We had to get to work early today. As adults do, there is a desire to put on a show when you are trying to impress people. I don’t quite get it, maybe because I’ve been bad at it for so long. My attempts to impress usually go a step too far, or off in a direction that, no matter how impressive, will still be a fowl ball. I’ve started thinking to myself “What is it to be an adult?” and I believe I’ve come down to a single soundbite.
“A person never grows up. They just wake up one day and start mistaking their make believe for reality.”
This seems to be it. As you look around and you see all the little fights happening across states, countries, continents. All these arguments about what is right or wrong, about what is and what isn’t. Nearly all of it seems to be centered around “philosophies”. Basically people reached an age where they no longer attributed their fantasies to fantasy but instead act as though those flawed thoughts somehow hold weight.
We mistake the good grace of our own prolonged survival with some kind of earned wisdom. At nearly 30 I can assure you that I didn’t make it this far by being a wizard of thought. I just managed to not be so unlucky, or in some cases so stupid, as to not make it this far. And indeed, looking back on my own life, there have been some extremely close calls.
Currently in the US we are experiencing an election year. If you want to see the soundbite above in full force just listen to everything everyone is talking about. At the most fundamental level the entire event is “funded” by fantasy, our economy is built entirely upon belief and hope. The idea that there is value in a dollar is the only thing keeping the US from a complete collapse. And does anything really change from the day before and after the collapse? I mean fundamentally, if you were an outside observer.
Human matter remains, the earth continues to rotate, the climate is entirely agnostic to the economy (though certainly not from the actions fueled by it). The only thing that changes is that a fantasy gets made out for what it is. Cognitive Dissonance unravels its scorpion’s sting in a colossal way and everyone recoils in pain.
When an adult talks about faith they talk about it in absolutes (ironic, but I digress). It isn’t that they “believe” they feel something, it is that they “know” they feel something. As we get older and older our certainty becomes more and more concrete. The entire foundation of conservatism is the idea that we’ve figured it all out already. This is how the world works.
Look at me, talking now about how certain it all seems. And I admit it certainly feels correct. If nothing else it is a fun thought experiment. The next time something bothers you, think about why? Is it because of something legally obligated? Why does that law exist? Keep digging deeper into the reasoning and I would be surprised if you don’t ultimately come down to “Because people believe a thing has weight.”
Adults tell you that kids can’t tell fantasy apart from reality. They demand that they be shielded from it, for fear of their safety. I’ve said before that we speak most loudly about those things we are most embarrassed of in ourselves. Societal irony is that I bet most kids realize they aren’t literally a power ranger. The same, in my opinion, cannot be said about most adults.