Only Cocoons…

26 04 2010

Another post from my tabulas blog, originally written Mar 31, 2005.

What does it mean to be an “adult”?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that an adult is one who is “fully developed and mature”. Developed and mature. This definition covers both the physical and psychological maturity that is required of one to fall into the adult category. Today’s world doesn’t seem to realize that they have overshadowed the psychological criterion with the more conspicuous physical one in labeling a person as an adult. There is a more technical definition where an adult is defined as one who has passed the stage of adolescence. Such a definition, though, insufficiently only covers the physical aspect of an adult, but regardless of this definition’s deficiency, it seems to be the understanding of the word that has disseminated throughout society.

Because of this indistinction between the two aspects of the definition, the world is confused. And maybe even unknowingly so. Take for example the recent shootings in Minnesota. It is a truly tragic incident and requires much reflection and much rectification of the problems by the people involved and by the outside observers. But one thing that bothers me, in particular, is the added dismay towards this incident as opposed to any other case involving an over 18 suspect. It is my observation that people are desensitized towards homicides involving suspects of age 18 and over. Is teenage killing more wrong than “adult” killing? How does one differentiate? Yes, Jeff Weise is alleged to have committed multiple homicides, and any serial killer is socially deemed to be deserving of capital punishment (btw, I do not believe in capital punishment), but let’s hypothetically say in one case, a teenager killed one person and in another case, an “adult” killed one person. The question is, why do we think it’s more ok for an “adult” to commit crime as opposed to a kid? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe society still senses equal injustice in both cases and if so, our morality may have hope.

But to a less ambiguous example. Let’s take for example rating of movies. I never understood why people think it’s ok to watch R-rated movies when you’re 18 and over and not ok to watch them when you’re underage. Same goes for smoking and drinking. I’m just very confused sometimes of where the standards for which all these levels of responsibility arises. When age 17, people tell kids, “you can’t smoke”, then all of a sudden a year later, instead people are asking the same kids, “got a light?” I just don’t understand it. The law definitely is a great teacher, but it can’t be our standard.

I honestly am very disturbed whenever someone comments somewhere along the lines of “we’re adults, we can figure it out” or “we’re adults, it won’t affect us” (“it” being media, drugs, alcohol, etc.) as if “physically” being an adult make them immune to or capable of solving various problems. These comments are made mostly by people who use their age to give definition to the word “adult” or by those who use the word “adult” to justify their actions. This should not be the case. It must be our actions that define whether or not we can make claim to adulthood.  But rarely have I seen a person who is truly responsible and psychologically and spiritually mature, who does not overtly claim to be an adult, but instead silently show it.

So what does it mean to be an “adult”? Well, I’ve throw out several possibilities as to when the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. But once again, where you draw the point of change critically depends on the standards by which you live. Then, the next question arises. Are your standards valid, sound, or even true?

As for me,  I’m in the cocoon. Still and probably for a long while. But my standards (hopefully the Bible) teach me that a claim to adulthood isn’t about being allowed to do more things (i.e. driving, drinking, being athletic, being smart, etc.) because that’s just selfish and self-oriented. But instead, it teaches me that maturity, in all aspects, is knowing how to focus on others first and yourself last. But I think it gets harder and harder in this individualistic and self-centered American culture. It was definitely easier in Korea, I wonder why….

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