Of Growing Up

Me and my roommate have this tradition where we cook a large meal Sunday night and complain about having to do the dishes afterwards. There always seems to be more plates leftover than what would seem reasonable for two honest working folk. So instead of doing the dishes, we talk of other things. Inspired by said dishes, last week's topic was on being an adult and whether doing dishes was part of that process.

What are adults? For starters, adults are not babies. Babies are selfish, violent and racist - this according to Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale.

"Families survive the terrible two's because toddlers aren't strong enough to kill with their hands and are incapable of using lethal weapons"

--Paul Bloom in "Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil"

Outside of being manic killers, babies are also helpless(a fortunate combination). They have trouble doing the most basic of tasks, such as walking and disposing of their own waste. An adult should know how to do these things. Preferably, an adult should know how to do a lot more than just these two things. They should know enough to assume the responsibilities of taking care of themselves. In our day and age, this usually includes rent, taxes, mortgages and jobs just to name a few. And while these might all be symptoms of growing up, saying that you've reached adulthood because you pay taxes is like saying that you're "smart" because you did well on your SATs. There's more to it then just doing the dishes (but they still have to be done, sigh...)

Another part of growing up is developing an opinion. You should have accumulated enough life experiences at this point to judge for yourself what is good and what is not.

Ever since you're little, you're continuously indoctrinated - by everyone. It's your parents, your friends, your priest, your school, the news - every day, the young impressionable mind is bombarded with a million different opinions and moral standards.

This doesn't stop happening - EVER - but you (hopefully) come to a point where you stop taking everything at face value and are able to assess the situation with your personal set of values. This isn't anything that anyone will force you to do and more than enough people would be happy that you never did. I refer you to Hitler or every fascist that has ever ruled as examples.

Figure out your values and be ready to stand by them. If your values support eating off clean plates, then you'd better do the dishes no matter how much your lethargic food comma induced brain might tell you otherwise.

Our late president, George W. Bush, referred to himself as "the decider", the man who would decide what's best for his country. And say what you want of the late president, growing up means making decisions, even if the decision is nothing more than your reaction to circumstances around you.

“It was ... the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but ... there was all the difference in the world.”

--Harry Potter in the Half-Blood Prince

As you grow up, there's an exponential increase in the number of decisions you're able to make. When you're little, mean people told you what time you had to go to bed and why jumping into the pool from the roof was not something you could do. As you get older, you accumulate more powers till you can stay up for as long as you want and make all the questionable decisions your heart desires. But just because you can jump off the roof at 4:00AM in a cat costume doesn't mean that's a good idea (everyone knows dogs are better).

"With great Power comes great responsibility"

--Attributed most recently to Stan Lee in Spiderman but the actual author probably lost forever in the dustbins of time

When you're grown up, you own your decisions and no one else. You call the shots and you (and others) will have to live with the consequences. You need to set the course as you sail in the metaphorical ocean of life. In the meantime, you have to not forget to clean the not so metaphorical dishes in the sink.

Growing up is something everyone goes through (at least physically). Every culture has its own rites to mark the transition, but they all boil down to the point where you stop being (as much of a) parasite on your community and become a producer instead. To recap, this means taking responsibility for yourself, having your own opinions and owning up to your decisions. This doesn't mean becoming a mindless corporate drone and becoming a "productive member of society". I'd like to think of it as becoming a producer of humanity, extending the richness and diversity of the human experience.

Adulthood is not an end but the start of your life (in renaissance). It's not something that you automatically graduate into upon receiving some piece of paper but something you're constantly in the process of becoming.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

--Henry David Thoreau

They say that the most evil people in the world are babies who have not learned compassion. So if there's one takeaway from all this: don't be a baby!


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