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30 March 2010

Dear Cop,

First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to Skype with our Personal Writing class last Thursday. We have all thoroughly enjoyed reading your book and debating its contents under the guidance of Dr. Nordstrom this semester. You are obviously a man who has accumulated wisdom over the years, and we appreciate your willingness to share such wisdom with the rest of us life "newbies."

In your book Getting a Life, you touch on a broad range of topics. Discussing everything from the realization of death to the implications of sexual bonding, you touch on subjects that are inherent to human life-subjects that we must all, at some point, encounter and address. I personally believe that understanding and accepting the reality of the topics that you discuss in your book is the first step in "getting a life," because in order to "get a life," we all must understand what it means to have a life.

Life is about people. It is about family. It is about friends, and sometimes, it is even about strangers. For example, in your world, there are hundreds of people. In someone else's world, you are just one of hundreds. Understanding that the world doesn't revolve around you can better allow you to interact with the world.
Life is about relationships. In some relationships, such as dating relationships and friendships, love is dependent upon actions and is typically reciprocal. In other relationships, such as religious and familial relationships, love is about connection, birthright, and duty; and the relationship isn't necessarily contingent upon the actions of one side.

Life is about knowing what to hold on to and what to let go of. As we grow older, we understand that winning a battle isn't always worth the cost of fighting the battle. We understand that success isn't always defined by one's GPA, annual income, or marital status. We understand that doing the right thing is far more notable than satisfying our own desires.

In other words, getting a life is about gaining wisdom, which is essentially understanding life. As humans, we will be able to better enjoy life by accepting the characteristics and consequences of life, both the good and bad. We must accept that one day we will die. Life isn't always short, but it is sometimes shorter than we would like. If we accept now this realization of future death, we will be able to more fully enjoy life in the present moment.
Cop, you have illuminated many important points to me in your book. You have helped me to acknowledge the fact that it is okay to have human instinct-to feel pain, to enjoy creativity, to regret loneliness, to seek truth, to question fact, and to acknowledge death. Essentially, you have helped me to value the incredible experience that is life.

Thank you,


April 20, 2010

Dear Brittany,

First, let me thank you for your kind and supportive words - and for expressing so many thoughts about wisdom that are worthy of comment and agreement.

What is common to all of your "Life is about . . ." statements is that each involves looking outward beyond yourself-in-isolation to yourself-in-context. Among the contexts you refer to are family, friends, various kinds of love-based relationships, and the finite duration of our lives. And you raise the issue of what is worth valuing in other contexts such as education, employment, and marriage.

You clearly get the idea. You are the prime actor in the life you are crafting, but all the action happens within a multitude of identifiable contexts. Sometimes an action will produce a positive result in one context and a negative one in another. So life is at times a balancing act, and the clearer our understanding becomes of this overlapping matrix of contexts, the wiser our actions are likely to be. Unfortunately, we all operate with inadequate information, so our expectations and assumptions sometimes prove wrong. Still, to the extent we are sensitive to context we will be better able to understand what went wrong, and more likely to make a wiser decision the next time.

You are already well on your way. Enjoy the journey — as I know you will!

All the best,