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Saturday, 19 August 2017

We are all born for a wise purpose

Today I downloaded a free ebook called "The Art of Money Getting; or , Golden Rules for Making Money" by P.T. Barnum. In one of its passages, he wrote, "We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose." (The whole passage is reproduced later in this article. Scroll down to read it.)

I quite like that phrase, "wise purpose", because it is never easy to discern wisdom in our purpose, and also not easy to form purpose from wisdom.

But I suspect that many go through life without their true purpose. They also bump along life's bumpy roads without a pinch of wisdom. (Although, surviving such bumpy roads may lead us to wisdom.)

Life is a maze, so you should be amazed at it.

P.T. Barnum: Who is he?

Before today, I had no idea who P.T. Barnum was. But he seems quite influential, never mind that he's been dead for quite a number of years., a website on the lives of the rich and dead, wrote that he was a natural salesman and was "peddling lottery tickets and cherry rum to soldiers by age 12". Later in life, at the ripe old age of 61, he started a circus called "The Greatest Show On Earth", where he displayed oddities and in some cases, tipped the newspapers off that they were hoaxes, so that curious crowds would come to the show.

On Shaping our Children's Paths

The message in the passage (below) is that our children are born with their own inclinations, and we should not try to steer them into a path unsuited for them.

Here is the text:
The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young man starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most congenial to his tastes. Parents and guardians are often quite too negligent in regard to this. It is very common for a father to say, for example: "I have five boys. I will make Billy a clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor, and Dick a farmer." He then goes into town and looks about to see what he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says "Sammy, I see watch-making is a nice genteel business; I think I will make you a goldsmith." He does this, regardless of Sam's natural inclinations, or genius.

We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen boys of ten years get together, and you will soon observe two or three are "whittling" out some ingenious device; working with locks or complicated machinery. When they were but five years old, their father could find no toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but the other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I belong to the latter class; I never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it would not leak. I never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the principle of a steam engine. If a man was to take such a boy as I was, and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might, after an apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart and put together a watch; but all through life he would be working up hill and seizing every excuse for leaving his work and idling away his time. Watchmaking is repulsive to him.

Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation. Yet we see many who have mistaken their calling, from the blacksmith up (or down) to the clergyman. You will see, for instance, that extraordinary linguist the "learned blacksmith," who ought to have been a teacher of languages; and you may have seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were better fitted by nature for the anvil or the lapstone.

Let them choose their own path

Today people accept diversity in society, and embrace it. P.T. Barnum was farsighted when he said, "There is as much diversity in our brains as in our countenances." For those who don't know, "countenance" means face. Our faces don't look quite the same, and in the same way, our minds different from one another.

He recognised before his time, that children should choose their natural calling. He calls that "the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius".

Nature decides how a man is suited for a certain path in life.

When we see some strangeness in others, it might be what P.T. Barnum called "peculiar genius". These two words go together like the words "mad" and "scientist". The peculiar genius might be a forward looking person, whose views are beyond his time, incomprehensible to society. But a peculiar genius he is.

I may also add, that some children grow up resentful of the path that their parents had set them on. They may never achieve their full potential. They may always be limited.

When you're about 45, and you have wife and kids in tow, it's never easy to "start again". It's easy to dream about it.

The filial kid who follows what his parents want for him, will go through life believing that he is "a good boy". But at the end of his own life, he will wonder: is that what he wanted?

So don't weigh your kids down. Let them have their own lives. Shape them, teach them, and make them strong. Then let them go.

It's their life

A recent article about a rich Indian family revealed their practice of sending their young heirs to work as labourers before joining the family business. The heirs to the throne must go through one or two harrowing months on their own, with minimal support from the family to ensure that they don't starve to death. They cannot divulge their names. They cannot mention the family name. They must learn to survive. It's a lot like "Outwardbound School", except it's real life. No kid gloves.

That's a great way to build up character in your children.

One of my friends told me that when her son was about 12 or 13, she bought a load of cheap toys, and rented a stall in a shopping mall. She got her son and his friend to man the stall for a few weeks. Every day after school they would go. They would try to attract customers to buy their wares. They tried to churn a profit. At the end of each day they were required to report their earnings to her. According to her, it was a safe way to teach them entrepreneurship, accounting, and accountability. All that at the very young age of 12 or 13. I wish my father had thought of that. But he didn't, or maybe he did, but he didn't voice it. Because we were poor when I was 12.

Life goes on, and nobody should have any illusions that it will stop just for them. The wind will keep blowing. The sun will keep shining. The fish will keep swimming. Even if there was a nuclear bomb it would only destroy half the world's population, so life will go on as usual for the other half. And since we can't tell what will happen, we can only choose to conduct our lives in the best way possible.

That may mean giving our kids a fair chance at choosing what they want. It's not to say, you should abandon your role as a parent entirely. No, you should equip them and talk to them and impart your wisdom to them. But you should also give them a measure of freedom (not too much, mind you) so that they may experience life for what it is. And perhaps they will be able to find their own path.

Our best hope for our children is that our children will find the right path for their lives. We can follow them along the path, but halfway down that path, we will have to let them go on their own.