In a review Scott published (which alerted me to the presence of the journal), he includes a long quote from a letter DeMott received from his father.
Study humiliation. You have nothing ahead of you but that. You survive not by trusting old friends. Or by hoping for love from a child. You survive by realizing you have nothing whatever the world wants, and that therefore the one course open to you is to start over. Recognize your knowledge and experience are valueless. Realize the only possible role for you on earth is that of a student and a learner. Never think that your opinions – unless founded on hard work in a field that is totally new to you – are of interest to anyone. Treat nobody, friend, co-worker, child, whomever, as someone who knows less than you about any subject whatever. You are an Inferior for life. Whatever is left of it....This is the best that life can offer. And it’s better than it soundsThese words summarize my own view of my own life, really. They are harsh, but also quite beautiful. The view offered here resonates with my own refusal to consider of any serious merit the things I do. I do the best I can; I fail as often as I succeed; I have no particular gifts or talents the world desires. Yet, this opens up all sorts of possibilities. I consider myself always growing, always learning, rarely being right. The best I hope for is that I will be known by those most dear to me - my wife and my daughters first and foremost; my closest friends - as someone who tried to live with love and joy, and never assumed the world owed me anything at all. Happy with the life I have, I also work to make sure the world is just a tad bit better for my having lived, without ever thinking this will be the case.
In any case, I offer up this view to you, dear readers. Be open to all the possibilities the world has to offer. As my father used to tell me, in a single sentence the summarizes the quoted words above, "You don't know every goddamn thing." It took me a while to learn those words and accept them. Now that I think I have, I consider myself open to all sorts of new things out there in the world.