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broken

Posted under Miscellanea at .
Tags:psychology, zen

I read a line on a webpage a while back. Admittedly, at the time I thought — hah, sounds kind of right — and moved on. But it’s been niggling at me, and I ended up realising, no, not right. So I had to go back and find it, failed, failed to accurately remember the words, but by the marvel of search engines found what I think is the original (or at least, where it was as it seems now to be behind a paywall, but I’ve found it on the Internet Archive):

The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research childhood.”

— Michael Chabon in the New York Book Review, 2013–01-31

The implication I understood in the context I first read (still haven’t found it) is that adults are those who have noticed that the world is irretrievably broken. And it’s that implication (which might not be the whole point in the original) to which I have to respond with an unambiguous no.

The state of mind in which we view the world as irretrievably broken might be better characterised as mopey-teenager, rather than adult. The idea goes quite well with the denial and depression stages of grieving. But really an adult — well, what do we mean by adult? A mature person? I know these words are all a bit tendentious, but there’s a point behind them, and I think it’s this:

Maturity requires acceptance. In this case, acceptance that we just live in the world, we didn’t design or make it, and it never did respond to our desires and preconceptions more than coincidentally. To consider the world broken because it doesn’t meet your expectations is not mature. (Or at least, very far from enlightened.)

To be sure, there are people who are legally adults who haven’t moved on from the mopey-teenage viewpoint; which shouldn’t be surprising as there are those of all ages who haven’t moved on from childlike marvel and surprise either. And whether it was originally intended this way or not, the quote, used by those who are still stuck in the adolescent phase, serves to infantilise those who have managed by good fortune or neurological peculiarity to skip it, or those who haven’t yet reached it. Misery loves company.

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as just an attempt to infantilise . . . well, juvenalise? . . . those who are stuck in denial and depression with regard to the world around them. I didn’t skip it, though I don’t think I’m irretrievably trapped in it either. Because: it’s not the end of the process. If you think the world is broken, it’s time to move on. Your expectations may indeed be broken, but the world is as complete and ever-changing as it always was.

I suspect enlightened maturity loves company too. If I get there I’ll let you know.


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