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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

It was a modest day’s catch, to be sure. But as I said, I do not fish as those who fish for their livelihood. The fish provided dinner; my son’s wife and their family enjoyed the meal with me.

It is good to have grandchildren. I suspect this is because my grandchildren and I have a common enemy: their parents. But upon examination, there is much more to the matter. I find myself teaching my grandchildren things which I would never have taught my children – but which my grandfather taught me. There are some virtues which only an old man can impart.

I have very little time left in this world, I suppose. So it may seem foolish that I live as if I had all of time. But consider: should I not have mastered life by now? And if I have, what difference is there in another day?

So I teach my grandchildren. Their parents teach them to do things; I teach them to have patience. More than that, I teach them gentleness. It is a virtue which ornaments a woman and strengthens a man.

Consider the matter in your own time. Is it not the case that the truly strong are the only ones who can deal with others in gentleness? Those who hope they are strong; those who want to be strong; those who know they are not strong but wish to deceive you – all these must act with harshness. But the man who is truly strong has the liberty of being gentle. No father would be accounted strong because he struck his infant. Being sure in his strength, he can be gentle. So it is with the truly strong; they are the gentle ones. So it is with those who are at peace with God; they are protected by the omnipotent one. Gentleness is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

For women this is also true. Women are weaker than men, or so we believe. But there is strength in going, and there is strength in enduring. I think that women are stronger in enduring. Such strength is often best shown in gentleness. Many women are greatly tried. A woman who is greatly tried and responds to all with gentleness is accounted noble. Such a woman was my Mary Ann. She endured all, and returned a sweet word for the sour. How often I would enter our bedchamber grousing, only to hear her words of sweet counsel. Much of my wisdom came from her strength.

I hope your wife can indeed do the same for you, my friend. Do not mistake her gentleness for weakness. Rather, give her the opportunity to bless you with her wisdom. If she is thoughtful enough to hold her tongue until she is in the bedchamber, close the doors and open your ears.

It is late and my bones ache again. There is a summer storm on the way, I feel it. A draft of wine and to bed for this old man.

Hoping this finds you in health and wisdom,

Isaac the alchemist

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