• Thomas A. Wilson

Jekab's Ladder

It’s not hard to lose stuff. The ability to create true Damascus steel, for example, is something humankind has lost. Modern metallurgical methods only approximate the ancient technique. Hard and superplastic, swords made of the material could reportedly slice a falling human hair or cleave a rifle barrel. How did 10th century metalsmiths accomplish the feat?

The manufacturing techniques for Stradivarius violins, too, are a lost art. The process was a family secret—a secret that died with the family. Only about 650 Stradivarius violins remain. They sell for hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars. (I live in an old house, so I checked the attic for long lost treasure. No violins up there—dang it.)

Maurice Ward’s secrets reportedly died with him, too. He created an amazing heat resistant material called Starlite. It could withstand 10,000 degrees Celsius. Ward’s daughter, Nicola, reported that the material was also edible. That’s right. She stated that the stuff was fed to dogs and horses without ill effect. NASA evaluated the material with great enthusiasm, but then Ward passed away.

The Sloot Digital Coding System is another invention that died with its creator. Romke Jan Bernhard Sloot claimed that his data compression technique could store an entire movie in 8 kilobytes. Current methods get nowhere near Sloot’s results. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1999, just days before he was to sign a contract to sell the source code. Too bad.

I hate losing stuff. I lost a glove yesterday. I have no idea where it went, but I’m super bugged about it. I retraced my steps to no avail. I’m keeping the remaining glove as an act of defiance against whatever gremlin is in charge of pilfering the stores of hardworking folk. I shake my (ungloved) fist at the injustice of it all. But my silly ranting doesn’t compare with the deep lament of those who have truly lost something irreplaceable—the love and devotion of a child. In some ways, estrangement is worse than death.

Ancient religious writings tell the tale of many alienated and hostile sons. No doubt the meme reflects something innate in the human condition. In one reference, the sons of Elohim assembled, and Satan crashed the party. That wasn’t his first crash. Satan had a pretty impressive job as the-anointed-cherub-that-covers. He went by Lucifer in those days. Then he fell from heaven. After that, it’s like he hates his creator’s guts.

Another ancient reference tells of a Jewish king whose son wanted to supplant him. Absalom (the son) wanted David’s (the dad) job. His rebellion failed, and one of David’s generals gutted the helpless offspring. When David heard the news, he wailed, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!”

Not all fathering is genetic. The other day, I saw something on Facebook I really liked. The post read, “There’s something special about a man that can heal a heart he didn’t break and raise a child he didn’t make.” Amen. Sometimes biological sons can’t receive from their biological fathers—for whatever reason. Stepdads, uncles, mentors, and coaches, gut-it-out and fill the gap. Thank, God.

Another ancient reference records the correspondence between one such coach and his alienated team. “You have not many fathers,” he wrote. But the Corinthians were not impressed, they were a little embarrassed by their blue-collar dad. Paul reminded them that everything he did, he did for their benefit.

While neglectful, absentee, or abusive fathers desecrate the privilege of parenting—as evidenced by the emotional scars they leave on their children—there is sometimes another dynamic at play. As the stories above illustrate, sometimes the problem is crappy sonship.

According to Yahweh, true sons honor. According to Solomon, true sons listen. According to Moses, true sons cover. According to James, true sons learn. How do I know this to be true? Well, I’ve raised a son (and a daughter), mentored others, and spent a lifetime studying both ancient and modern texts that provide timeless lessons for anyone who takes parenting seriously. And I still have the guts to keep at it despite painful experiences where my efforts backfired catastrophically. You see, Man School is fundamentally about impartation. That’s how you garner increase, how you get returns on an investment.

How do you create wealth? You take the principal and add interest. For people interested in Man School principles, there is a wealth of interpersonal success available to be had. Available, that is, for people who have the guts to trust a true father with their head, heart, and hands. And that’s why Jekab, the baby in this week’s blog picture, has such a promising future.


A growth mindset is characterized by a desire to learn and develop. Failure is not an indictment of an individual’s worth, but it’s the crucible where personal improvement is smelted. People with a growth mindset understand: 1) leadership is not bullying, 2) feedback is not abuse, 3) inquiry is not intrusion, and 4) exertion is not injury.

Affirmation of the Week: I deeply respect the parenting process. As a true son, I receive. As a true father, I impart. I love being a reliable link in the battle against underliving.

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