photo unavailable Gathering Place

C. Ikehara

Sunday, January 25, 2004

In a post-9/11 world,
strive for maturity

When I read Richard Borreca's column in the Jan. 11 Insight section describing plans to tighten up public access to the state Capitol to better protect it from potential terrorist acts, it reminded me that the optimism -- perhaps blind optimism -- that we once had concerning the future has been tempered by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Should we be disappointed that things don't look so rosy anymore? Or were we just naive to think that the world existed only to fulfill our hopes and dreams?

Without sounding like a guru, I would like to share an essay I once wrote that may help others to address the anxiety that many now feel about the future.

The meaning of life is that everyone has to grow up. One can talk all they like about developing intelligence, improving ability or even cultivating creativity, but what really matters is attaining maturity.

For once you have had your "coming of age," "loss of innocence" or whatever you prefer to call it, then, like the person who has had a near-death experience or been told that he has a terminal disease with only a limited amount of time left to live, the ways of the world and human nature will become obvious.

With regard to the "way of the world," John F. Kennedy once said, "There is always inequality in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded and some men never leave the country. Life is unfair." We live in an imperfect world and the way of the world is that it is full of limitations. In ancient Greek mythology and tragedy, think of how much Icarus and Oedipus suffer because of their refusal to accept limits. External limitations are what define your "reality." Never let the external possibilities blind you to the external limitations of your reality.

Concerning the "way of human nature," human nature is basically weak, and sometimes can be quite wild. In other words, human nature also is full of limitations. We are imperfect creations. Think of the expressions "Achilles' heel" and "Know thyself." Internal limitations are what define your "identity." Never let your potential (or even hopes and dreams) blind you to the internal limitations of your identity.

Always take your "reality" and your "identity" into account whenever you make decisions, take action or make plans if you hope to spare yourself some (but not all) of what I call the four Ds: disappointment, deception, disillusionment and despair.

Since your "reality" and "identity" are not static or immutable, review them from time to time to see if adjustments need to be made. You will probably find that they do not remain constant since the only constant is change. Nothing can remain the same.

When an individual can acknowledge and accept limits, then he can call himself mature. When a society can acknowledge and accept limits, then it can call itself civilized.

Without attaining maturity, there will be ceaseless struggling and suffering among individuals and between societies.

Many problems are manmade and a mature outlook can prevent them; all problems are made worse by a lack of maturity.

C. Ikehara is retired and lives in Aiea.


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