"We do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we serve." - Jacques Maritain
In the last week's essay there was an exploration of the idea of innocence and what does it mean to cultivate the spirit of innocence even after life had been severe and hard. Today, we are to explore the other, perhaps, balancing aspect - the maturity. Observing the young adult culture, sometimes even older than that, what I came to notice was disdain for seriousness, for a healthy degree of formality in specific contexts and the general presence of an almost infantile approach towards life. I have seen classrooms and offices filled with colors that would be more suitable for a kindergarten rather than a place in which adults gather. It seems that in the realm of adults there are two extremes - the cold and gray and the "hip" and colorful. However this essay is not about the absence of aesthetic principles, but rather to look into how we can embrace maturity, cultivate seriousness and dutifulness in a world that so often pulls us in direction of self-serving gratification.
"If someone needs the unusual to be moved to astonishment, that person has lost the ability to respond rightly to the wondrous, the mirandum of being. The hunger for the sensational, posing, as it may, in "bohemian grab", is an unmistakable sign of the loss of the true power of wonder, of a bourgeois-ized humanity." - "Leisure, the Basis of Culture", Josef Pieper The modern world is world of entertainment. Everything, at all times, at almost every moment has to be fun, engaging, interesting. Many adults can hardly speak about political and social issues without referencing the latest Marvel, Harry Potter or Star Wars release. The memes have taken over how we communicate. The educational videos on YouTube or some other educational platform better be as engaging, as fun, as colorful as possible. This however, is not a puritan criticism of fun and of taking pleasure in sometimes silly things that do not have to serve a purpose - fun, laughter, comedy and even silliness have an important spot in human existence. There is probably even the higher, ego-dissolving quality to comedy and in not taking ourselves too seriously. But like everything else, comedy and fun only serve a purpose when they are a part of a greater context, when isolated or reduced, when they become a sole means through which we are to live our lives, they take their toxic, unhealthy form. The urge to turn everything into fun or to have fun at any cost, is like Pieper in the quote above suggests, society whose senses have been fed so strongly that it cannot bear a moment when they are not stimulated. It has lost the wonder because it needs to be extraordinarily, at all times entertained in order to experience any sort of awe. Seriousness, be it serious faces, tone of voice, or poise is often seen as arrogance, as inability to relax. Taking ourselves too seriously probably is not good for us but that is not the only seriousness there is. The seriousness which I try to speak of is tied to the sense of responsibility towards life itself. It is to take life seriously even wen everything around suggests that casual approach is the one we should embrace. Human beings, individuals are born with opportunity to experience life, to do, to act, not just out of instinct, but consciously, with awareness. It is a unique chance, a unique opportunity, that deserves a serious approach. Taking our life, not our ego's attachments seriously, I believe is something we owe for the chance of experiencing life as a human being. The preserved innocence is to remind us that life is a wonder, the sage's seriousness is to remind us that the wonder requires care and taking responsibility.
"Pleasure comes from alternating between work and rest, hardship and comfort, pleasure and pain. There is no happiness in constant satisfaction." - "Studies in Pessimsm", Arthur Schopenhauer When an infant experiences discomfort it cries in desire to have the source of discomfort removed by the caregiver. The same way, an adult human who has not the emotional maturity to cope with the uncomfortable experiences, seeks the shortest way to get rid of the feeling. It can happen through any form of escapism or action taken in order to numb themselves down. Together with the need to have everything comfortable at all times, comes the resistance to the concept of duty as such. Perhaps because in order to be dutiful, one very often has to feel uncomfortable and do things they would rather not be doing. It is also not rare that people think that dutifulness or actions taken out of sense of duty lack authenticity and require of an individual to step out of their integrity. It does not always have to be so. Closely related to the idea of seriousness, the sense of duty and dutifulness can come from simply dedicating life to something greater than serving our appetites. It could be understood in the Kantian sense of metaphysics of morals - servility and people pleasing come as an impulse, often they are unaware reactions, but duty should come and comes as a conscious action. It is the will and not the impulse that directs it. To be dutiful is to fully, seriously accept our life and our role in it. It is also to approach with seriousness in how our life relates to lives of others. Dutifluness does not have to come out of servile need to please others for the need of gratification, it can come from the deep sense of ethics and principles. With every beautiful, meaningful position in our lives, come duties and responsibilities. A king or a queen have many privileges in comparison to their tenants, but their lot also requires them to be dutiful - it is a way they justify their specific position. It is a decision to stay true to the ideal one has decided to strive towards in this life.
It is the meaning and not the happiness or gratification that we are to seek. A sense of meaning and purpose can make it easier to face any discomfrot, without the need to avoid it.
"Slowly, slowly, O mind, everything happens at its own pace, the Gardner may water with a hundred buckets, but the fruit will only arrive in its season" - Kabir The need for instant gratification and for instant satisfaction of one's needs is another symptom of a humanity that fails, not to grow up, but to mature. Like a small child that wants everything that brings sparkle to the eye, a human who still resists the initiation of the adulthood, cannot bear the world which does not exist to give them everything they want at the exact moment when they want it, even if they put no effort in getting it. Very often, behind impatience is the need to control the world, to control the every outcome. But seed, any kind of seed, be it the seed of a plant, an animal or human that is planted, requires a whole period of time when we just have to sit, wait and trust. Patience however, is not simply about having trust, it is also about ability to see beyond the immediate presence. It is to see a seed and know it is going to be a rose no matter how long it takes, it is to see a drop of talent, a gift and know that, with proper cultivation, it can come to be a majestic wonder. Patience is remedy against worry and fear. The maturity of it is in its understanding our own spot within the greater scheme of things.
Embracing Maturity Entering the world of mature, of adults is far from easy. It is no surprise then, that every culture that has had initiation ceremonies (or still has) has often made it very difficult, hard and challenging. The world of adults does not have the carefree beauty of the child's world but it has another kind of beauty, a beauty that comes from meaning, purpose, integrity, knowledge and awareness. Seriousness of a monk, dutifulness of a king and patience of a prophet - they are the skills, the abilities that are so universally human that almost anyone can find a drop of them within themselves and from there, begin to hone and cultivate them.