Wednesday 9 January 2019

Not growing-up - the possibilities

There is a serious problem: that sensible, sensitive people don't want to grow-up - and rightly so; actually, this has probably been the case for hundreds of years, but at different ages.

In middle agrarian societies such as Europe in the Middle Ages, most children were (it seems) compelled to work (the most menial, repetitive agricultural work) from the earliest age that they could be so compelled... so maybe they barely had a conscious childhood. Certainly the 'golden age' of my own childhood - say six to nine years - was obliterated. They were mini-adults before they knew enough to know what they were missing. Given what we know of human nature, this was of course physical child abuse; normal, mandatory - socially-approved.

Nowadays, there is the nasty transition to adolescence - being pushed-back, younger and younger in the form of sexualising children; not just by the media, but now by the politicians and government, by the education system.

This is systematic sexual abuse - children's minds being force-fed with sex, and wrong sex - here, now, increasing; normal, mandatory - socially-approved.

Then adolescence; which is supposed to be (by the role models depicted in the media, implied by official policy) a period of promiscuous sex, drugs and intoxication; mental illness treated by indoctrination (i.e. 'psychotherapy') and drugs (mostly and increasingly sedatives and tranquillisers; emotion numb-ers; SSRI-type agents, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants etc.).

Adolescents are groomed to feel themselves entitled, victims; groomed to resentment and despair (the two great modern sins); groomed, of course, to pride

Yet, even so, because this adolescent stuff is all addictive; people don't want to grow up - which means marrying and having families. They stay as adolescents.

Insofar as people do grow older (not up); they hate it - because life without religion, without spirituality, is strictly and necessarily and by definition meaningless and purposeless.

So, decent people yearn for childhood; which we can't have - because it is on the other side of adolescence.

So they are stuck; they despair - and basically they want to die, painlessly; as soon as the distractions and pleasures wear-off.

There is a solution; but there is only one solution - and it has two parts.

One is religion - and, if we wish to avoid despair, that must be Christianity; the second part is to heal the alienation that cuts us off from reality, and the materialism which insists that reality is dead (and humans, as part of reality, are dead too). Dead stuff whirling in a void...

We can fix the alienation by recognising that we were correct when we were young children: reality really is made of beings having relationships with each other. All is alive, conscious, motivated...

One solution: two parts... But nobody is going to do this for us, these two things - for as long as we rely on external validation and authority and institutions, we shall remain stuck.

But we can do it for ourselves - and we can do it in the realm of thinking (thinking of this sort being the real 'action', the real Life); where (if we are thinking by-from our real, divine selves) we have direct knowledge and contact with the purpose of things.

We can do it this instant - if we choose; it is entirely up to each of us. 

What then? Who knows? - because it will be different for each person... but that is the essential first step. Only after we have taken it will we know what comes next.



Matthew T said...

It's interesting how this meshes with the previous post, about the Christopher Robin movie, which my family and I watched at my mother's over Christmas (and which I mistakenly continued to call the Winnie-the-Pooh movie, to my pedantic daughter's objection. I suppose there's a point in and of itself - is the movie about Winnie, or about Christopher? The latter, I daresay.). I thoroughly enjoyed it, and do not share your distaste for the slapstick stuff!

Anyone having read the books recently will recall that much of the dialogue from the movie's beginning is verbatim from the books, especially the stuff about how awful it is to grow up, how "they" "don't let you" do "nothing" once you reach a certain age. And yet, what many folks may not know is that A.A. Milne's son objected, as an adult, to having been used in this way. Despite the way it had been written by his father, he did not in fact "regret" having to grow up, nor did find it particularly sorrowful.

I suppose one of the reasons I enjoyed the film is that, contrariwise to the way that many people perhaps might receive it, it struck me as an example of everything I've done right. I haven't lost a sense of childhood wonder. I didn't spend my adolesence in drugs and sexual dissipation. I do spend lots of time with my wife and children. I do not wander in existential angst, and I do have a sense of hope about the future.

