I used to always be pissed at my dad. He never seemed to take those particular things seriously when in particular I thought he should.
I sucked at math. I still suck at math. So of course, my dad’s a math whiz. He’d always sit down with me and help me through math homework even though I’d fight him the whole way. Whenever I’d get really frustrated with math, he’d frustrate me further and make me say “Math is my best friend”. Then he’d laugh.
Eventually, he’d say things that seeped into my head and I’d get an A on a test. Then he’d say, “I told you! Math is your best friend. Say it!” And of course, I’d begrudgingly repeat our mantra. But he’d remind me to not take it too seriously and to get back to playing guitar or he’d ask me why I didn’t have a girlfriend.
When something bad happened— cancer in a family member, friend in a car accident, friend in jail— he’d say not to worry about it. Grieve, help out, but move on and don’t worry about it. These things happen. He’d tell me just to get my shit together and make sure I go to church, no matter what.
And he was serious about that. My dad and I are both Mexican-American statistics in America’s drug war. Even when he was doing his dirt, he’d always go to mass. His mother made sure he was always in mass, even if stoned with sunglasses. I’ve inherited that.
When I started studying continental philosophy, I— like all young people who are thrown into that sea without family or church— became immaturely angry at my father for what I called apathy in him. I had big questions. And he was happy to listen, but he couldn’t identify. He didn’t care. He loved me of course. But he couldn’t identify with how Kant was turning my worldview into Jello (Biafra). He never had those conversations with his father. He didn’t know who Kant was, nor did he care once I told him. He told me to keep studying philosophy if it pleased me, but to not take it too seriously. Then he’d ask me who I was dating, and I’d get pissed.
I felt the same way about Qohelet until I learned Hebrew. The whole book of Ecclesiastes was a mysterious frustration to me— apathetic like I thought my dad was. But then I learned the language.
I think after going down paths that my dad has already walked, now I’m talking his language, and man don’t I feel like a jackass…
My dad the Qohelet teaches that this world is absurd, so just play the game. There is no justice now, so keep your head down, enjoy your work, enjoy your family, enjoy beer, enjoy barbecue, and go to church. I used to think that was disengaging. Now I think its engaging the right things.