There's an old ideal that we seem to have forgotten throughout much of our culture. What I have in mind is maturity. Say the word now and people think: Senior Citizen, old age, wrinkles, slowing down, and worse. But it wasn't always that way.
Maturity. What is it? Actually, I think maturity is a quality, or characteristic comprised of many others, like, for example: Compassion, Kindness, Consideration, Equanimity or Inner Peace, Wisdom, Prudence, Perspective, Practicality, Honesty, perhaps a proper Awe regarding existence, and what some call "Hardihood" - the ability to persist in the face of difficulty, a capacity to endure hardship without constant complaint or a feeling of victimization. A mature person is not quick to anger. Such a person isn't careless with actions, thoughts, or feelings. Maturity rises to a level of appreciation and gratitude concerning all the good and beautiful things in life, while accepting the existence of limits and imperfections in the world. A mature person may want and work hard to change and improve the things around them, but they won't wallow in irritation, resentment, and frustration about those things that need changing.
For most of history, throughout most civilizations and societies, people have regarded maturity as something to aspire to, hope for, and respect. In past times, many would often actually try to act more mature than their age might indicate should be expected. That occasionally happens still, but in very limited contexts, as for example when someone is trying to get his or her first job. But immaturity, by contrast, now seems to nearly rule the culture. We see lots of people acting less mature than their age would lead us to expect. Turn on a reality TV show. Or consider standard political behavior. Or, you could just simply listen in on conversations in your favorite restaurant or bar.
The ancient philosopher Diogenes was said to walk around everywhere during the daytime, carrying a lighted lamp, or lantern. Asked what he was doing, he liked to say, "Looking for an honest man." In our own time, he would have nearly as endless a trek looking for real maturity.
A clarification is needed here. We're a youthful culture. We celebrate the young and a great many of the things that young people like. Many of us try to keep such things in our lives. And that can be very good. It's perfectly possible to be youthful without being immature. There's an important difference. I knew a famous scholar at Yale, a world renown historian, who at the age of 89 was stunningly youthful, and lots of fun, but not at all immature.
Immaturity is wrapped up in ego, a sense of entitlement, a lack of responsibility, and a tendency toward anger, as well as an inclination to delight in the flaws and sufferings of others. Immature people are prone to whining, resenting, and feeling slighted when others aren't suitably celebrating their specialness. Immature people throw fits and tantrums, regardless of age. They also tend to be as callous toward others as they are fragile in their own sense of need.
When you consider immaturity closely enough, you come to understand why its opposite was for so long an admired ideal. And it makes you wonder how we ever got so far away from an appreciation of what it is to be truly mature.
Maturity is about proper growth and exemplary health. We should encourage it in others and seek to enhance it in our own lives. If you disagree, that's perfectly fine ... for a poopie head.