Sunday, June 5, 2011

Platform Fifteen And Three Quarters

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Voltaire

In English last semester, we read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It's about a man's spiritual journey. He starts out as a Hindu Brahmin (priest caste), becomes an ascetic (self-deprivation for the sake of spiritual advancement), meets the Buddha, decides he admires the Buddha but needs to find his own teachings, becomes a greedy, worldly man, meets a hermit ferryman, and then he and the ferryman hang out and listen to the river talk to them and he finds peace. It's basically a coming-of-age novel in that he spends the entire time wandering around figuring out his identity and place in the just takes him most of his life to do it. I liked it. Most of my classmates didn't.

When we first started reading it, we had a journal assignment in the general ilk of "Is spirituality/life linear, or cyclical?" I interpreted the question as "Is there an end point, or do we keep moving forward forever?" and I'm a huge advocate for the cyclical/"we just keep going" side of things.

My dad told me a couple days ago that probably two thirds of the adult population are at the same maturity level they were at when they finished high school. Knowing how much I've grown as a person in the past six, three, or even one month(s), I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to stop. Why would someone ever think they're finished?

Individual lives might have definitive beginnings and endings, but why should Life In General? I figure if no one can ever be as wise or knowledgeable or successful or or kind or mature or happy or self-actualized or whatever as they'd like to be, we should keep trying. 

If we're to be successful in that, we're going to "need" different things at different times, in order to keep progressing. And those things will in themselves present new problems, which means we'll need new things. (God, that's a lot of new things. I hate new things. Grrr.)

Different religions have different worldviews, different perspectives, different teachings, and different people. Maybe it just comes from being of the opinion that we can never really know any ultimate metaphysical truth, but I am totally okay with religious beliefs morphing over time, or even just swapping religions entirely. How can I have beliefs without believing in absolute truth? "I don't know this, but this is what I think at the moment."

Whenever a little kid says "I'm six and one quarter," the adults in the room usually laugh. But having been a little kid, and being a teenager now, I can say with full confidence that those quarters matter. So much can be learned and said and done and experienced in three months. 

People mature at different rates, so the older you get, the less the actual numbers matter, but you keep going forward. Every year on my birthday, my dad says to me "Happy Day-Older-Than-You-Were-Yesterday." And while he's just doing it to be clever and to make me laugh, he has a point. Your birthday isn't some magical day when you were fifteen and now you're sixteen and that suddenly makes you so much older and more mature. It's the culmination of all 365 days before that.

So hi. I'm here catching the train on platform fifteen and three quarters. I intend to ride these trains for a long, long time, and I'm not just riding through time; I'm riding through life.

(And there is my super-dramatically-phrased Hey Look At Me I Think I'm Smart post of the day. Thank you.)

1 comment:

  1. I think that as we get older those quarters do actually tend to matter less. Both subjectively, since a quarter year seems shorter since it progressively represents a smaller percentage of their conscious existence, and perhaps objectively if life achieves a more stable pattern (still on the fence about that one). So perhaps we laugh at the kid not because they are silly, but out of a sad nostalgia for a time when 3 months felt like a long time, rather than just a signpost flashing by on the road to our gravestone.


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