Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
let’s ignore the sexism and hope that the ‘man means everyone’ is more valid in Ancient Greek diction
The arrival of the New Year generally inspires a backward glance – recalling major events, highs and lows. The older I get, and the world being as it is, it always seems that much easier to find evidence that we’re a self-destructive species at the mercy of natural disasters and our reliance on exploiting non-renewable resources, and each other, in our quest for survival and dominance.
I was going to list a small sample of the bad things, but it’s just too depressing for this post. I’m sure you can think of plenty.
The thing is, there are so many people in my life that inspire hope in spite of that – not because they are necessarily saving the world, but because they are kind, creative, intelligent and interested people who do fun and interesting things all the time, which reminds me that this is not only possible, but that it’s the best way we can be.
If it didn’t smack of un-provable evo-psych nonsense, I’d be tempted to say it’s the way we are naturally inclined to be when not forced by circumstance to be otherwise. Which is to say, most people probably do have their own small but interesting milieu in which they can be creative and kind; whatever the larger political or financial movements may be, someone’s probably still making tea and cookies for their friends, or writing a play, or painting.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t pervasive beliefs held by otherwise decent people that help to perpetuate injustice, but that, excluding a select, super-villain-y few, most have the ability and inclination to change for the better, to examine their beliefs and politics when provided with the opportunity to do so, and amend them if they are found wanting.
I stumbled across the following yesterday on Free Will Astrology (don’t judge me):
I’m reminded of Jung’s formula, which is that we don’t so much solve our problems as we outgrow them. We add capacities and experiences that eventually make us bigger than the problems.
That just sounds about right, doesn’t it? Think of the things that kept you up at night when you were a child, or ten years ago, or five. Sure, we can get retrospectively angry about the things that upset us at the time, but the real annoyance is usually that, were we faced with the same situation now, we would handle it better – we’d be less afraid or intimidated or anxious, because we’d be better informed and more experienced at handling similar conflicts.
If we can extrapolate from the individual to the group, then we could assume that human society, too, can grow past its problems, that the combined capacities of the 7 billion people (or so) alive today, and the experiences of our ancestors, means that we are collectively getting better. That, theoretically, humanity could reach a point equivalent to self-actualization.
It is our capacity to change, and to imagine things as other than they are, that allows us to carry on even when things seem overwhelmingly dire. So I hope, then, for 2012, that we as a species have the opportunity to abandon that which is damaging to us, and pursue that which allows us to be our best selves, so that we can outgrow our problems.
And as an individual, I hope I can remember that, and get bigger than a few problems of my own.