational values and hurt themselves.

So I can do anything I want to achieve my goals? What if you could steal money from a bank without being caught or steal the car you want?

Let’s see.

We need to check if stealing is good or bad for me. So what does it mean to steal? It means taking someone’s property without deserving or earning it. Taking it by force, coercion or deception. So first, there is the chance of getting caught and going to prison – that is surly bad for my life. But that doesn’t cut it because I know there are ways to steal and get away with it.

So why is it still bad for me?

Well, first, I will have to lie every time someone asks me about the cat and how I got it. I will have to evade people wanting to learn more about the car and I will always be anxious when a police car drives by.

Besides, I will not be able to be truly honest about other things in life because I will be forced to choose to either give up on principles in general, or know that I am not a principled man. I couldn’t justify morally why it will be wrong to do it again. I couldn’t explain to my kid why not to steal something from a grocery store.

Practically, if you decide to steal some more and become a professional thief – it means that you will be in a constant state of anxiety, short term, whimsical, pleasure seeking mentality because you gave up on reason and thought and chose force and deception as a way of life. Your life will not be productive but more like hit and run, you’ll become superstitious, develop contempt for other people because they are suckers that you can always forcefully manipulate.

Your life will be potentially reduced to physical sex, food, pillow and drugs. You will lose your capacity for happiness, because happiness is a result of a long range action. Living by force is anti-mind and we are mind-driven beings – it just doesn’t work.

Any way you look at it, robbing a bank or stealing a car it is bad for me. It is much worse than not having the car or just saving for a couple more years to buy it.

This is a rational analysis of the situation. This is why thieves live miserable lives. They don’t save, they are not good spouses or parents, and they steal more till they get caught.

Remember when I told you that reality always strikes you back when you evade it? This is a good example.

But wait Dad, what if I do it only once and forget about it? Is that possible?

Well, let’s think about it. Can you forget about stealing the car? No. Can you push that thought aside? Yes. But then there are consequences. You must continue your life in a very unprincipled manner. But reality is principled. That means that you’ll become a pragmatist – whatever I think is right as of now, is right and good. And then, there is nothing to guide your life, you’ll just do whatever comes to you at that moment.

Stealing a car in return for subverting the entirety of your moral life is not comparable. The same goes for lying or being dishonest.

honesty

Oh, so what about lying to a criminal about where your family is? Shouldn’t you be honest and tell him where they are?

Again, let’s break it down. Good is what promotes my life. So is it good to lie to that criminal? Yes. Will it hurt my capacity to lead a moral life? No. I am protecting my values any way I can and also, everything has a context – you can’t judge something without context.

For example, you can see someone jumping in front of a train and decide he is a suicidal lunatic, but if you understand the wider context of him trying to rescue his child who was in front of that train and managed to push him away from the tracks, you suddenly realize he is a rational, moral person because he was protecting his highest value. So you have to conclude that context is very important and that there are always edges cases where acting in a way that will not make sense in other contexts, sometimes is necessary.

Wow, Dad. This is more complex than I thought.

It is kid. Life is not simple, and it is great that it isn’t. Otherwise it will be boring and automatic.

So I will go to sleep now. It is good for me.

It is definitely good for you kid. Sweet dreams.