Solving the Dad Equation

Father is a noun as well a verb. The concept is conceived doing alongside being. Father is defined by a mode of work: ‘doing’ something for a living. We strive to be productive to father our identities. Our vocations are an integral part of who we are. As stable work is assaulted by economic changes, our identities are in flux.

Of late, our society has been having difficulty resolving gender identities and roles. As a husband and father, I feel curiosity and wonder provide the sanest paths toward resolving our miscommunications and misconceptions. It’s difficult to ‘rise above’ our biology. In some ways, we miss out on our truly human capacities in our attempts to study ourselves.

Unless you’re a clone, you have a biological father. This man has given something of himself for you. He may be important to you. He may be significant to others. He may lead or follow. In all of these instances, he is a man. I don’t know why it feels incendiary to use that term these days. And father cannot exist without mother. I’ve racked my brains considering an alternative. Even our attempts at genetic cutting and splicing are subordinate to the requirement for this true union. Without bonds, there is emptiness. What sentimental notions provide meaning to these roles?

“The child is the father to the man” is a phrase coined by William Wordsworth in an 1802 poem. Fatherhood is a complex idea. Its myriad relationships and applications are so abundant it cannot avoid being paradoxical. It is simultaneously praised and criticized. It is inclusive and exclusive, domineering and warm. It is manic and depressive. In a word, it is alluvial.

Alluvial deposits are the soils and rocks left behind where a stream once flowed. The stream doesn’t decide to carry this content or have an understanding of how it will be deposited, things are just caught up in the process between generation and termination that alter the landscape. We all have a flow, a tumult, a turmoil that catches debris in our path to fling it about as we navigate the rapids of our lives. Things settle and we have the time and patience to deposit some bits of ourselves along the river’s edge. Rushing forward, the source of our current continuously drawing and extracting, simultaneously generating and depositing. The gender of fatherhood is in question today as everyone paddles along in a position to feel full of it’s meaning. The truth that exists lies at the bottom: your riverbed.

In some ways, father is an authority, central to an order of understanding and coping with adaptation. In other ways, there is no respect warranted, the brutish and penetrating desires are destructive. Introspection is a scarce resource. Discipline is required to look at ourselves thoroughly to see connections between our modes of thinking and our cultural heritage. The term ‘patriarchy’ is used by feminists to describe the power relationship between men and women. Patriarchal systems of oppression — class, race, imperialism — victimize both men and women. Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. How did that work out?

Those who cannot control themselves are destined to be under the control of someone else. Is this a mantra of the gig economy? It may seem that gig workers are ‘in control,’ but where do the power structures lie upon closer inspection? In a collaborative relationship, a win-win dynamic is central to the exchange of value. Perhaps this is how we can be better fathers. Leadership is about presence. Stand firm in the midst of other people’s emotional anxiety and reactivity. Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin. Innovators and changemakers have resilience and tolerance for ambiguity.

Your identity is personal. Contemporary notions of gender fluidity are simply a treatise on language. Language creates our reality. Metaphor makes the man. Take a step back. Don’t trip. Or perhaps the the trip is the point. The journey is the destination. Mankind is a history. Is her story missing? If you feel left out, how do you redefine your meaningfulness?

A cacophony of words arises from our need to communicate. The language of action is louder than the language of being. However, nouns are inherently more solid. A noun, defined simply, is a person, place, thing or idea. They create an ‘it’ which we can refer to. Without them there is nothingness.

How about redefining a noun as a person, place, thing AND idea. After all, who is Father Time? And God the Father? I’m confused. In any entrepreneur’s handbook, new technology redefines the language around old technology. I propose that we would all be able to break the chain of antiquated associations of the word ‘father’ by substituting a new word, remapping an updated concept with the one that we’re already familiar. We could brainstorm new words for Father 2.0.

How about Binquit? (Binary Qualitative Unit). That sounds cool. But it has the word ‘quit’ in it and we wouldn’t want to equate father with quitter. There’s the very real danger that such a radically new word would encounter resistance in changing ingrained thought patterns. The new sound and association would be lost in the marketplace. How about a new word with some pattern recognition and more potential to ease the transition? Hmm. First letter: A, B, C,…W,X, Hey! Yather! Yather’s Day! Sounds hip and makes the old new again. But, wait, we just don’t want the label to have an unintended consequence: you know, the problems caused by that pesky Y chromosome.

