A Father to his Son

A Father to His Son by Carl Sandburg

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
“Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.”
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
“Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.”
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

Sandburg’s fabulous poem left me with a great many impressions while reading it last evening. Having been the fortunate recipient of excellent fathering from my dad, I am constantly thinking of ways to provide my sons with the foundation they will need to not just survive in this wacky world, but thrive.

I particularly appreciated Sandburg’s suggestion to “let him have lazy days to consider his deeper motives.” Far too many men take far too little time doing this very thing and I know from my own experience that it takes a lot to overcome the inertia in the human condition on this point. My daily blogging is one of the several ways that I allow my deeper motives to come to focus amidst the hustle and bustle of the quotidian and I imagine that there must be a way for each and every human being to ensure that he or she does not miss the point of living while scrambling to survive.

How do you seek your deeper motives? Sure another’s writing or living can prime the pump, but what are you doing, giving, revealing of your deeper motives here and now? Sorry to put you on the spot, but how? I’d love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “A Father to his Son

  1. Steve V

    Morning and evening considerations of the things that really matter are vital to increasing perspective to what I am to provide in my living. Currently the element of complete and absolute forgiveness has been in my awareness that have revealed a greater purpose in living.


  2. Kolya

    I find that certain tasks create this space to consider and seek my deepest motives. Whether it be journalling, painting, sitting on my porch in the early morning, or walking, it provides a certain peaceful space to review the prior day, the one at hand and consider the seeds that I plant for the future.


  3. Coco

    I too have quiet moments. I find the inspiration is unique to the day. Beginning my day with a deliberate time for contemplation and ending it with time to ease away from the day, are necessary to set my inclination.
    I love this poem’s balance. Life is so diverse in it’s requirement of actions but singular in the requirement of purpose. I think parents should constantly be assessing what they are communicating to their children and this poem was an endearing delivery system! Pleasing post, thank you. Have a lovely holiday!


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