Dear Tara,

It has been  a while since I wrote you. We were both very busy. You, rising your unicorns, being five, building Lego cities and making a space helmet from old newspapers, glue and tinfoil. Me, I spent ages watching you discover this planet, and protecting you from dragons and nightmares while keeping our economy going by keeping clients happy.

We certainly have not seen a lot of each other this week. You sleep, while I am happily hopping around at the biggest innovation show on the planet: SXSW. You asked me why SXSW makes me so happy. That struck me. Because it does, it really does. But how did you know?

It oxygenates my brain

Listening to enthusiast, energetic and passionate people talking about their art, their trade and their vision on things, activates every old neuron of my brain. Discovering what problem gets them excited; and how they proceeded to turn it around, examine it and plot ways to a solution is fascinating. I learned more from all these smart, but humble people’s failures and successes than I learned in all my school years combined.

Use it, or lose it” said Willie Nelson, Texan legend: if you do not let your brain touch other brains, your view spar with other views your brain will shrink until it’s a peanut Tara. I cannot let that happen.  My brain is feeding like a shark on all those thoughts.

It reassures me

There is a lot not right about the planet you start to discover Tara. Us, older humans, made rather a smelly mess. There are still kids with no education, no computer, no internet, no drinkable water, no food, and no access to a doctor. Kids your age still die because us adults are still spending more on shiny weapons and golden Rolexes than on feeding everyone.

Tara, kids your age, but with a skin as soft and fragile as yours, but just in another pantone color are at this very moment discriminated or in danger. Because they are labelled as different, “not like us”. They get bullied and beaten. Mocked.

We pollute. The air. The rivers. The seas. Our cities. Our bodies. We’re burning forests, killing trees. Annihilating complete species of plants and animals at a staggering pace. We’re slowly cooking this planet to death. Biting the very Mother Earth that harbors us.

But these last years Tara, in the different SXSW tracks, I found that some people have not given up. That there are ways to fight back. To get better. To address what is wrong. To find solutions, see opportunities, amplify strengths. I saw people stand up for good. With an intention to better the heaps of misery that is life for some.

It starts with astronauts

Yes, girls can become astronauts Tara. SXSW shows that too: the power of diversity: everyone regardless of age, race, hair color, sexual orientation or religion can make a difference. When I met Jessica Meir at SXSW a couple of years ago, she whacked me of my feet.  Jessica Ulrika Meir was born in 1977. She is a professor at Harvard Medical School, and finished a postdoctoral research in comparative physiology at the University of British Columbia. As an intermezzo, she studied the diving physiology and behavior of emperor penguins in Antarctica and the physiology of bar-headed geese, whom are able to migrate over the Himalayas.

She flies T38 fighters, and graduated with a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University. She survived a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation. Something I can barely even spell. She outsmarted, outran, outbeat and outlearned an army of boys to become an astronaut. Because she knew she was the best, and she proved it. Having her tell that story to dads like me, is important for girls like you Tara.

But astronauts are real magicians Tara: when Jessica Meir points at the earth from the ISS where she was for 7 months, she shows us gently how small, fragile and breathtakingly beautiful our planet is. “In this window, on that marvelous blue ball lives every living creature we know” . And that hits home. She is so right. By showing us our planet from space, astronauts deliver a message of peace, and an urgent call to unite, and save what we still can.

Unite, mix and match

SXSW shows me also that one cannot do all Tara. We are so used to do things our way. To apply the things we know. To go the path we travelled earlier. To use yesterday’s thinking for tomorrow’s challenges. To rely on our skills. But the magic happens when we unite. When we think outside the box. When we discover thoughts from other people, from other trades, with other specialties and apply it to our own. SXSW shows that the future is in working together, rather than in endless specializing. Seeing the big picture, and learning from it to apply it in our work is an art we were losing.

Range

David Epstein showed in his book “Range” how we were let to believe that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead in their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up a whopping 10.000 hours of deliberate practice. Research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, showed him that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. The most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists in the world are… generalists, -especially in fields that are complex and unpredictable- They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

It should be mandatory

It should be mandatory Tara. To make sure you’ll still have a decent world to live in in a couple of years, we should take managers, CEO’s, teachers, dads, moms and journalists to gatherings like SXSW. To force them, even if it is only for a week, to observe where the puck is going. To invite them to ponder about all that new thinking for a while. To give them strength to challenge the status-quo. To dare them to put purpose over profit.  The key to your future is somewhere in there Tara. And I hope that you, as the first princess-astronaut will find it.

Because,  as Bertrand Piccard pointed out: your generation will have to do something big: save the planet.

