Saturday 23 September 2017

Fifty lessons in life, love and courage for fabulous Father's Day gift

Non-Fiction: The 50 Things, Peter Dunne, Trapeze €16.99

The 50 Things by Peter Dunne
The 50 Things by Peter Dunne
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Turning 50 brings many new perceptions into play. It is a particularly high, and hopefully healthy, vantage point from which to view your past in that valley down the hill. You see the stepping-stones, the hurdles and holes you fell over and into. Forty is still flirty, 50 is on the hill, but not over it, you are still en route, though you know there is less future to ponder.

In his book, The 50 Things, Peter Dunne was inspired by his 50th year on the planet, to bestow on his children some of the lessons he had gleaned through his own ups and downs. His broad list of important topics is perhaps something many parents could adapt as a legacy. We elders tend to articulate advice ad-lib. Or assume our children learn by example or gesture. By taking the time to narrate his views on topics from Compromise, Kindness, Grief and Laughter to Anger and Tolerance, concluding with Love, Dunne's objective is to minimise the struggle that children and teenagers may have with an increasingly pressurised society. Essentially, it is thoughtful advice to reduce the scope for pain and hurt - and where is the harm in that?

Though Dunne personalises family experiences and references friends, the ideology here is general enough for any parent to contemplate the essential life lessons to pass onto our youth. The mark you leave on this planet, whether you are a parent or not, is in how you inspire the next generation. If this had been my book to my children, I think I would have prioritised Courage at the start. On this trait, Dunne says: "Courage, like a valid passport, is something without which you should never leave the house. You just never know when you are going to need it." Sometimes it takes a lot to keep going in life. And courage is often needed to deal with bad human experiences.

With the death of his mother at far too young an age, Dunne realised that there were conversations he could never have with her, and with his father retreating behind the veil of Alzheimer's, there were fewer questions to be asked or answered. The 50 Things is like a trail of breadcrumbs, in case his children are ever unsure of their way, or can't remember, and he is not around.

For aspiring artists and writers, under Creativity, Dunne quotes Picasso, "Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not?" And Henri Matisse, "Creativity takes courage." He cites JK Rowling as an example of someone who must have wondered what the hell she was doing writing in a cafe, but never gave up on herself and her dream. We have seen unparalleled creativity in technology and Dunne has shown that his idea, which started as a blog, aligned with courage and vision, has been read in dozens of countries and now turned into a book.

His book is also a treasure trove of love and admiration, of positivity and all that should be passed onto our young ones. As a mother of two sons, from their first teenage encounters, I urged them to respect women. It is one of the most important pieces of advice for a young man. If I had daughters I would encourage them to be on the alert for the Narcissist, the man without empathy. That would be the antithesis of Peter Dunne.

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