If father were a color, what would it be? Too many variables. Okay, maybe just a hex value, but encrypted. #a7CdJ15bTg3dz0n3. That has potential, but it’s a little hard to remember. Do you lose your father if you lose the private key…?

Perhaps the solution has been staring us in the face all along. Father’s secular twin: Dad. Who would feel as unbridled, reckless and antagonistic defending his Dadland? Would God the Dad be a more humble, accepting deity? How about the ‘Dad Figure’ we all want to have a friendship with?

Modeling Dad, Tasting Music.

Discussing dads, there is a strong tendency to talk about what they do/did. I’m surprised we haven’t changed this thinking. Do we honor our dads by acknowledging their accomplishments? Or should we consider the value of their restraint and what they have sacrificed?

Is it possible to create a model of dadhood? The belief that AI has the capability of representing general intelligence suggests that everything in our world can be reduced to data processing in which algorithms will obediently serve us by assimilation. I suggest it becomes our imperative as sentient creatures to begin the process of deconstructing this idea with attempts to create our own models as examples of the possibilities inherent in this belief. What does a dad model look like?

I’m a dad and a son. The phrase ‘chip off the old block’ begs the question: what chip and who’s block? There is so much to unpack in this relationship. But it’s precisely this relationship that allowed me to begin with the end in mind. The recursive values and persistent variables were stubborn in revealing a unifying theory. Using calculus and the principles of machine learning I spent hours contemplating a formula. After spilling a cup of cold coffee on the wrapper of my recent burrito lunch, eureka! Finally, I had it: the Dad Equation (dEQ).

The dEQ describes the point in time and space which defines a point of being. It defines dad as much by what it is not as what it is. Ambiguity is a universal constant and thus was important to include in the dad equation. As it’s not a constant, I couldn’t define a variable in the formula. The formula’s simplicity mirrors an underlying correlation with the concept dads live by. Looking at it is described as peering into the soul of dad.

With this equation, everyone becomes dad. In an instant, the abilities for dominance and submission become equal, canceling each other and yielding to a state of nirvana. I’d finally cracked the code which I’ve been searching for, advancing the notion that the exception doesn’t prove the rule, but rather provides an impetus to change the rule. Inequality exists historically and in contemporary society. It exists with a glaring, inescapable tenacity. It suggests that we live with tendencies and forces we are all responsible for.

No one truly ‘gets ahead’ until everyone does. If someone is in poverty, it reflects negatively on all of humanity. If one person has a lifestyle which is rarefied or enviable, what does that reveal relative to others? Each of us decide our personal meaning of success. If envy creates disparity, would we better correct it by dismissing envy rather than trying to ‘equalize’ the subjective scales we use to measure the imbalance? Our wants are subjective. If you want more time, you can easily trade a simpler lifestyle for the resource.

What truly combats an aggressive, exploitative force is a nuanced detachment from the ‘battle.’ It’s self-awareness that creates all change. Marketing our righteousness simply creates a counterattack. The battle is one that requires a foe. In a reflective, impassive being, an idea has more impact. What if you truly believed that the presence of another’s slick, flashy lifestyle had no bearing on your self-worth? Actually, if the tables were turned and an expensive car or fashion were truly understood and consciously abhorred because of a fundamental distaste, would this, a genuine sadness and sympathy for the person who is not awake enough to be aware, have a greater impact?

Instead of rallying against, promote an inclusive environment. The idea is burgeoning, it just doesn’t make the news. It happens quietly.

But there are strong counterforces of darkness at work. In 1972, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not initially meet with enthusiasm — perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” The ‘Father Effect’ is the treatise of a data-driven study to find reasons why kids do better with a father figure in their lives. Strange as it may sound, fatherhood is an emerging field of study. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a ‘second Christmas’ for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

About Peter

As a consulting professional in the Internet industry, I have helped small- and medium-sized businesses and community organizations effectively design and deploy web services and information. Years of hands-on design and project management experience for this market have inspired me to post my ideas and insights on a public forum --
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