The Maturation Trap
“I am satisfied with the course my life has taken. It has been bountiful, and has given me a great deal. How could I ever have expected so much? Nothing but unexpected things kept happening to me. Much might have been different if I myself had been different. But it was as it had to be; for all came about because I am as I am. Many things worked out as I planned them to, but that did not always prove of benefit to me. But almost everything developed naturally and by destiny. I regret many follies which ran from my obstinacy; but without that trait I wouldn’t have reached my goal. And so I am disappointed and not disappointed. I am disappointed with people and disappointed with myself. I have learned amazing things from people, and have accomplished more than I expected of myself. I cannot form any final judgment because the phenomenon of life and the phenomenon of man are too vast. The older I have become, the less I have understood or had insight into or known about myself.
I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions–not about anything, really. I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation of something I do not know. In spite of all uncertainties, I feel a solidity underlying all existence and a continuity in my mode of being.
The world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time of divine beauty. Which element we think outweighs the other, whether meaninglessness or meaning, is a matter of temperament. If meaninglessness were absolutely preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would vanish to an increasing degree with each step in our development. But that is — or seems to me — not the case. Probably, as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: life is — or has — meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and win the battle.”
C. G.Jung -Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Wonderful. What can one possible add or object to such a testimony? Not much. But, o yes, one thing I was thinking about. Psychologist Erik Erikson, writing about the teenage years, claiming there are thoughts, theories and ideals which you are not yet “of legal age” to deal with until you get older. What does he mean by that? That perhaps some things comes too early, hasty, before the foundation is actually laid on which those thoughts or ideals can rest.
And when I read Jung’s reflections above, I think that his experience would be premature even for someone, like myself, who is in middle age, to try to mimic or embody. Even though you can understand, and in some sense verify, what he says – to recognice that it’s true and wise – you are normally not “there” yet. And you shouldn’t be there.
It’s not time. And it has nothing to do with culture, norms, “jantelag”, etc. Rather it is almost something psycho-organic.
But, sure, a conciliatory “helicopter perspective”, where, for example, the shortcomings of others and the world’s flaws and shortcomings are mitigated by a similarly completed view of oneself, it may well be good in the right dose even earlier in life. But nothing is so tragic as a youngster trying to embody a meek and wise old person, right?
And the attractions of adolescence, to want to deal with things that you “are not yet of legal age” for, may still apply in principle when you get to middle age. That’s how I feel myself, at least. This is not merely a hypothesis.
I suppose I’ve gotten a little wiser today, a little bit calmer, with a somewhat wider perspective on life. But I’m not yet ready to stand and look out over a grey lake and sum up my life. Or to transcend into some kind of cosmic meaningful-meaningless Nirvana state. For sure.