A Letter To My Daughter — the first chapter
In a series of blogs, I’m serialising the ideas behind my book ‘A Letter to My Daughter’. Following the introduction, the first chapter is about sharing with my daughter how to structure her internal life. This is an abridged version of the full chapter.
Structuring your internal life is the part of your existence relating to how you think and fell. The part that relates to love.
Love is a good starting point for this letter, as it is the basis of everything we know. Your mother and I had difficulties naming you. She liked short, modern names while I liked long, elaborate, traditional names. Finally, we agreed on Valeh, largely because it means ‘to be in love’.
To be in love is the greatest state that humans can aspire to. It is the best way to live. And so, daughter, if your life lives up to your name you will be one of the fortunate ones.
Love is who we are from birth when we instantly bond with our mother, whose heartbeat s our lifeline. Our mothers nurture us from the start and comfort us as we cry. Almost all of us have experienced this. But from birth onwards we discover people other than our mother.
Fathers tend to be more detached but love us just as much. A father’s love is deep and profound as a different form of parental love. Our siblings share our blood and parents. They are fellow travellers on the way through the world.
All of these different relationships do not always live up to what we hope they will be. But family bonds are often so string that love is more commonly found than not within these unites. Love, even within these natural habitats, must be actively nurtured and grown like a plant that will die without water.
Of course, love is not universal and assured even between blood relatives. One of the costliest mistakes we can make in life is to take love for granted. If we put time and effort into nurturing our relationships with our mothers, fathers and siblings, these relationships will take root and grow stronger.
By building relationships with those closest to us, we can learn how to love. This includes learning to give, listen, care, sacrifice and to accept. All of these parts are essential to learning how to love.
Outside of the family, relationships tend to become more complicated. There are many different sorts of relationships, from colleagues to friends, lovers and acquaintances. These are relationships of choice, not obligation, and they are rarely easy.
Now that you have started going to playschool, you’re already finding out that other children can sometimes be kind and sometimes cruel. It’s quite natural to feel affection when they are kind and hurt when they’re not. But the more frequent you can make your feelings of affection, the better off you will be.
To achieve this, we can try to not become upset about the way others behave. We must remind ourselves that no-one is perfect, and many people behave in ways they regret. After all, it’s not easy to be a good person all of the time. We must recognise the imperfection in ourselves and in others. We all have good moments and bad, and just as it helps us for people to accept and forgive our imperfections, we should do the same for others.
There is no such thing as the perfect person. True love is about finding an imperfect person and learning to love them despite this. It’s easier said than done thanks to our natural propensity to overlook our own shortcomings and to be wholly unforgiving towards those of others.
It’s worth remembering what is sometimes called ‘the Golden Rule’. This ancient rule is represented in many traditions from Ancient China to Judaism and Christianity. It’s perhaps articulated best by Jesus Christ himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “Do to others as you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.” You can also find it in the Zoroastrian tradition of our own people in two texts: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5, and “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29.
There are few guiding principles that beat the Golden Rule. Most of us would prefer to be subjected to fairness, kindness and generosity in our lives, and so it follows naturally that we should display similar qualities to others.
This way of behaving is easier with those we love unconditionally and who love us the same way, such as our parents and children. The real challenges comes when applying the rule to a wider circle of people in your life. One of the most magical things you can do in life is to expand what I call the Circle of Love.
The Circle of Love is a group of people in your life who you love and who love you. Of course, love is not the same for everyone. We feel different love for our parents to our spouses and to our colleagues.
One of the places I have used this technique for the better is at the office. Your workplace is somewhere you will spend much of your time. In many cases, people spend more time there than at home. For me, one of the first workplaces I joined had a poor atmosphere. There was a lot of tension between people, including me and this was a very negative way to live.
The Circle of Love means making our environments the best they can be. In the office I currently work in, I’ve been able to create a Circle of Love, and it gives me joy and satisfaction every day.
Good and bad coexist within most people depending on their circumstances. One of the biggest challenges in life, and one that will improve the quality of your own life is learning how to bring out the good and suppress the bad. Love is an affirmation of the good and a rejection of the bad. In learning to give people around you as much love as you possibly can, you will learn to bring out the best in them and in yourself.