Dear Tara, happy 2017

Dear Tara,

While you gently snore in your magic kingdom, there is just a couple of hours left in this old year. You turned it for me into a year of tender happiness. Your first little words. Your wonderful smile. Your incredible sense of humour. Your tender warmth. I’m amazed every single day how you show me more and more of that surprisingly complete person that is you. My absolute highlight in 2016 was so simple perfect: holding you, drowning into the bottomless depths of your mesmerizing blue eyes.

In a heartbeat it will be 2017. 365 new days to discover, plenty of new things to explore. Outside the world goes ape-shit.  Little kids in Syria get bombed out of their childhood, would-be grown up politicians try to forget the misery of countless refugees behind expensive wines and cheap demagogy. A Russian Rasputin hungrily eyes the rest of the world, while all the good people in the USA could not prevent an orange tiny fingered buffoon to be the next president. Both sides in the Israeli conflict lost it, again.

People get caned, raped, beheaded, excommunicated, burned, flogged, shot, murdered, tortured and spit-on in the name of Holy Books and Big Religions. We, in the West, think we are so advanced because women here can bare their legs, or show some cleavage. We forget however that our religious society gets ruled by old men in robes, who openly claim women are inferior, and who follow a man who still thinks he is infallible.  I write you this from France, a country that beheaded countless people for the values of fraternity, equality and liberty. The same country that has most of its citizens think some people are more equal than others, with literally thousands of people demonstrating against LBGT rights.

In this end of year, my dear Tara, countless people preach peace, and will wish each other love and happiness. But they still do not talk to their brother or sister for reasons they cannot even remember… they will spit on the poor homeless guy trying to warm himself in a drafty alley. They will light candles, and kiss under the mistletoe, and blame all that’s bad in our society on people who have the wrong colour, religion, or sexual orientation.

People that pretend to care and lead, are still selling their soul and our future to the old baronies of political power, fossil energy monopoly, and absolute control. While they cook this planet to the flying hillbillies, some enlightened souls are trying to find a way to secure a second earth.

I wish you a fabulous 2017, my dear daughter. More words to express all those wonderful thoughts. More days to wonder over all the sunny mornings, starry nights, delightful flowers, and breath-taking animals. I wish you endless conversations with your favourite teddy bear, and tender moments with all the people that care for you. You are loved, my little Tara, by people of all continents, of every magnificent colour that inhabits this planet. That love and warmth will help you grow, will help you understand diversity, kindness in all its subtle forms, and the countless wonders of variety.

I wish you well, a year full of magic, a year of slowly growing and fully inhaling life. Don’t worry, I’ll be right there… this is your year. You are my future.

Love,

Dad

Dear Tara,

At three o’clock in the morning, I was hovering over your little bed. You were very busy sleeping, and guarding that little furry long-eared rabbit from nasty dreams and evil spirits. Rabbit snored peaceful and happy. You looked like the magical princess of Avalon: cute, fragile, innocent and with strength to spare.

Exactly one year ago, almost to the minute, you cuddled yourself into my life. That very first moment, on your mom, when your tiny hand reached for my finger, you turned me into your eternal knight. My life will never be the same again. I can feel your little silhouette etched in the fabric of my heart, your happy voice moves the shadows of my soul. We are linked, one, intertwined, stringed. You complete those things in me that were unfinished. You soothed where it was raw, and hurt.

I can feel you think. I can sense your every move. Your clear magic blue eyes find me everywhere, and turn this dark world into a splash of rainbow.

I love how you turned my wife into a mother, how there is a burning fire of love warming in her now that will be yours for as long as you live. I love how you killed my demons, how you ease my restlessness.

I love how you learn: fast, needy, quick. How you store away knowledge, how you file every little discovery for future reference. How you make your world your own, building your power and magic on the tiny bits of yesterday.

I love the unconditional trust you have in me, when you hide yourself deep in my arms, your head on my shoulder, your thoughts in mine, your fingers playing with my hair. You give without counting. Your happy laugh chases the bitterness of the world away.

Who cares if an orange clown almost makes it to president, or if some trigger-happy testosterone driven bad boys want to play with their nuclear power toys for some sheet of land. Who cares if some idiots in the name of some abysmal spirits they call their gods justify all kinds of atrocities… when I look in your sea-deep eyes, I can see the future of many stars, of kindness, of nature reborn and sins forgiven. If only we can make this planet keep on turning without blowing it into the flying hillbillies until your generation takes over, we will be all right.

It’s your birthday, my little priestess of the Tor, my little queen of the Druids. In a while the sun will rise in your queendom. Mom will have a present for you, and a cake. With a candle.

I Love You,

Dad

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