In this letter Daniel Karim shares a story and a tool that will challenge you to contemplate upon the impermanence of all things.
Daniel M. Karim
Somewhere in a dark forest in North Germany
Monday, December 4th, 18: 38 p.m MEZ
This letter is going to be the first in a long series of letters in which I will attempt to share with you the most transformative tools that I’ve discovered on my adventures around the world.
Each letter will be sent to you from a different part of the earth, and they will always start with a story and end with a quest where both have the aim of helping you to improve the quality of your character, your life, and the world in its entirety.
Through these letters, I will attempt to help you to find your own answers to life’s most substantial questions such as who are you, who could you be, and what is the meaning of life.
I will teach you what I’ve learned about the human condition, becoming a hero even if you’ve been a villain in the past, escaping the matrix and living a life on your own terms, and how to become your own messiah even if everything around you goes up in flames.
There will also be plenty of stories about sex, drugs, and violence, so make sure that you hide these letters from minors because they can get pretty fucking dark.
Before I go over more details of what our newly formed penship entails, I want to express my gratitude to you for being here and accepting my friendship request and tell you that I have every intention of honoring the commitments that come along with such a covenant. But maybe it’s useful to first explore the question…
What constitutes true friendship?
This was one of the questions that were in the first letter that my father sent to me from prison. I was 15 and hadn’t spoken to my old man in 3 long years and receiving a life sign from him caused me to feel all sorts of things.
The content of his first letter revolved around taking responsibility for the nature of his mysterious hiatus, revealing his intention of becoming a force of good in my life, even from afar, and offering me what I just offered you, a true friendship along with an explanation of what that really means. And like you today, I accepted and became friends with a stranger from the other side of the world.
The timing of this unexpected mentorship couldn’t have been better, I just got myself kicked out of another school and I began to realize that I probably wouldn’t be able to correct the downward trajectory of my life by myself, so having a wise guy who I could ask how to live life made sense to me.
Those few people who knew my father deeply were of the conviction that he was the most interesting man in the world. For better & worse, there was some truth behind those voices, after all, he lived the life of a hundred persons. Sometimes literally, as he was known under many different names throughout the early chapters of his life when he got himself entangled with the criminal underworld, but this is a story for a different letter.
Even as a nomadic scholar who collects uncommon stories for a living, I have to admit that his story might have been the most uncommon one I ever heard.
The chapters in my father’s life book included being a child soldier, jumping as a military parachutist out of airplanes in his teens, living as a spy behind enemy lines, smuggling stolen diamonds the size of tangerines in exotic countries in his shoes, oscillating between being homeless & being a millionaire, saving & taking lives, marching 20 miles through the snow with a dozen bullets in his stomach or conversing with God after being clinically dead for several minutes on several occasions in his life.
Even though every letter that my father sent me was a distinct adventure in itself, there was always a method behind the madness that was hidden within his writings.
My father was severely limited in the number of letters that he could send me, so every authoring of his was entirely stripped of the inessentials, so when I asked him a deep question about life, I got back a teaching tale crowned with one quest at the end, a homework assignment for me so to say.
And since, my father was in prison, surrounded by every imaginable kind of scumback the world had to offer from drug kingpins, professional assassins, money launderers, and bank robbers to human traffickers you can imagine that his letters were like he was; unusual, rough and rich in profanity.
I’m telling you this because these letters were the greatest gift I ever received. Through them, I not only discovered who my father was, but what kind of man I wanted to be. However, what was most transformative about these letters wasn’t the life lessons or the dangerous quests they contained, it was the knowledge that somewhere, someone truly cared about me. When someone cares about you, they not only want the best for you, they want the best, for the best part of you, and they help you to win the war against those parts of you that aren’t worthy of preservation. You see, that was his definition of what a true friend needs to be, good for the best of you, and bad for the worst. As simple as that.
You probably already managed to count 1-1 together, but this is the kind of friend that I want to be for you if you decide to have me. A friend who believes in you with all his heart, someone, who, even from a far, shares with you tales & tools that will help you to realize the totality of your immense potential.
There is one big difference though in regards to the life letters that you will receive from me, that difference is that contrary to my old man, many of the tools & tales that I will share with you don’t exist just yet, rather I plan on collecting them on the global adventure that I’m about to start next week.
You see, I have a strange dream that I will initiate next week, that dream is to collect 52 teaching tales from interesting people from all 195 countries in the world in order to discover who we would be after we had 10.000 teachers. Yes, ‘we’, because I intend to have this adventure together with you so that the tools & tales will not only enrich my life but yours as well. So, rather than being your new mentor, see me as a fellow fool who invites you to a global adventure on which we will hopefully grow mutually into our potential.
