Friday, May 01, 2009

Reflections on a young man's fall from grace

This morning, a close friend called to share the news that his son, whom I shall call Charles, had been reported for smoking pot. Charles attends a school with a strict honor code and has had an outstanding career with top grades. He is student body president, participant in many activities, an active mentor of younger students and recipient of awards for character and leadership. As a result of this offense he has been stripped of his presidency and awards. Apparently, he will be permitted to graduate. This evening, I wrote him the following note.

Dear Charles,

Your dad called this morning and shared the news of your recent fall from grace. Without excusing the bad judgement that precipitated your present circumstances, let me assure you that no young man of intelligence, character and creativity escapes such lapses during teen-age and subsequent years. Perhaps your dad shared with you his own pre-high-school graduation scenario - when he was stripped of his student presidency and awards for under-age public drinking. It was the first thing that came to mind when he called. I also reflected on some of the really dumb - and in one instance life threatening - judgement lapses I inflicted upon myself in my late teens and early twenties.

Parents know these will happen. That they will not have long-term irrevocable consequences or result in the death of a beloved child of promise is a responsible parent’s daily prayer. A graduation, a college admission, and other milestones along the path of becoming a mature human being are signs that the prayers have been answered, so far.

A budding scholar of your erudition must be familiar with the cycle that classic Greek tragedies follow -- ate (the sin of pride), leading inevitably to hubris (the tragic flaw), leading inevitably to nemesis (the tragic consequences flowing from the tragic flaw). You are presently enduring the nemesis phase, but hopefully faring better than Hamlet or Othello.

Your mom and dad may have told you that I am looking forward to visiting Cleveland for your graduation. Now that I am stepping down from consuming managerial responsibilities, I shall be seeking out opportunities spend more time with you and your family. I am glad to have this opportunity to celebrate a life that has been lived well and contributed much, albeit not without the experiences of hubris and nemesis that all engaged human beings encounter.

My love to you, your siblings and parents.


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