In early October 2019, Sara and I became grandparents. In this key for the new year, I share with you a letter I wrote three weeks later for our granddaughter to read on her 16th birthday.
My letter to Talia
I am overjoyed that you were born to your wonderful parents Kasi and Edan and that you have joined our family and made us your grandparents. Do you know how much we already love you? I am looking forward to getting to know you more at every step as you grow.
Your arrival and presence awaken wonderful feelings. Immediately, in your first few days here on Earth, you started bringing new learning and insights to all of us. For example, you showed me that a baby only a few days old is a fully cognizant and aware being — that in your way, you already understand and feel every word spoken to you.
You inspire me, Talia, to look forward to and think about your future and the world you are growing into.
Listen here: My Letter to Talia
Visualizing the next 20 years
I am writing this letter to you in October 2019, only three weeks after you were born. My intention is to continue to write to you along your journey. To do so, I am imagining your 20th birthday, which will be a couple of months before the world celebrates the beginning of 2040. I will be 80 years old then! Who knows? If I am lucky, I will continue writing letters to you. If I am in good health, my mind is clear, and I still am learning every day, I even can imagine writing you a letter for your 40th birthday, when I will be 100 years old.
For now, I am going to visualize the future, 20 years from now. In doing so, I am committing myself to being available for you and to supporting you during those years.
Let me start with a little backward reflection. When I celebrated my 20th birthday in 1979, I was undergoing fighter pilot training in the Israeli Air Force. It was an experience that both exhilarated and tested me. I imagine that if you decide that you want to fly jets, you too will be able to fly supersonic airplanes. Secretly though, I hope there will not be a need for fighter pilots and/or that you will choose a different path. More importantly, I imagine you reaching your 20th birthday with the capacity and ability to decide what’s right for you, and a growing sense of who you are becoming. I visualize you at 20 as navigating the world with confidence, agility, curiosity, and grace.
Seeds for the future
Why do I think about your future in your first few weeks of life?
I garnered a startling awareness about the growing up process from my mentor a few years after your father was born. The transformative consideration he offered was that we would be wise to remember that right from the start, the 5-year-old, the 15-year-old and the 25-year-old self all are latent and growing in each child. This insight suggests that when talking to a child, we should speak consciously to those different ages in her, so that each one receives and can hold the seed ideas until the time arrives for their germination and growth.
I therefore am writing this letter with seed ideas for your early growing up, for your 16-year old birthday. I also will include other seeds for even later ages.
My first important early decision
There are three important decisions I made before reaching age 20.
First, I decided that life is not a mistake or some evolutionary fluke. I made up my mind that I showed up in this world when I did for a reason. I determined that the fact of life and the evidence of our capacity to observe, learn and appreciate meant that the appearance of human life is purposeful. At that point, the first order of inquiry for me was to discover the purpose of life and my own reason for being.
Similarly, I know and recognize deeply that you showed up here, on this Earth and in our family, with a purpose.
The decision and the determination to devote my life to the purpose discovery journey shaped my adult experience and trajectory. It catalyzed my curiosity about a broad spectrum of inquiries that led me to develop skills and capacities that enabled me to thrive in what mattered most to me. Today, I know this about you: that your life is intentional and that your journey will involve the discovery of your purpose. My heart is full of joy for all that you will discover.
My second important early decision
The second decision I made was to embrace the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and others that you become what you think about , and of my mentor, who suggested that you are the author of your own portrait. I decided to practice this realization that we each shape and design our lives in the image of our intent and of what matters to us individually.
I therefore know that you are a courageous spirit. You have chosen to arrive at a complex time, when humanity faces mega-challenges. It is for this reason that I surmise you are an adventurous and brave spirit and a strong soul. I know because your presence here already strengthens me.
The spirit and the soul
Today there is much confusion about the matters of the spirit and the soul. Still, I trust and am hopeful that these realms will be re-embraced and reintegrated in new ways as you approach your 20th birthday.
It is my belief that showing up from the spirit realm for a planetary human journey is a choice, if not in all cases, then in some cases. It also is my belief that the spirit is a very high presence that originates from the place where life begins. The soul, on the other hand, is a planetary, orchestrating spirit-like presence that helps the spirit mediate the response requirements of a body in the planetary ecology.
Showing up from the spirit realms as a human means that you brought a latent higher consciousness with you on this journey. As you grow, you will develop the consciousness of earthly living, which will help you express and actualize your higher potential.
