A gift for the man who has everything but introspection.
January 26, 2009 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me find an appropriate (guided) journal to give my father as a birthday gift.

My father is turning 60. He's got everything (actually, he's remarried so he has two of everything), and I really want to get him something a little more symbolic. I'm thinking of a nice pen and a journal, but I know that if I get him a blank journal, he'll never actually write in it. He's not particularly in touch with his emotions and he's spectacularly concrete in his thinking. I know there are guided journals out there, but so many of them look like the kind of New Age smiley stuff that he wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Anyone know of a "Self-Insight for Dummies" or "Guided Journaling for People Who Think Like Spreadsheets" or something similar?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All About Me or The Book of Myself?
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2009

What about a book of poetry? If your dad isn't the introspective type, the gift you're describing won't appeal to him. You're not going to turn him into a journaler by giving him a how-to book. A better gift would be one that expresses your feelings for him or about his life, possibly encouraging him to think about his own feelings that way.

Additionally, what if you spent some time with him talking about his life, about his childhood and about how he came to be the person who raised you? That's a way to help him get in touch with his memories without putting the pressure on him to do it all on his own. Ask him how he felt when he found out you were coming into the world. Ask him what his parents were like. If you can't be there in person, write him a letter expressing the same thoughts and encourage him to write back. Have a conversation with him about the things you want to know, and his thoughts and feelings will come.
posted by decathecting at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I want to favorite decathecting's answer a million times and then favorite it some more.

He's not introspective and maybe he's happy about that. However, opening a dialog about these things might satisfied both of you.
posted by 26.2 at 3:32 PM on January 26, 2009

Yeah, as someone with a long reputation for being spectacularly concrete in my thinking, I can't imagine that a guided journal would convince me to "explore my thoughts." (I am curious, though, so if you hear of one, you should post back.)

Here are gift ideas I thought about when I saw your post:
  1. A book you two can both read and talk about informally.
    • A short laymen's book or collection of essays on everyday ethics, practical ethics, whatever you want to call it, that offers real-life scenarios and then discusses potential and actual responses to those scenarios, and their ramifications. Choose business ethics, medical ethics, or science ethics if he requires something stereotypically masculine.
    • A popular press book on recent news involving ethical quandaries or failures. Something on Enron, stem cells, government secrecy, national security, Bernard Madoff, public health.
    Tell him you're really interested in the topic and you want to hear what he thinks about each of the given cases.

  2. Create your own journal for this purpose. Make a list of gedankenexperiments or questions you have in arenas like ethics, your dad's personal or family history, his thoughts on one subject or another. Get a nice-looking journal or notebook and write the question and your own answer to each one on every other page or so. Give him the journal and the nice pen and show him what's inside and ask him if he'd be willing to trade the book back and forth with you.

  3. Some people don't like reading or writing. Get a couple of interesting and well-done documentaries on subjects that lend themselves to discussion or argument. Or if he's into this kind of thing, one of the popular academic lecture series on DVD. Watch with him. Ask what he thinks.
If you feel the need to be manipulative (and I'm not judging, because I've done this with my parents on subjects like racism and homophobia), you can start asking Socratic-style questions while the two of you talk about any of these in order to force him to think about what otherwise might be knee-jerk judgments.

Or don't get him any of these things, which smack a little of condescension and a desire to change or improve an old man who might be happy the way he is, and just get him something related to his own interests, maybe something both of you can putter around with together. And talk to him while you two are cooking, building with Legos, hiking, crocheting your own fractals, or visiting the National Museum of Lace Doilies and Recreational Vehicles.
posted by jeeves at 3:54 PM on January 26, 2009

Speaking as someone vaguely similar to your father, who has never written a journal in his life (except for certain technical things that needed logging)... I agree that it won't work. I can't imagine a guided journal that would convince me to write down my feelings. It's just not going to happen.

If you want a symbolic gift, maybe make a nice album of photos of family members? I've done this before, finding old pictures, slides, or negatives and processing them into nice new prints bound into an attractive book. It's sentimental and will almost certainly get him talking about his memories, but it doesn't require him to write down feelings.

A digital picture frame makes a nice high-tech version of the same gift, but only if you load it up with pictures for him.
posted by mmoncur at 7:55 PM on January 26, 2009

What about getting something like Story of a Lifetime and doing it together? You could use the questions as conversation prompts and then you could fill in his responses in the book.

I do like the photo album/digital picture frame idea though.
posted by curie at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2009

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