Thus this is our little pact; I will travel the world searching for transformational tales & tales, and you promise to use the secret tactics you will find my personal letters to you to improve your character, your life & the world in its entirety.
And since I will write these letters to you while adventuring from imperfect conditions, expect them to be not edited and stripped of everything but the essentials.
Anyway, let’s get started with the first life lesson…
Rule 1 · Live A life That Will Outlive You ·
Today was a strange day. The sun hung low in the sky as my father asked me to follow him deep into the heart of his forest to help him with “something”. That something turned out to help him to prepare his grave – an unusual task that described very well the unusual relationship my dad and I had.
Before we set out into the thick forest, my father insisted on us arming ourselves to the teeth in order to be prepared for the rare chance that we would run into wolves.
After finishing our cigars, and chugging down the rest of the coffee that his wife made for us, we went our way, showel over my shoulder and a revolver in my other hand.
Visiting my father was always beautifully bizarre, but this visit held a sense of finality to it since I just shared with him that I would leave Germany for good.
It was important to me, after booking a one-way ticket, that I would meet my father, in order to fortify my roots before embarking on a global sojourn that would carry me to the farthest corners of the earth.
Our destination was a hill, deep into the woods and while making our way there, we talked and he shared with me many things in case this was the last day we would ever spend together.
There was reason for his superstition, for many years doctors have advised him due to his heart disease to settle his affairs, and the very fact that he was next to me was a physical miracle.
While marching through the woods, we talked about the life he lived and we would ask me questions that I knew I had no answers for on that day:
What kind of man do you wish to become?
What do you want to be remembered for?
What should your life’s work be?
How will you make suffering in the world less?
Questions to which I had no answer on that day, in fact, this was the reason why I wanted to leave Germany, to find answers to questions I haven’t event asked myself yet.
My father didn’t give me any, he simply remains stoic as he usually does and told me to not leave my eyes of the forest, night is coming, and during the night the forest belongs to the animals.
As we ascended toward the hill of his choosing. our footsteps created a rhythm that echoed through the threes, a series of shadows started to dance at the edges of my vision. “Wolves” my father said. Their presence sent a shiver down my spine, fear gripped me and we pulled our weapons out.
In that moment of uncertainty, my father turned to me, his eyes were a steady beacon of calmness.
“Follow my lead and do as I do” he instructed. He raised his hands above his heads, one pistol in each, and he let a chorus of the most comical sound I ever heard him make – ‘HULALAULAUAHAUAL’ while shooting a few rounds into the sky.
While mimicking his behaviour, I couldn’t help but notice the absurdity of it all – I thought I would get eaten by the wolves, and I would look idiotic while doing so. Not the heroic ending I imagine for myself.
The wolves dispersed, retreating into the shadows from whence they came. His shots and the dance he said were enough for them to remember that the hill was ours.
With the danger averted, we continued our ascent, reaching the crest of the hill where a sense of purpose hung in the air. It was time to dig. The earth yielded beneath our efforts, and as the soil was displaced, so too were the layers of conversation that had remained dormant between us.
Amidst the rhythmic cadence of shovel meeting earth, my father began to speak. He shared stories of our family’s history, of ancestors who had walked this very path before us. What they went through, the trials and tribulations, war, famine, disease, tyranny – and they survived it so that I could exist and that it’s my duty to the lineage of man to make sure that their sacrifices were worth it.
He also told me of my grandfather Ali, a man who had lived to the remarkable age of 117. Ali had dug his own grave at the age of 65, an act of foresight that defied conventional wisdom. “Ali understood an ancient truth, he knew, that in order to learn how to live, you must first learn how to die.”
My father’s words hung heavy in the air, and continued to challenge me to contemplate the impermanence of all things while walking back to the cabin.” Live in a manner where every day is a good day to die, son” he said, his voice carrying the weight of generations.
As we marched home, the sun began to descend, casting an orange glow upon the entire forest, his lessons took root within my heart and I felt ready to go into the world and to not return until I found my own answers to the questions my father bestowed upon me.
And now, my dear friend, the challenge is yours. Use the chronicle below to contemplate your own mortality and find your own answers to life’s biggest questions in it.
Find a quiet moment, close your eyes, and envision yourself standing before your own grave, a testament to the life you will one day leave behind. Contemplate the values, the actions, and the memories you wish to be associated with your name. Use this exercise to guide your journey, to shape the choices you make, and to live each day in a way that aligns with the legacy you seek to create.
In the end, remember this: Death is nothing but a crown to someone who lived deliberately.
Until we meet again my friend,
Daniel M. Karim
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