My third important early decision
The third decision I made at age 20 was to reverse the conventionally expected order of life. That is, instead of devoting my 20s and early 30s to the pursuit of exterior goals such as chasing money, success, and power and then in my 40s and 50s turning to seek answers to the bigger questions of meaning, purpose, and spirituality, I postponed the pursuit of the material aspects of life in favor of immersing myself in the inner journey. I decided that the material issues would be informed by my early inquiry into the higher human potential and its development.
This decision shaped the path I have traveled in life and what I have accomplished. Continuing this inner thread of inquiry and staying in touch with the inner journey enabled the lucrative success I have enjoyed in business. Instead of seeking exterior accomplishments to fill an absence inside, success in the world was a natural outflow of the inner development work and the byproduct of a life connected to itself and to its purpose.
I decided to refuse to use absence as a propulsion. Instead I determined to make presence my propulsion. Therefore, I will be present here to encourage you to remain connected to the profound presence of your life, your spirit and your soul, and the inner qualities you will foster along your journey.
Humanity’s opportunity and challenge
Humanity now is encountering several challenges and opportunities. Amid exhilarating developments in many fields are wickedly complex existential problems that must be addressed meaningfully by the time you celebrate your 20th birthday. I believe humankind will rise to the test, finding its finest creativity and collective wisdom in your lifetime.
It is my belief that most of what appear as problems are symptoms of a meta-challenge that has two facets: an interior and an exterior. They are two sides of the same challenge. I call the interior facet the displacement syndrome. Because humanity has become separated from the sources and realms that bless and support life’s higher potential, most people operate and express themselves only within a narrow range of their immense creative capacity.
I do not believe in techno-utopian stories in which technology solves all of our problems, including the displacement syndrome. Although technology has an important part to play in bringing online innovative solutions, it cannot replace human beings. These stories are false because they fail to appreciate the originating realms of life from which the human spirit arises.
I believe that reconnecting with the sources that offer enhancement, healing, new knowledge, inspiration, development, creative genius and purpose is the essence of the breakthrough development that awaits humanity in the next few decades. These evolutionary developments and innovations will enable humankind to meet the existential tests of the 21st century.
I feel that you have shown up here as part of a generation of bright and courageous spirits who will catalyze this re-connection process in all sorts of creative and healing ways.
The new operating system
While the interior facet’s test is to reconnect with the sources that can nourish life and boost the evolutionary process, the exterior test is to download and construct a new operating system that can enable humanity to evolve safely.
The extractive and rivalrous socio-economic operating system that emerged through the Industrial Revolution and evolved over the last 200 years has become obsolete. Geopolitical and economic breakdowns that converge with resource challenges and climate change are inseparable from various health crises and ecosystems that are experiencing collapse. Though not viewed as such today, the various global and civilizational crises increasingly will be seen as facets and byproducts of an outdated operating system, thereby accelerating an evolutionary transition.
I believe that during your lifetime and with your generation’s assistance, humanity’s collective wisdom will usher in the world’s finest and greatest developments and evolution. Although resolving these wickedly complex problems appears to be a daunting task, I believe the ingenuity of the human spirit will bring online a new model of integrated living and an updated operating system that will enable us to continue to evolve safely on this beautiful blue planet we call Earth.
I believe that successfully passing this exterior test will require a multi-generational effort, beginning now with your parents’ age group and catalyzed by successive generations of wonderfully creative, innovative and courageous people like you who will lead a major global transformation. I already see elements of the new updated operating system in your parents and their contemporaries and in the generations following them. Once we all realize how connected we are, we will be compelled to construct this new Earth Operating System that ultimately will reshape economies, societies and cultures in ways that honor the past while resiliently integrating newly emerging requirements and possibilities.
Your generation’s presence will inspire us to accelerate this global transformation by reintegrating the ethos of the Iroquois mothers, who led their five tribes’ nations by envisioning the impacts of their actions seven generations into the future.
I visualize you in your 20s as part of a generational movement, bringing to life in your unique way a new operating system, one that replaces fear-based algorithms with those that are joy-based, and that facilitates integration and evolution rather than separation and displacement.
So much and more I envision for you and your contemporaries. Your sweet presence and beautiful eyes and smile make me confident and hopeful about the future, both yours and humanity’s.
© Aviv Shahar