Life Lessons: Feelings and Respect

Here are a few words of wisdom from a father to his son on the importance of feelings and how it lends to respect. The letter of  was written by Ted Hughes, former lover to the poet Sylvia Plath and father to their young son Nicholas who was struggling with doubt and self-acceptance. This letter was written to Nicholas while he was suffering a particularly bad bout of depression which he seemed to have inherited from his mother.

I encourage you to read the entire letter when you have time. It is poignant and heartfelt. You can sense Hughes’ desperation in trying to reach his son with assurance and validation. He conveys in so many words, that his son’s despair and sensitivity is a sign of great feeling and courage to live life that is worth of respect, not ridicule that the son seems to heap upon himself.

The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. It was a saying about noble figures in old Irish poems—he would give his hawk to any man that asked for it, yet he loved his hawk better than men nowadays love their bride of tomorrow. He would mourn a dog with more grief than men nowadays mourn their fathers.

And that’s how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy. End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you.

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  1. Self-Deception: Stop With the Little Lies « Sherry Clayton Works

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