At times my wife and I have described ourselves as simultaneously young-and-old-at-heart, meaning, I think there is a sort of wisdom, an outlook on life, as well as a joy, that is characteristic of the very old (because life experience has taught them what is and is not important) and the very young (because of their innocent intuition). That gets lost somewhere along the way in adulthood for many people, but has somehow always been available to us, I guess we because we never fell for the lies of adulthood (the lies about worldly success, sex, drugs, power, &c.).

I can say with honesty that while I get wistful for my childhood sometimes, I don't truly wish to recapture it, because I have a hope for something better. Likewise it doesn't really hurt me to observe my children growing up before my eyes - it just makes me excited to have real relationships with them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Matthew - I have read Christopher Robin Milne's biography (indeed, all three of them)

This movie clearly wasn't about him - presumably that was why they didn't use his surname, but instead 'Robin'. That, in itself, was a plus; because it wasn't one of these 'based on a true story' movies that can be so very misleading - such as the 2017 Goodbye Christopher Robin; where the most memorable parts were made-up, and there was a fair bit of wilful misinterpretation of events - despite that it was a good movie, qua movie.

The Shadowlands movie, ostensibly about CS Lewis, is another example of the problem (again, a good movie, qua movie) - the original TV play (starring Joss Ackland) was much closer to truth. But both play and movie deliberately misrepresented Lewis's Christianity - as seems mandatory for Hollywood.

Another example of a Hollywood movie misrepresenting Christianity, even more egregiously, was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Better, like here, to acknowledge that the movie is a fantasy.

Matthew T said...

By the way, in case it isn't clear, one of the secrets to maintaining a sense of childlike joy is to love people and things unreservedly like a child does.

Lucinda said...

I've had a similar experience of enjoying my adulthood. I know when I was a child, my fondest hope was to become a mom like my mom. I learned to hide that aspiration as I navigated my adolescence and young adulthood, and even young motherhood, but I often remark to my children how much better it is to be a grown-up, and a mother in particular, than a child. Even though I enjoyed my childhood.

It's a great time to be a full-time mom. The more menial tasks of home-life are so much alleviated compared to our ancestors, if you can just keep a sense of gratitude and purpose. A mother has to learn to ignore much of what the larger society tells her is valuable, which is difficult, but as the situation has gotten more and more extreme in terms of devaluing all that is good, it actually gets easier.

Then again, it's not that it's easy, just the opposite really. It's hard, but when the sense of purpose is there, the harder the better from what I can tell. I'm expecting our 11th child. Sometimes I can't believe it. It seems so unlikely. But the thing people don't often realize is that as you tap into the energy of your children, and live their lives with them, it really gives you the enjoyment of the best parts of a good childhood, particularly as you keep your eye on preparing them for adulthood, which is the ironic thing, because that is what they are looking forward to. Which is just as it should be.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - It certainly is an extraordinary and marvellous thing to have childhood reawakened as a parent. At its best it is like being a child, but conscious of it at the same time.

I feel very pleased that you make time to read and comment here when you are a mother to ten (and another coming). Your perspective is much appreciated.

Matthew T said...

@Lucinda - wonderful comment, like something my wife could write. We often remark that "the world" makes us feel like we have a large family (four children) but our homeschool circle makes us feel the opposite!

Ugh said...

Indeed, Lucinda's story is very good. My own adult daughter is doing the same and she has never been happier. Getting to that point was difficult and traumatic for her as she progressed through high school, college and the world of work. Once the babies came she re-engaged her Christian roots and she's blossomed into an incredible person. It's marvelous.

My son, on the other hand, despite being a good human being, is living in our basement ambitionless and hooked on distractions. He has a job, pays rent and his own bills, treats his parents and others well, so it's hard to be mad at him. Rather we feel sorry that he hasn't the oomph to get up and start his own life away from us. I'm loathe to kick him out, but my wife has lost her patience.