Delight Springs

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Nothing doing

LISTEN. Today in CoPhi we continue, with Susan Neiman, to ask why grow up

Why wake up? In the pre-dawn of day, and of life, why not snooze through "the sleep of reason" indefinitely? 

The short answer for Neiman, we've already noted, is Kantian: perpetual immaturity is a benighted state of dependence on the thoughts and instructions of others, an irresolute absence of courage to think for oneself. It's the path of least resistance, of servile subjugation to the will of others, of ignorance and docility and vulnerability to manipulation by unscrupulous authoritarians. It is to make oneself a pawn in service to someone else's ends, to abrogate one's birthright of freedom. 

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things," says The Book. The trick to the art of mature living, though, is to retain childlike wonder and a capacity for spontaneous joy throughout life, but also to own your freedom and independence of mind and will. A properly happy childhood imbues a person with that capacity. 

What does a happy childhood look like? Rousseau said "a child ill taught is further from virtue than a child who has learnt nothing at all," while for a child well-taught the days are packed with running and jumping and exploring and dreaming. Those are not nothing. "You are afraid to see him spending his early years doing nothing. What! is it nothing to be happy, nothing to run and jump all day? He will never be so busy again all his life long." 

You know who that reminds me of?

I'd like nothing more, right now, than to dive into the Calvin and Hobbes archive and explore their brand of Nothingness. It's a way of Being the grim authors of Being and Nothingness and Being and Time seem to have known nothing of.

But I have something to do. Freely. I don't have to do it, existentially speaking, except from the perspective of a happy childhood. Happy maturity is something else.

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